Aloha from San Diego!
Yep, some really cool Hawaiian and South Seas influences, architecture and tikis (my favorite!) can be found throughout San Diego, particularly Shelter Island on San Diego Bay, Point Loma, Mission Valley and Mission Bay.
Why, you ask?
Well, after WWII, American soldiers and sailors returned home from the South Pacific with stories, souvenirs, music and more from these tropical islands, to the delight of the American public who romanticized exotic island cultures. A bit later (in 1959) Hawaii became a state, further fueling the popularity of all things Polynesian.
Being a big Navy town on the Pacific, San Diego was a prime spot to celebrate and recreate tiki culture. Sadly, by the 1980s, Polynesian influences around town began to disappear as contemporary tastes and design took hold. But, lucky for us, fun tiki finds remain if you know where to look.
Following are my top 5:
1. Bali Hai Restaurant
Bali Hai Restaurant, opened in 1954 on Shelter Island, is a local “tiki temple” of sorts with hand-carved tiki sculptures – including Mr. Bali Hai, shown here, and the “Goof on the Roof” – and genuine Polynesian artifacts filling every nook and cranny. You can even take home your very own souvenir tiki mug!
Where: 2230 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106
> Find out more about the Bali Hai Restaurant
2. Crowne Plaza Hotel
Also opened in 1954, the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Mission Valley (formerly Hanalei Hotel) is a slice of paradise on the San Diego River. It has retained much of its Hawaiian-themed luster from yesteryear; tikis and Polynesian art can be found in the lobby, restaurant and around the tropical pool area. It’s also the site of the big annual Tiki Oasis convention, the “biggest Tiki Weekender on the planet.” I’ll be there!
Where: 2270 Hotel Circle N, San Diego, CA 92108
> Find out more about the Crowne Plaza Hotel
3. Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites
Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites (built-in 1959) on Shelter Island is a landmark Tiki Modern resort with a soaring lobby roof that extends out like a giant Polynesian fishing canoe complete with a lantern used to attract fish. This is as real as it gets!
Where: 2303 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106
> Find out more about Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites
4. Trader Mort’s Liquor Store
Nearby Trader Mort’s Liquor Store in Point Loma (originally named the Hooch Hut – love it!) is famous for its tiki hut design and tongue-wagging tiki god out front.
Where: 2904 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106
> Find out more about Trader Mort’s Liquor Store
5. The Dana Hotel on Mission Bay
Amongst the lush gardens at The Dana Hotel on Mission Bay there’s a mighty tiki warrior sculpture greeting guests; one of my fav tiki finds!
Where: 1710 W Mission Bay Dr, San Diego, CA 92109
> Find out more about The Dana Hotel on Mission Bay
Get into the Tiki Spirit with a Guided Tour
You can also get into the “spirit of aloha” in San Diego by taking a two-hour Surf and Tiki Tour of 20 local tiki statues and other hidden spots you won’t find in guidebooks.
Your tiki-inspired escape to paradise awaits… in San Diego!