Rain Doesn’t Dampen Spirits

The Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar at the Fairmont San Francisco
The Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar at the Fairmont San Francisco


By Jeff Hoyt

Sometimes, kitsch just works. At the historic Fairmont San Francisco, much of The Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar is covered by the hotel’s old swimming pool, which now features a floating bandstand. Allegedly, Ronald Reagan is among the famous people to have taken a dip in it.

The pool in a nautically-themed tiki bar and Pacific Rim restaurant may seem strange, but we’re just getting started. Above are outrigger canoes on cross beams, while masts, rigging and other sailing accoutrements dominate. Every half hour, the Hurricane Bar lives up to its name, as a storm breaks out “at sea.” There are the soothing sounds of thunder and rain, “lightning” flashes throughout the cavernous thatched-walled space and mist hits the dance floor. Kids will find it fascinating, but even adults will enjoy the kitschy effects. The storm works as a conversation piece, and the enthusiasm is infectious. You can’t help but exchange knowing glances when a neighbor in an adjoining “hut” is obviously experiencing the storm for the first time. The large bar is a great place to start an evening with tropical drinks, happy hour appetizers (including an all-you-can eat buffet), or even a complete meal. Next time we hope to work off the egg rolls on the dance floor to the sounds of a live band.

There are rumors that the unique eatery, guarded by an Easter Island-like totem, will be shut down, so visit while you can. We recommend a Mai Tai and pineapple ceviche to weather the storms.

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