You can now ride a floating tiki bar on the Ottawa River

It’s a first of its kind in the capital: a floating tiki bar aiming to bring the feel of a tropical vacation to the Ottawa River. And tickets are going faster that you can say ‘Aloha.’

Co-owners Michael Karpishka and Gabriela Hernandez built a 18-by-18 foot custom boat shaped like a Hawaiian tiki bar that gives passengers a new way to enjoy the water.

“This is basically a tropical experience right here in the heart of Ottawa,” says Karpishka. “We have no more than 12 people at a time. And you have the option of buying individual tickets or chartering the whole boat.”

Tours last 90 minutes with prices starting at $60 per person, or a group can rent out the entire boat for $600. They also have deals every Tuesday for $40 per ticket.

Palapa Tours has been operating for just two weeks and already they’ve seen bookings skyrocket. They say it’s the perfect way for people in Ottawa to take a Hawaiian vacation right in their own backyard.

“Every tour we clean everything,” says Hernandez. “Sanitize bathrooms, chairs, everything. And we follow all the regulations that are required.”

Alesia Ibrahim rode the tiki bar on Friday and says its the perfect escape right now.

“It’s a great option for people during the pandemic because you’re outside. You’re not closed in indoors with people that you may or may not know,” Ibrahim said.

Right now there are two boats in Ottawa, but expansion is on the way with 40 boats planned for the rest of the country.

“There’s nothing like this going on in Ottawa,” says guest Colter Trottier. “I think it’s amazing.”

Another guest, Emma O’Brien said: “I’m not on vacation, but I’m actually on vacation when I’m on this boat.”

Passengers have the option of bringing their own food, and the boat is fully licensed for drinks that can be purchased at the floating bar.

“Being on the water, nature, it’s beautiful,” says Hernandez. “And every time we have new people, we get to know them, we get to talk to them. And that’s really, really nice.”

Gabriela’s daughter Noor Abdullah says she couldn’t be happier with her mom’s new endeavour. 

“I’m just really proud of my mom and Mike for coming up with this and starting a business. Especially during the pandemic.”

The tiki bar runs seven days a week until Oct. 15 when they switch over to a special haunted Halloween tiki until Oct. 31.

So if you can’t get to Hawaii anytime soon, a tiki boat cruise may just be the next best thing.