If you don’t have at least one mai tai while you’re in Hawaii, it’s like you weren’t in Hawaii. Here are the capital city’s best of the best. 

By Kait Hanson
August 15, 2018

Whether you fall into Don the Beachcomber’s camp or Team Trader Vic when it comes to who introduced the cocktail, it’s safe to say everyone can agree on one thing: mai tais are synonymous with island living. Here are 10 establishments in Honolulu who are making mean tropical ‘tais to the delight of tourists and locals alike.

Cristie Guevara/crisserbug/Getty Images

While it remains a debate as to where the mai tai was first introduced--Don the Beachcomber or Trader Vic's--there's no disputing where this iconic rum-forward drink is most embraced: Hawaii. And Honolulu, Oahu's fashion-forward city, holds some of the very best of the best among its old- and new-school bars. Find your bliss (and pineapple topper) on this thatch-roof bar crawl. 

Moku Kitchen

Monkeypod Mai Tai, $12.50
A honey-lilikoi foam topper, made with fresh fruit purée and egg whites, is what makes this elevated mai tai stand out in a crowded and competitive field. Served at Moku Kitchen in Honolulu as well as Monkeypod Kitchen in Ko Olina on Oahu’s west side, the cocktail also showcases locally sourced ingredients, like Maui’s Old Lahaina rum and mac nut orgeat.

Courtesy of Moku Kitchen

Hideout at the Laylow

Laylow “Hawaiian Style” Mai Tai, $15
The Hideout, the bar at this fashion-forward boutique hotel, has created a house version of the classic Trader Vic recipe that can be traced back to 1944. A blend of pineapple and lilikoi juice updates the original, and the look--distinct ingredient layers and an ornate garnish--is as Instagrammable as the hotel itself.

The Grove at Modern Honolulu

Deconstructed Mai Tai, $14
Created in 2010 by award-winning mixologist Christian Self, The Modern’s Deconstructed Mai Tai reminds one that sometimes the remix can be just as good as the original. In this case, a blend of Pyrat XO Rum and homemade French almond syrup, along with a cap of mai tai foam, is a subtle and sophisticated reinvention. 

Courtesy of Miles Hospitality

WATCH: How to Make a Classic Mai Tai

House Without a Key

Halekulani’s Mai Tai, $14
A drink so popular the hotel shared their recipe online for guests to make at home, the Halekulani Mai Tai is trademarked by the use of three types of rum poured over freshly shaved ice, just like Victor Bergeron (aka Trader Vic) is reported to have used for his Tahitian guests in 1944.

Courtesy of Halekulani

La Mariana

Mai Tai, $7
Dubbed Oahu’s “Original Tiki Bar,” La Mariana Sailing Club has been serving up mai tais in Honolulu since 1957 and is a pilgrimage must. Using an original, top-secret blend of juices, plus a white and dark rum, this no-frills approach pairs perfectly with the bar's dockside setting and the incredible collection of Hawaiian memorabilia inside. 

The Myna Bird Tiki Bar

Low Tai’d, $18
Tucked into Waikiki's International Marketplace, the Myna Bird is a tiny bamboo bar that's a straight-up homage to Donn Beach, founder of Don the Beachcomber and patron saint of the mai tai. The Low Tai'd features agricole rum from Kō Hana, a small Oahu-based distillery as well as Velvet Falernum liqueur, one of Beach's secret ingredients. 

Courtesy of The Street Food Hall by Michael Mina/STRIPSTEAK Waikiki

Duke's Waikiki

Duke’s Mai Tai, $12
Named for legendary surfer Duke Kahanamoku, the Barefoot Bar at Duke’s (located beachfront at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort) is a favored hangout for its views of Diamond Head Crater, and that prime location comes with a terrific house mai tai. Here, two types of rum and a mixture of pineapple, passionfruit, orange, and guava juices served in a Tiki glass and garnished complete the classic Waikiki picture.

Courtesy of Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort

Bar Leather Apron

E Ho’o Pau Mai Tai, $18
Here, at this downtown Honolulu bar that's more urban than beach, you'll discover the E Ho’o Pau Mai Tai: the smokey cousin of the classic recipe created by incorporating raisin-infused El Dorado 5-year and 12-year rum with coconut water syrup, spiced orgeat, ohia, blossom honey, lime, and Absinthe, before being finished with Kiawe wood smoke.

John Hook

Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai Bar

96 Degrees In The Shade, $15
On approach, Mad Men aficionados will recognize The Royal Hawaiian, the iconic pink hotel where Don and Meghan Draper honeymooned, in all its historic, tropical glory. Take in the sights and then head to the beachside Mai Tai Bar for the 96 Degrees In The Shade, a frozen mai tai created by blending Captain Morgan with fresh pineapple-passionfruit purée, lime juice, orgeat, and mint. It’s topped with a dark rum floater that gives each sip equal parts frozen beverage and chest-warming booze. Looking for a chance to stay longer? There are six more unique blends on the exclusive mai tai menu to choose from.

Courtesy of The Royal Hawaiian

Bill's Hawaii

Melbourne Mai Tai, $13
Bill’s Hawaii’s Melbourne Mai Tai is where travelers who seek to ease into the notoriously strong beverage will want to start. With an absence of traditional layers, this mixed varietal of Flor de Cana Rum, Ancho Reyes, pineapple juice, and fresh lemon has a sweet taste without the strong presence of alcohol.

Courtesy of Bill's Hawaii