Visit: 2 Feb 2023
Forbidden Island is a tiki bar on the island of Alameda just east of San Francisco. It opened April 22nd, 2006, but it has the look and feel of a classic old tiki bar. The bar was the creation of Martin "Martiki" Cate, a longtime tiki devotee, rum expert, and former Trader Vic's bartender, and brothers "Conga Mike" and Manny Thanos, who are part-owners of the nearby Conga Lounge. In early 2009, Cate left the Forbidden Island partnership, and opened his own Smuggler's Cove in San Francisco.
Forbidden Island has a commitment to quality, with only fresh-squeezed juices and premium spirits used. The drink menu features dozens of tropical cocktailsa mix of classics such as the Sidewinder's Fang and the Zombie, and new creations like the China Clipper and the Fugu for Two. There is also an extensive list of premium rums.
The decor is filled with many layered details, and was crafted primarily by Bamboo Ben and Martin Cate. There is an abundance of bamboo and thatch, and the walls are lined with wood, giving the appearance of the inside of a ship. There are several artifacts from tiki lounges of the past, including a war club from the Kahiki in Columbus, floats from Eli Hedley's Island Trade ship, which were used at the Pago-Pago in Tucson, Koa wood tabletops and large pieces of bamboo from the Lanai in San Mateo, and several carved pieces including two large carved poles by Ken Pleasant that were used at the Kahiki Moon in Burlington, Vermont. The logo tiki was carved by Tiki Diablo, and presides over a water feature in a cozy corner. There are three hut-like booths, and a long bar with comfortable seating. A rear patio is open until 9p.m. (after 9 it closes to minimize noise for the surrounding residential neighborhood).
Music on the jukebox is predominantly pre-1964, and was specially selected to fit in the vintage lounge environment, with no shortage of Exotica available. A small selection of snack food is available.
Some parking is available in back, and there is plenty of free parking on the street. Alameda has a speed limit of 25 MPH throughout the whole island, and it's strictly enforced.