By Jenny Lee Allen
The best tiki bars give off carefree, don’t-worry-be-happy vibes. And they serve frosty drinks, casual fare and cool tunes on the beach and along Florida’s waterways. What’s not to love?
A good tiki bar instantly transports you to the islands, dissolves worries about deadlines, mortgages and bills – even makes me smile after the toughest day. The Square Grouper was just such a place.
Here are some favorite restaurants and tiki bars in Florida.
1. Clearwater Beach
No shirt, no shoes – no problem at Shephard’s Backyard Tiki Bar. Boaters anchor offshore and wade in to this fun-loving bar, where bands play every day. Grab wings and burgers at the outdoor eatery, Margarita Grill. Open until 2 a.m., Shephard’s is perfect for late-night crowds, too.
On the east coast near Cocoa, keep an eye out for a colossal mermaid on a sign: You’ve arrived at Pineda Inn Bar & Grill. The whole family will enjoy relaxing on the outdoor patio or taking a pontoon boat ride along the Indian River.
Live bands rock – especially when you have space to get your groove on. At Capt. Hiram’s SandBar, you’ll feel like you’re getting a private concert – in a tropical oasis. Chill under palm trees as artists perform on one of three stages.
4. St. Augustine
For a rockin’ Reggae Sunday in the summer, hit The Conch House. Dance on the floating dock or inside the octagon-shaped beach bar that stretches out into the water (Salt Run). Hungry? Enjoy the breeze beneath your grass hut and munch on amazing banana pepper calamari.
Some may imitate – but can’t duplicate – the true tiki vibe. Enjoy an authentic experience at the Square Grouper Tiki Bar on Jupiter Inlet. This slice of sandy paradise, where ring toss is a happenin’ game, was featured in Alan Jackson’s music video, “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.”
6. Riviera Beach
Fishermen love the Tiki Waterfront Sea Grill situated inside the Riviera Beach Marina (just north of West Palm Beach). Snag a high-top table and bucket of beer and watch fishing charters unload their catches. For a mega-deal, order Sunday brunch, which offers everything from fried grouper to omelets.
7. Florida Keys
This must-visit establishment takes us all the way to Mile Marker 84.5: Holiday Isle Tiki Bar, where the original Rumrunner was concocted. This Islamorada social hotspot is a great place to enjoy Key West nightlife and meet new friends.
As Jimmy Buffett sings, “Thank God the tiki bar is open!”