Starting in the 1930s, tiki culture was imported to the American mainland and embraced by people who were starting to enjoy leisure travel to warmer climates – or at least wished they could. As its popularity grew throughout the 50s and 60s, it was considered to be a fad. Now, over 75 years after it arrived, tiki seems here to stay.
You don’t have to travel to Hawaii or California to take in some of America’s most classic tiki bars and restaurants. Turn your own yard or deck into a tropical oasis with these tips.
A traditional wood deck as a backdrop
Being warm and outdoorsy, tiki bars use a lot of natural wood. Hey, there’s no snow and ice in the South Pacific. A quality wood deck will last for years with a little maintenance and proper quality and installation. Use teak, cedar, or ipe to make your tiki paradise actually look like the tropics and get a quality deck that will last throughout the seasons.
An outdoor bar or kitchen set up
Complete outdoor kitchens are all the rage, with the best backyard oases installing massive
grills, separate cooktops, beverage refrigerators (even wine fridges!), and outdoor sinks. You might not need the capacity to roast an entire pig, but make sure you’re able to whip up some pulled pork sliders on Hawaiian rolls and macaroni salad at the very least. Any food is appreciated alongside those strong tiki cocktails.
To get a real tiki bar vibe, use palapa, a palm thatch that gives tiki restaurants their distinctive look. Using real or fake palapa will not only scream “tiki,” it will help shade you from the sun on those steamy summer days.
Wicker furniture and decorations
Using wicker or teak furniture and decorations reinforces the wood theme, bringing natural elements into your furnishings. Don’t forget bar stools, lounge chairs, mixed-height tables, ice buckets, and storage opportunities! The warmth of the all-natural wood look will help your floral decor pop; not to mention, warm wood furniture and accessories evoke a beachy lifestyle, helping you imagine yourself lounging on the beach.
The right tiki-themed lighting
Lighting is essential to setting the right mood, and tiki is all about mood! Fairy lights and lanterns create the right outdoor light scheme with weatherproof options, although traditional lights can be found in tiki style if you have a covered or screened in tiki deck or porch.
Your lighting choices also depend on when you plan to use your yard the most. If at dusk, softer lighting is more appropriate: think fairy lights and dimmer switches. If you’re using your outdoor space well into the evening, brighter tiki torches will be much appreciated — especially if you have uneven ground!
Colorful, tiki-themed florals
We aren’t all lucky enough to live in the tropics, which means that classic tiki floral decor like birds-of-paradise and hibiscus might not grow well in your yard. Accentuate some of your outdoor kitchen with silk flowers and supplement with brightly colored plants that are location-appropriate. Most of the Philadelphia metro area is either plant hardiness region 6b or 7a. Big, colorful blooms like echinacea, lonicera, fireglow and poppy can increase the joy of a tiki-themed yard space. Who knows — they might even invite some far-off parrots to come take roost in your own tropical oasis.
Get ready to enjoy tiki!
Invite your friends over to enjoy your Polynesian kitsch, or just chill by yourself under your new palapa roof. With a great tiki bar set-up, you can spend less time mixing and cooking, and more time mingling and… doing the other kind of mixing. Cheers!