How To Throw a Great Hawaiian Luau Party

Grilling burgers outdoors

In Hawaii, the word "luau" means "feast". Luaus are typically large parties where groups of family and friends gather to share good food and good fun. Hawaiian luau themes are popping up everywhere, from birthday parties to weddings. Here are some tips to add some style to your own Hawaiian luau party.

  1. Location and Theme
    • Your hawaiian party should be held outdoors if possible. If you must move indoors because of the weather or space restrictions, make sure your decorations and food can easily be moved inside.
    • Advise your guests ahead of time that the theme of the event is Hawaiian. Ask them to dress in Hawaiian shirts or dresses, shorts, sandals, and anything else they think would add to the theme.
  2. Decor
    • Think tropical. For party ideas, pick up some inexpensive tiki torches from the home and garden store, carved candles, green streamers, coconuts and any other decorations that feature related themes like shells, surfing or hula dancing.
    • Place hula hoops around a fence, securing them with floral wire. Add large silk flowers, attaching them with the wire, and trim with strips of crepe paper streamers. Check out craft stores for these supplies and materials.
    • Grass skirts can be found at any party supply store, and they make fabulous trims for everything from the buffet table to lawn chairs. Use double-sided tape to secure the grass skirts everywhere that comes to mind.
    • Make sure you have plastic or silk flower leis for every guest. These party favors are an absolute must, and are readily available at supply shops. Flowers should also be part of your decorations. The more fragrant and colorful they are, the better they'll be as decorations.
  3. Food and Drink
    • Classic tropical cocktails like Mai tais, Daiquiris, and Pina coladas are perfect for your Hawaiian luau. Offer a non-alcoholic version as well. Pitchers of iced tea or punch, presented in a large bowl with fresh fruit, make great beverage choices. Don't forget the cocktail umbrellas! Serving drinks in coconut shells is also a nice touch.
    • Food should reflect traditional Hawaiian dishes as much as possible. Check out online recipe sites for ideas. Poi, chicken long rice, and Lomi salmon are all excellent choices.
    • If you've got the space and are feeling brave, you could roast a whole pig (this could prove too frightening for very young children, however). Through your butcher, you can get a pig suitable for spit-roasting, but call ahead and see how much advance notice they will need to have one in stock for you.
    • If you can't make authentic dishes, try to make tropical substitutions in traditional recipes, or serve your favorite party fare with tropical accents. Pineapple juice makes a delicious base for a marinade for most types of meat, and chunks of fruit are great garnishes. Pineapple cut into thick slices is really tasty grilled as well.
  4. Fun and Games
    • For kids, you can pick up some inexpensive fake flowers and string or fishing line, and let them string together their own leis. Game ideas can include traditional games with a Hawaiian twist, like substituting a coconut for the potato in "Hot Potato," or "Pin the Tail on the Pig."
    • Traditional Hawaiian luau games are really tests of strength and skill. Plan races, obstacle courses, or other kinds of contests, giving out small prizes for the winners. Ground Kona coffee, a staple Hawaiian export, makes a terrific prize. You could also hold a "spear-throwing" competition using darts, your target being a large watermelon with a target painted on it.
    • While not traditionally Hawaiian, the limbo is a fun game with tropical roots. The object of the game is to dance under the limbo stick without bending forwards; you have to lean backwards and hold your arms to the sides to limbo under the pole. Move the limbo stick lower and lower each round. The winner is the person who can limbo under the stick at the lowest level.
    • Don't forget the music! Stock up on Hawaiian and beach tunes so you have a steady stream of appropriate music. If you don't have a large collection yourself, borrow from friends or the library, or purchase individual songs online.


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hawaiin party is one of my favorite themes. thank you!

By Anonymous

We've got the tiki lamps, so now you've given us a bunch more ideas. We've also found citronella oil for the tiki lamps which helps a lot with discouraging mosquitoes. Fun article.

By Marion Cornett