Given that Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room attraction has proven to be such a hit with tiki aficionados, it’s surprising that it took so long for the park-planning Imagineers to come up with an accompanying watering hole. But it wasn’t until 2011 that Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar opened at the Disneyland Hotel, where it’s been a popular draw ever since. In typical Disney style, the theme centers upon the titular Trader Sam’s backstory; a world traveler needing an appropriate place to display the many acquisitions he’s made on his travels. Accordingly, Trader Sam’s the bar is a veritable treasure trove for trivia buffs, where you’ll find artifacts such as a photo of Trader Sam with Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean fame and a harpoon from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, among hundreds of other curios.
They put the same imaginative touch into their specialty drinks. “Krakatoa Punch” features Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, Pyrat XO Reserve Rum, hibiscus grenadine, and “Sam’s Gorilla Grog,” a mix of orange, passionfruit, guava, pineapple, and lemon juices, plus orgeat and falernum. It’s like a fruit salad with a kick; bear in mind that these are potent drinks, and enticing as they sound, you probably shouldn’t enjoy too many in one sitting. Hence I didn’t try the “Sea Monster’s Embrace,” with its two types of rum, gin, and brandy (plus juice). But the “Tiki Margarita” gave a tropical twist to the traditional lime drink, using guava and pineapple juices balanced by spicy chile-lime seasoning, and the “Hala Kahiki” kept its focus on the Plantation Pineapple Rum, embellished by lemon juice, honey syrup, falernum, and Peychaud’s bitters. Sadly, my experience with the food wasn’t as positive; my Hawaiian Platter featured room-temperature macaroni salad and “marinated short ribs” as flavorless and dry as old shoe leather. Consider dining elsewhere first, but do come for the drinks!
One of the most engaging features of this bar is that your drink order can lead to a little entertainment when it arrives. Order the “Shipwreck on the Rocks,” and the server will bring it to your table crying out, “Shipwr-e-e-e-ck,” as an over-the-bar hanging ship-in-a-bottle replica of Pirates of the Caribbean‘s “The Wicked Wench” sinks! The “Krakatoa Punch” causes (naturally) a volcanic eruption. The “Uh-Oa” will prompt the staff to start chanting and might be accompanied by a little rainfall. It makes a visit to Trader Sam’s just as entertaining as any of the rides — sorry, attractions — at the theme parks.
Trader Sam’s is open to the public and doesn’t just attract out-of-towners; on my visit, I met a few locals who make it a mandatory stop on their tiki bar crawls. Due to its popularity, reservations are highly recommended and can be made sixty days in advance. Note that the bar is part of the larger Tangaroa Terrace restaurant; make sure you get reservations for the interior bar, not the outside restaurant. Also, guests under 21 are not allowed in the bar after 8 pm. And there’s an equivalent establishment at Walt Disney World, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and Tiki Bar; I’ve put in my travel voucher request!