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Jun 26, 2024

Tiki Hut Renovation Preserves Its Iconic Vibe

Barry Kaufman

Photography By

Change can be scary. Evolution isn’t always an improvement...“It’s the only beach bar truly built on the beach and it’s been that way for many years. All we did was dress it up a little bit.” 

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It can be daunting to mess with an icon. 

For years, The Tiki Hut, the sprawling outdoor bar on the sand behind Beach House Hilton Head Island, has occupied a singular spot in Hilton Head Island’s heart. For visitors, it’s that place they dream of during those long, cold, northern winters – the happy place around which they plan their entire vacation. When they’re here, they plant their toes in the sand and create a memory they can hold on to tightly until their next holiday.

For locals, it’s the place where you truly solidify your islander bona fides. We get to see our favorite bands, not only enjoying their music but getting to know them as one local to another. We get to share in the joy visitors feel when getting a tiny taste of the life we lead every day. For many of us, it was on this very deck where we first decided to call this island “home.” 

When it was announced that this beloved institution would be undergoing a complete reimagining, we as a community waited with bated breath. Sure, we all knew that what emerged from the renovation project would be an upgrade (for $11 million, it had better be, we reasoned), but change can be alarming. Especially when what’s being changed is so fundamental to our island life. 

But then the Tiki Hut reopened its doors, revealing a magnificent new profile that took the entire experience and gave it just the right amount of polish, and we breathed a sigh of relief. The Tiki Hut as we know it and love it was still there – all of it. There was just so much more to love.

“Our company purchased the project in March of 2022. At that time, we knew we were going to take an asset and push it forward to the next level for added value,” said General Manager Jay Wiendl. “We took a long hard look at the Tiki Hut to see what we could do to make improvements but keep that same vibe that people have embraced since 1977.”

For one thing, they literally raised the roof, creating a vast Polynesian-style meeting house feeling that amplified the island vibe (while giving hot air a place to rise. The temperature difference while sitting at the new bar cannot be overstated). 

Built by a firm called Big Tiki Cypress, whose artisans were taught their craft by local Seminole tribes, the new roof is as impressive to behold as it is authentic. “It’s a true tiki structure. It’s amazing,” Wiendl said.

The Tiki Hut staff and island locals come out in force to celebrate the Grand Re-Opening and ribbon-cutting with Chamber of Commerce’s Bill Miles, Beach House General Manager Jay Wiendl and Hilton Head Island Mayor Alan Perry. 

On top of that, new bathrooms and a kitchen created convenience for guests and staff, and live music acts had been moved to create an ever-shifting backdrop of beach scenery behind the show. As part of the Tiki Hut’s heritage of supporting local acts, they’ve added another daily show, with three musicians appearing during the day. 

Frozen drinks line up at the bar, waiting to satisfy thirsty patrons. 

“When the crowd gets big, it’s so energizing,” Wiendl said. “The new setup has already served as the biggest dance floor that I’ve ever seen at the Tiki Hut.”

Adding new live shows is just one of the ways that this new Tiki Hut energy adds to the storied ambience that made it an icon. Firepits on the beach and chaise lounges right in the sand create new ways to laze away a summer afternoon and take the party straight on into the evening. They eliminated smoking inside the hut itself, much to the relief of non-smokers, who would rather smell sea breezes than smoldering tobacco. 

Live entertainment has always been a staple at the Tiki Hit, and the show goes on with a new stage and even more cozy spaces to sit and listen. Or, if you’re feelimg energetic a big sandy dance floor to show off your moves. 

And on Sundays, there’s an entirely new way to Tiki.

Opening weekend at the newly remodeled Tiki Hut was a success, with guests celebrating the new vibe. 

“I’m super excited for the Sunday brunch we’ve rolled out,” Wiendl said. This new offering pairs the entertainment that made the Tiki Hut famous with a morning medley of Bloody Marys and Lowcountry-inspired menu items. “Where else can you hear live music, put your toes in the sand, and eat an omelet?” Wiendl posited.

Clearly, we have been doing breakfast wrong our entire lives and didn’t even realize it. 

Change can be scary. Evolution isn’t always an improvement. But with what they’ve done to The Tiki Hut, Beach House Hilton Head Island has shown that they understand what has made this place a gem. They just added the right amount of polish. 

“It’s the only beach bar truly built on the beach and it’s been that way for many years,” Wiendl said. “All we did was dress it up a little bit.” 

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