A Tiki Legacy – From Pool To Tropical Paradise

Historical photos of the pool

In 1929, Fairmont San Francisco added a new 75-foot indoor swimming pool on its Terrace Level. Known as the “Fairmont Plunge,” the elaborate tile pool attracted local crowds and celebrities such as actress Helen Hayes, actor Ronald Reagan and members of the Water Follies.

In 1945, Metro Goldwyn Mayer’s leading set director, Mel Melvin, was hired to transform the Fairmont Plunge into Tonga Room. The pool became a “lagoon” and a floating stage for the orchestra was added to entertain guests each evening. Not surprisingly, Tonga Room was an instant success

Historical photos of the bar

Today Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar has delighted guests with its tropical décor, decadent libations and Polynesian-fusion cuisine since 1945. Following its $1 Million restoration by Gensler San Francisco, Tonga Room has rekindled the excitement of its unique and time-honored décor, recapturing its original tiki glory.

Anthony Bourdain has called Tonga Room “…the greatest place in the history of the world” (Travel Channel’s The Layover). The venue has also been recognized as one of the world’s hottest bars by VICE, Food Network, ABC, Travel & Leisure, and more.

The bar area features a sleek granite top bar and luxurious “good luck red” leather banquettes. Colorful tribal wall coverings add excitement throughout the restaurant.

Tonga Room features The Island Groove Band, which performs top-40 hits from a thatch-covered barge on the “lagoon;” a dance floor built from the remains of the S.S. Forester, a schooner that once traveled between San Francisco and the South Sea Islands; and periodic tropical rainstorms, complete with thunder and lightning.

Long straw sharing cocktail

Other Stories You May Like


The Evolution of Tiki Culture in San Francisco

Swathed in thatched huts and towering ship masts, Tonga Room embodies the history of tiki culture— and has inspired a burgeoning tiki revival in San Francisco and beyond.
Fairmont front view

Fairmont Firsts: Inside The History of San Francisco's Most Iconic Hotel

Classic in style and contemporary in spirit, here’s how Fairmont San Francisco has made history over the years (and continues to innovate in the modern age).
red bridge

The Best San Francisco Souvenirs

Discover some of the best San Francisco souvenirs and if you collect them by hand, you will get a free tour of the best the City by the Bay offers.
City view with red bridge

San Francisco In The Movies

San Francisco is the set of hundreds of movies for the same reason it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world: practically all of its backdrops are uniquely stunning.
A cocktail with orange slices

Cocktails in San Francisco: A Spirited History & Where To Go Next

Read on to learn why San Francisco has such an illustrious bar scene and discover the local cocktail spots you should visit next.
Two women looking at the view

The Best Places for Scenic Photos in San Francisco

Read on to learn why San Francisco has such an illustrious bar scene and discover the local cocktail spots you should visit next.