Our time spent in LA was over all too soon. There was still so many places I’d like to have visited. There was several more Tiki bars, Oceanic Arts, and even private locations. There’s just never enough time to fit it all in. But, it just means I have multiple reasons to go back and visit my friends in Southern California!
From here though, we were off to fantastic Palm Springs, CA. Like any good mid century enthusiast, I am very familiar with the story of Palm Springs and have been dreaming of the day when I could make the pilgrimage there to witness the epic modernity. Now that I have several new, and old friends that live there, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make the trip. Add to that the fact that there is several relatively new tiki bars popping up in the city and you’ve got a good old fashioned MCM-Tiki-Ohana-trifecta.
My wife and I, and our friend, stayed in the historic Del Marcos hotel for part of our time here. Originally designed in 1947 by William Cody, the small, 17 room hotel saw a vibrant life before eventually falling into disrepair. A couple of visionary entrepreneurs then acquired the property, restored it to it’s glory and rent it out once again, to adults only, with daily cocktail parties by the pool. Being at the Del Marcos is a little slice of heaven. Lounging at a sunny poolside, listening to jazzy music, sipping a cocktail with just you and a dozen or so other vintage enthusiast is damn near perfection.
My first Tiki Bar stop – in no particular order – was The Tonga Hut. The Palm Springs location is the second of two, with the other in Hollywood, owned and operated by the same great team. As soon as we walked up the stairs we were greeted by this superb, classic tiki wall made by Tiki Diablo – the mastermind behind the interior – complete with a giant clam shell water feature, lava rock, and of course – carved tikis. The second thing to greet us was Kevin Murphy, co-owner. I can’t tell you enough about how hospitable Kevin was. As soon as we arrived he was eager to see us to a seat and get us a drink. Just as soon as that was sorted he couldn’t wait to show us around. Kevin is a tikiphile of the highest order. His enthusiasm was palpable.
The first area we toured was the dining area. We didn’t have time to sample the eats at the Tonga Hut, but we definitely soaked in the atmosphere of the seating area. Each of the booths had a little vignette featuring memorabilia from tiki bars past. In fact, all the walls were absolutely covered with rescued artifacts, and Kevin knew the history or origin of every one of them.
From here we were lucky enough to get a view of the secret back room. (I also have to mention my second drink of the day was one of their exceptional, happy hour $5 mai tais!) Like everything else, the back room, and the secret lanai beyond that, were absolutely replete with classic tiki room decor. Once again, most of it was re-purposed and tastefully curated with history in mind. Recovered Witco art and actual Tapa Cloths cover the walls, while hand made lanterns and miscellany were hung above. If/when you find yourself at the Tonga Hut, do yourself a huge favor and talk to Kevin or one of the other staff about the fascinating collection. There’s so much to take in.
For a much more in depth take on the secret room, check out this esceptional post written by The Tiki Chick.
The two drinks I had at Tonga Hut were pretty exceptional. As far as I could tell, the mai tai did not cut any corners to match the happy hour pricing. It was absolutely delicious. The other drink I had I bought at least 50% based on novelty since I found out it was served in a hollowed out pineapple – something I’ve wanted to try out in my home bar.
The verdict: If you’re in Palm Springs. Tonga Hut is a must visit! Come for the drinks, stay for the stories!