Beach Bars vs. Tiki Bars

Maui

It’s all about the beach, right?

A Tiki bar is about creating the illusion that you are sipping a Mai Tai on some Polynesian beach in the South Pacific. This was what I thought I was going for when I started going to Tiki bars, but over time, I’ve started to question that.

Let’s talk about Hawaii.

Maui

When I think about Hawaii, I think of the sun, the beach, the ocean, etc. Hawaii is bright, sunny, and tropical!

Maui palm trees

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A Tiki bar is none of these things. In fact, a Tiki bar is almost the exact opposite. Tiki bars are usually dark and mysterious. Where’s the sun? Where’s the beach? Where’s the ocean?

Polynesian Islander Revue at The Mai Kai
Polynesian Islander Revue at The Mai Kai
Inside Frankie's Tiki Room
Inside Frankie’s Tiki Room
Hale Pele main room ins
Hale Pele main room ins

But there are bars that are bright, sunny, and tropical. These are not Tiki bars. They are beach bars.

The bar at No Bones Beach Club
The bar at No Bones Beach Club
Upstairs at No Bones Beach Club
Upstairs at No Bones Beach Club

A beach bar is what I thought a Tiki bar is. A beach bar usually has an open feel to it. There may be tons of thatch, bamboo, and even a Tiki or two. All this décor would be found in a Tiki bar as well. The vibe is to give the illusion that you’re chilling on the beach.

Seating at No Bones Beach Club
Seating at No Bones Beach Club

If a Tiki bar isn’t creating the illusion of being on the beach, then where are you supposed to be?

The jungle…

The Tiki Jungle at Wendy and Dan Cevola's home
The Tiki Jungle at Wendy and Dan Cevola’s home

You’re in the jungle baby!

Trad'r Sam back in the day.
Trad’r Sam back in the day.

Let’s look at some of the more famous exotica albums from Martin Denny and Les Baxter…

Martin Denny Quiet Village
Martin Denny Quiet Village

There’s no sun, beach, or ocean to speak of!

Martin Denny Forbidden Island
Martin Denny Forbidden Island

All the album covers have a dark, evening feel.

Les Baxter Ritual Of The Savage
Les Baxter Ritual Of The Savage

This album even has “jungle” in the title!

Les Baxter Jungle Jazz
Les Baxter Jungle Jazz

Tiki bars and beach bars share similar motifs, but I think the main difference between a Tiki bar and beach bar is really simple.

Beach bars are bright…

Inside The Monkeypod
Inside The Monkeypod

Tiki bars are dark…

Tikis at The Shameful Tiki Room
Tikis at The Shameful Tiki Room

Light vs dark!

 

 

 

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