Your Guide to Phoenix Tiki Bars

Until recently, I wasn’t aware of Phoenix tiki bars. But they not only exist, they are super fun, really delicious, and even a little bit historic. Whether you are a local exploring your own backyard or are visiting Arizona, give these special bars a gander! They are all a little different and can cater to all different kinds of travelers.

Bikini Lounge

phoenix tiki bars

(c) ABR 2021

The Bikini Lounge is a very special place, and you might not know by looking at it. Having been opened in the late 1940s, this little bar is said to be the oldest continuously operating bar in Phoenix. Although it wasn’t always a tiki bar in the sense that it didn’t used to sell the tropical drinks that tiki bars are known for, I think this venerable bar is a piece of tiki and Arizona bar history. If you are in town and you are looking to experience some Arizona tiki bars, you must visit the Bikini Lounge.

The Bikini Lounge is a self-described “dive bar” and I do think that that is fitting, although it is very comfortable and welcoming. There are no windows in the bar, but the décor uses traditional tiki motifs and lots of black-light paints. As much of a shy bar-goer as I am, I was a little worried by the dive bar descriptor, but I was really delighted by the dark and cool interior of Bikini Lounge. Also, the bartender that we met while there was unassuming, but she made a mean drink and she was friendly and kind. Taken together, I think this humble tiki bar has won a special place in my heart.

phoenix tiki bars

(c) ABR 2021

In terms of the drinks at this bar, you can get all the classic tiki drinks. They are fairly simple, and I don’t think that I noticed a signature cocktail, but they were all very very tasty. Furthermore, I think the Bikini Lounge is the most affordable option of the bars that we visited while doing “research” for this post. You can also get beer here, and snacky snacks, but no meals.

Tips for the Bikini Lounge

phoenix tiki bars

(c) ABR 2021

The Bikini Lounge is the most casual of all the bars on this Phoenix tiki bars list. If you are looking for a quieter time to visit, go earlier in the day. One benefit of this, is that Bikini Lounge has some nice little booth grottos that I find to be very relaxing. Obviously when it is less busy, these are easier to snag. They are open every day from 3pm-2am. But I think this would also be a great bar to chat with people, so if you enjoy meeting people at bars, consider those busier windows of time.

Please note that this is a cash-only bar.

1502 NW Grand Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85007

Undertow 

phoenix tiki bars

(c) ABR 2021

Ironically, Undertow (or the idea of Undertow) was the tiki bar that got me interested in tiki, but it is my least favorite of the Phoenix tiki bars. That being said, depending on your preferences, you might not be as disappointed in this location as I was. Let’s talk about the good and then I will explain why Undertow isn’t my favorite.

What Undertow does very well is immersion. The décor of the bar is that of the interior of an old ship. This is complete with portholes that look out on tropical landscapes, and occasional storms that fill the air with thunder and darken the lights. Also, should you have the time, the menu includes a story, which has evolved over time. So, unless you visit continually, you won’t get the whole story, but it will further bring you into the world that the bar is trying to evoke.

Drinks and Crowds

phoenix tiki bars

(c) ABR 2021

The drinks at Undertow are complex and cover a wide range of flavors. I think it is one of the more serious bars on this list, along with the Captain’s Cabin. If you like more of the simple, fruity flavors, there’s a good chance you will end up with a more challenging drink here. But if you enjoy creative flavors, this is a great location.

In terms of what I didn’t like… well, first on the list is the crowding. Undertow is a small bar, and they take reservations because they are so popular. So, unless you are EXTREMELY lucky, you will either be packed in or you will be shelling out for a table. We were elbow to elbow and knee to knee at the bar with strangers. And due to the crowding, I couldn’t even really see some of the themeing that I came to experience.

Due to the crowding and occasional storms, Undertow can also be very loud. I know everyone goes out to do different things, but screaming over everyone else who are also all screaming to be heard over the music and crowds is… just not something I enjoy.

Tips for Undertow

Undertow REQUIRES reservations. Do not expect to just show up at this bar and get in. It’s the hardest of the Phoenix tiki bars to visit.

Luckily, their website makes it easy to see what’s available; but they only allow you to reserve 7 days in advance.

You will get 90 minutes to experience the bar, and you will need to pay for your reservation as well. This $$ will count towards your drinks, but don’t make a reservation unless you are sure that you can make it. Check their website for costs, as these have changed over time and vary with your reservation type.

Finally, expect to shell out for this bar. I don’t think we’ve ever escaped one of the Grand Central bars with a bill less than $40-$50 per person. And since there is no food available at Undertow, that is all the cost of drinks.

3626 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85018

Drunk Munk

phoenix tiki bars

(c) ABR 2021

The Drunk Munk is the newest of the Phoenix tiki bars, and I think it’s a pretty nice option to check out if you are in Scottsdale. But it does have the Scottsdale vibe. In other words, it isn’t quite as casual as the other bars and if you are a local, you can feel like the odd one out there.

The themeing in the Drunk Munk is a cool mix of tiki and 50s splendor. It leans more into tiki pop than Hula’s, but isn’t nearly as immersive as Undertow, the Captain’s Cabin, or even Bikini Lounge. There’s a really big, wooden tiki head that lives over the bar. It embraces its signature red color in a unique way, and the Drunk Munk has a nice little patio that evokes the tropical in the desert.

phoenix tiki bars

(c) ABR 2021

Drinkwise, this bar will get you more traditional tiki drinks, with a little more flare than the Bikini Lounge. But it’s no-where near as complex as Captain’s Cabin or Undertow. It’s more on-par with the casual drinks of Hula’s, but with more tiki mugs. I was particularly enamored with the Chi Chi, which is a pina colada with strawberry.

The other thing that sets the Drunk Munk apart from everything but Hula’s is that they have a full menu. We had the pu pu platter when we visited, and I liked it quite a bit. I am not convinced that it is better than Hula’s Modern Tiki, because Hula’s food is really really good, but it was definitely enjoyable. And besides the Undertow pop up, which used Zuzu’s kitchen, this is the only option on the list that I know has a pu pu platter option. Drunk Munk also serves brunch!

Tips for the Drunk Munk

phoenix tiki bars

(c) ABR 2021

If you are looking for a casual experience and want to avoid partiers, go on the weekend right when the restaurant opens. You might also have luck in the early week during dinner, in the summer… but lately in Old Town Scottsdale, the crowding is unpredictable.

Otherwise, just go and enjoy yourself! If you’d like to try to make reservations to avoid a wait, give them a call, but they do not make same day reservations, nor do they reserve for groups smaller than 6.

7133 E Stetson Dr Ste 1, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Captain’s Cabin

phoenix tiki bars

(c) ABR 2021

The Captain’s Cabin is both a speak-easy and a tiki bar, and it has a unique vibe. Technically speaking, it is also a part of Hula’s Modern Tiki, but it has a separate drink menu and entrance, so I will consider it separately here.

In terms of atmosphere, the Captain’s Cabin is one of my favorite tiki bars in the state and perhaps just generally one of my favorite bars. There is rough wood paneling on the walls and ceiling, dim lighting, and a couple walls with mirrors which make the place feel roomier than it is. The décor above the bar in addition to the built themeing is also on-point. Between colonial portraits, tropical scientific illustrations, boat paraphernalia, and tiki mugs, there are little surprises to be taken in and enjoyed all around.

Speakeasy Drinks

phoenix tiki bars

(c) ABR 2021

The drinks at the Captain’s Cabin are a little more serious than the drinks in at Hula’s Modern Tiki. They are just a little less fruity and sweet and a little more complex. As I explore mixology myself, I have found that I have started to prefer drinks that are a more challenging and complex, to those that are just fruity. So, if you are likewise interested complex flavors, I think this is a great spot to check out. They have a variety of cocktails that you won’t find anywhere else and the bartender is very knowledgeable.

That all being said, Captain’s Cabin is a small space and there are no reservations. So, while that will work for people who like to plan on the fly, it makes visiting a little more uncertain. You might happen in at a busy time and either have to wait or just come again another day. Also, the bar is managed by a single bartender much of the time, so go expecting to really spend some time there and enjoy. It’s a lot of work to manage all those people and make good drinks!

In terms of finding this particular location, you will need to head over to the Hula’s on 7th street and then look for the unmarked door near the entrance. Remember, this one is a speak-easy; it’s not as obvious to find.

Tips for the Captain’s Cabin

phoenix tiki bars

The non-descript door (c) ABR 2021

The Captain’s Cabin is a very small space with limited hours. So, you will need to plan ahead when trying to visit. They are only open on Fridays and Saturdays, from 6pm to close. Personally, I prefer to go early so that I can get in line and assure that I have a spot to sit down and relax. That being said, no matter when you get here, be sure to have that Caribbean patience. There is only one bar tender and sometimes it can get busy.

Phoenix 5114 N. 7th St.

Hula’s Modern Tiki

phoenix tiki bars

(c) ABR 2021

While I would consider Hula’s Modern Tiki to be more of a restaurant than a bar, this is one of my favorite food spots in the city. That being said, they do have a great tiki drink menu. I’ve never had a drink here that I didn’t like, although of the other Phoenix tiki bars, I’d say Hula’s drinks are less sophisticated (particularly the Captain’s Cabin (although it’s technically part of Hulas) and Undertow). They are also very sweet. So, while I would be surprised if anyone looking for tiki bars has a problem with sweet drinks, it’s something to take into consideration.

phoenix tiki bars

(c) ABR 2021

All that being said, if you are looking for a spot for both food and drinks, I would highly recommend Hula’s. Everything that I have tried off of their menu is good. But my all-time favorite meal from Hula’s is the loco moco. If you aren’t familiar with this dish, it is a Hawaiian spin on the hamburger. White rice, mushroom gray, a burger patty, and an over-easy egg. Mmmm!

Finally, in terms of theming in, Hula’s is pretty unobtrusive. There is a nice mix of tiki and mid-century modern décor. But this isn’t an immersive experience, and maybe the least immersive of the Phoenix tiki bars on this list.

Tips for Hula’s

phoenix tiki bars

(c) ABR 2021

Hula’s doesn’t pose too much of a logistical problem to visit. It has multiple locations, and is open for most of the day. You might run into waits around brunch on the weekend and dinners throughout the week. If you want to visit during quieter times, or ensure a shorter wait, I’d suggest an early dinner or lunch. You shouldn’t need a reservation unless you are coming with a larger party during busy times.

Locations:
Phoenix 5114 N. 7th St.
Scottsdale 7213 E. 1st Ave.
High Street 5450 E. High St. #101

Arizona’s Best Tiki Bar: Kon Tiki in Tucson

Ok, admittedly, this is not one of the Phoenix tiki bars, but Kon Tiki in Tucson, AZ is, in my humble opinion, the best tiki bar in Arizona. First, it is one of the oldest tiki bars in the US that is still operational today. It opened in 1962, and remains a great spot for a relaxing drink and bite to eat.

The ambience of this bar is on point, and everything you hope a tiki bar will be (and more). You’ve got calm, dark lighting. You’ve got thatched ceilings and bamboo walls, with decorative tiki pop accents throughout. And my favorite, at the back of the restaurant is a beautiful (but quirky) fountain made out of stone and giant sea shells.

Of course, when it comes to drinks, Kon Tiki has a nice selection of tiki drinks as well as standard bar cocktails. I most recently tried one of their signature cocktails, which usually can be purchased with a tiki mug. It was sublime, without being pretentious. Of ALL the tiki bars in Arizona, Kon Tiki is also the only bar with a signature tiki mug (everyone else needs to get their stuff together!). However, due to the COVID-19 shortages, they aren’t available as of now (June 2021).

On top of all that, they also have a pretty extensive menu with very good food. I can personally tell you that the spinach artichoke dip was some of the best that I have had, and my friends vouched for the shrimp and their perfectly crisp onion rings.

If you are going to visit one single tiki bar in Arizona, I think Kon Tiki should be it.

See More of Phoenix

Besides tiki bars, the Phoenix-metro area has a ton to offer local people and visitors alike. We have a growing guide to the Phoenix0-area, and we have a great 12-hour challenge guide to central Phoenix.

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11 Comments

  1. Ann

    This was a fun read!

    • waitingforrain28

      Glad you liked it, Ann! I know that you guys know Phoenix like the back of your hands! So hopefully you learned about a couple new places.

  2. I never would have thought about visiting tiki bars in Phoenix, but now it’s something to consider. Thanks for the info ’cause I don’t want to end up at a bar paying $50 and not even getting anything to eat.

    • waitingforrain28

      Honestly, me neither! Haha. But I am surprised that we actually have quite the tiki scene out here.

  3. I love bars like this so I’m really glad you wrote about them! All of those cocktails look amazing, and so does the food – thanks for the tips!

    • waitingforrain28

      Glad to help! Some of these really deserve more attention from the travel community.

  4. kmf

    How fun! I would love to take this tour of tiki bars in Phoenix!

  5. Oohh, interesting read. I knew nothing of tiki bars. Perhaps they’re not really a thing in Southeast Asia, where I’m from. I love tropical drinks though!

    • waitingforrain28

      I believe tiki bars come from “tiki pop” which is an 1950s American subculture that mixed a bunch of flavors, motifs, and ideas that people associated with “vacations.” So, I would be interested to know if they are anywhere else in the world!

  6. Tiki bars sound like fun! Definitely appreciate the tips on avoiding the partiers and crowds!

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