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How to Throw a Hawaiian Theme Party

Updated on January 11, 2013

Luau Party Ideas

Luaus and Hawaiian themed parties are one of the most popular types of parties and for great reasons, too. They are perfect for birthdays, pool parties, weddings, anniversaries, or just summer get-togethers and cookouts. Many people even like luaus in the winter to warm up the cold months.

Set an aloha spirit for your party with these great luau tips and ideas for adult and family friendly parties. You'll find decorating and costume ideas, food and drink suggestions, party games, and luau music. Learn how to make a volcano cake and smoking party drinks.

So put on your grass skirt, light the tiki torches, and get ready for a fabulous Hawaiian party.

Party Invitations

OTC 12 Message in a Bottle Luau Tropical Pool Party Invitations
OTC 12 Message in a Bottle Luau Tropical Pool Party Invitations

No guest will be able to refuse a unique invitation like this. Make it a party to remember before it even happens.


Set the Tropical Mood

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Use leis to decorate tiki torches.Place fruit on the table as decoration.
Use leis to decorate tiki torches.
Use leis to decorate tiki torches. | Source
Place fruit on the table as decoration.
Place fruit on the table as decoration. | Source

Hawaiian Party Decorations

Think tropical beach when you are decorating for the party. Most dollar stores and party supply stores keep luau items in stock.

Pick a place for the party that looks the part, like beside a pool or lake. Or a backyard with lots of flowers.

These items are great for luaus:

  • tropical flowers (hibiscus)
  • tiki torches
  • grass table skirts
  • beach balls
  • palm trees
  • surf boards
  • beach umbrellas
  • tiki masks
  • sand
  • shells
  • fish nets
  • ocean life
  • buckets and shovels
  • boats/nautical
  • volcanoes
  • ukuleles
  • parrots/tropical birds
  • beach towel
  • paper lanterns
  • colorful string lights

Add some flair to the luau with these ideas:

  • Make a volcano out of clay (you could also use dirt). Add some dry ice to water and red food coloring and put it into the center of the volcano to create a great smoking effect for the party (See link at right for more detailed instructions).
  • Use fruit for decoration. Coconuts, pineapples, and other fruits placed on tables set the tropical scene.
  • Fill wading pools with sand and/or water. You can even add blue food coloring to the water to make it look more like a tropical lagoon. Just make sure no one gets in the pool if you do add food coloring. It may stain clothing. Sand is great for decoration and entertainment at kid and family parties.
  • Add floating candles in clear, glass bowls. Put flowers or shells in the bottom of the bowl for beautiful centerpieces.

Island Wear

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Even guys can wear grass skirts.Coconut bras complete the look.
Even guys can wear grass skirts.
Even guys can wear grass skirts. | Source
Coconut bras complete the look.
Coconut bras complete the look. | Source

Flowers in the hair are a Hawaiian tradition with a lot of meaning. Wear them on the right side if you are single and on the left side if you are taken.

Hawaiian Party Costumes

Part of the fun of luaus is seeing everyone dressed Hawaiian style. Be sure to tell your guests to dress up for the party. Here are some luau costume ideas:

  • Hawaiian print shirts
  • grass skirts
  • straw hats
  • visors
  • sunglasses
  • flip flops/sandals
  • floral print dresses
  • tiki/tribal masks
  • coconut bra (can be worn over clothes)
  • bathing suits
  • floaties
  • palm leaves

Leis (necklace or garland made of flowers) are the one necessary item for a Hawaiian themed party. They can be worn around the neck, around the head, on the arms as bracelets, or on the legs as anklets.

Don't forget to take pictures of everyone in their Hawaiian luau costumes.

You can even have a costume contest and award prizes to the best costumes. Give one to the funniest, the most authentic, the most creative, best couple, or all-around-best.

Leis, Grass Skirts, and Luau Costume Essentials

Hawaiian-Style Feast Ideas

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Buffet of food with lots of fruit and flowers for decoration.Barbeque pork buffetKabobs with pineapple
Buffet of food with lots of fruit and flowers for decoration.
Buffet of food with lots of fruit and flowers for decoration. | Source
Barbeque pork buffet
Barbeque pork buffet | Source
Kabobs with pineapple
Kabobs with pineapple | Source

Hawaiian Luau Party Food

Luau means "feast," so food should be plentiful at the party. Here are some great Hawaiian feast foods.

Hawaiian main course food ideas:

  • If you are feeling adventurous, you could have a pig roast over a fire pit. If that is out of your league, you could just serve pulled pork or barbeque.
  • Salmon and other fish is another great main course. Grilled would be the most authentic way of cooking it.
  • Hawaiian pizza with ham and pineapple is an easy dish if you don't want to do much cooking. Pizza is a great choice for kid parties.
  • Kabobs cooked on a grill are delicious for luau parties. They are great to serve for vegetarians and vegans as well. Mix up several different choices of meats like chicken, pork, and shrimp, vegetables and fruits like peppers, onions, squash, and pineapples.

Hawaiian side dish ideas:

  • Fruit, fruit, fruit should be the food motto of a luau. Fresh pineapple, coconut, bananas, papaya, and other tropical fruit can be served on fruit trays. You could even make fruit salads or fruit skewers.
  • Add macadamia nuts to the fruit trays or put some in a bowl for guests to nibble on.
  • Sweet potatoes and yams are traditional Hawaiian luau foods. Bake sweet potatoes for guests or make a sweet potato casserole.
  • Heat Hawaiian sweet rolls to serve with the meal.
  • Poi is another traditional Hawaiian dish. It is made from ground taro roots. It is a starchy dish similar to mashed potatoes. You can buy poi online in powdered or fresh form. To make a dish with poi, you'll add water until it gets to the right consistency. Most people add sugar or salt and butter to it. Poi can be an acquired taste, but most guests would enjoy tasting it.

Hawaiian Poi Powder 3oz Jar - Made in Hawaii From Hawaian Taro
Hawaiian Poi Powder 3oz Jar - Made in Hawaii From Hawaian Taro

Make authentic Hawaiian poi with this poi powder.


How to Make Molten Volcano Cake

Don't forget to add the extra touches to make the party food look more appealing.

Use tropical designed picks or umbrellas in the food. Pick colorful and floral print plates and serve ware.

How to Make a Volcano Cake

Hawaiian dessert ideas:

  • Make a pineapple upside down cake for the party.
  • Serve coconut cream pie.
  • Grilled bananas are another great treat for Hawaiian parties. Open up the banana and add in chocolate chips, coconut, nuts, or whatever other topping you want. Wrap the banana in foil and put it on a grill or in a fire for about 10 minutes.
  • Create a volcano cake. There are several methods to this. You can make a smoking volcano by putting some dry ice in the middle or you can just have a molten cake with melted chocolate for lava. Or you can mix and match the ideas to create your own volcanic masterpiece.

Smoking Volcano Cake

Bake a cake with a bundt pan or you can use angel food cake. You can even use a regular cake and cut a hole out of the middle. For a taller volcano, stack two layers of cake using icing to hold them together. Trim the cake(s) with a knife to create the shape of a mountain.

Put a cup in the middle of the cake. Ice the cake with chocolate or dark colored frosting so that the cup isn't visible.

Carefully pour some warm water into the cup to help activate the dry ice. If you want bubbling red lava, you can use jello that has not been chilled or glazed strawberries or other red berry compote instead of water. Make sure whatever you use isn't thick. The more liquid-like it is, the better lava it will make.

Add crumbled cookies to make it look like dirt on the volcano. You can add some red frosting or glazed strawberries around the top of the dome to look like lava.

When it is time to bring out the cake, add a few small pieces of dry ice into the cup to create a smoking volcano effect. If you used strawberry glaze or jello, the lava will start bubbling when the dry ice is added. Fill the cup all the way full if you want the "lava" to bubble over.

If you don't want the smoking effect, build the cake into a volcano shape. Add strawberry or other red colored ice cream to the middle of the cake. As the ice cream melts, it will drip down like lava.

Check out the link below for detailed volcano cake instructions.

Volcano Cake Poll

What kind of volcano cake will you make?

See results

Mmm. Fruity!

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Hawaiian Luau Drink Ideas

The drinks for a luau should be fruity. Here are some Hawaiian drink suggestions:

  • Tropical cocktails like daiquiris, Mai Tais, and piƱa coladas are perfect for luaus. They can be served without alcohol as well if your party is family or kid oriented.
  • Mix up a tropical punch with real fruit.
  • Blend up fruit for smoothies.
  • Serve Kona Hawaiian coffee after dessert.
  • Add fruit to the drinks. You can stick a slice of pineapple or citrus fruit on the side of the glasses. Or you can add small pieces of fruit in the bottom of the cup.
  • Put the drinks in coconuts or pineapples.
  • Stick umbrellas in the drinks or use straws with flowers attached.
  • Rim glasses with coconut. First glaze the edge with sugar water then dip into crushed coconut shavings.
  • Make smoking volcano drinks by adding dry ice. Drop a few pieces into the punch or use dry ice swizzle sticks to put dry ice into guests' glasses.
  • Create fiery lava drinks by serving flaming shots. Check out the link below for instructions and more party drink ideas.


Hawaiian Party Games and Entertainment

Make sure your guests are entertained at the party. Have games and other ways for them to occupy themselves.

Games during traditional luaus would have been contests of skills or to see who was the strongest. Here are some ways to "test" which of your guests is the best warrior.

  • Have a hula hoop contest. Give prizes to the person who can hula hoop the longest or can keep the most hula hoops going at once.
  • Play tiki torch ring toss. Stick unlit tiki torches in the ground. You can even find mini tiki torches that are only a foot or two high that would be great for this game. Then throw rings at them. Cheap rings can be made by cutting out the center part of paper plates. You can also find ring toys at most dollar stores. Place several torches and attach points to each. For example, the closest torch would be worth 10 points if you get a ring on it. The farthest tiki torch would be worth 50 or 100 points.
  • Play limbo. It isn't exactly Hawaiian, but it is a great beach party type game.
  • Make an obstacle course race and have guests compete to see who is the fastest.
  • Ancient Hawaiians played a game similar to tug of war. Get a rope and have your own game of tug of war.
  • Create a scavenger hunt that leads to a prize for the first one to get to the clues.
  • Print off Hawaiian pictures and cut them into puzzles. Divide the group into a team and see who can complete the puzzle first.
  • If you are near water, have swimming competitions.
  • Create a fishing game. Use magnetic fish and a fishing pole. See who can catch the most.
  • Blow darts are another traditional Hawaiian game. Blow up balloons and pin them to a fence. Throw darts to see who can pop the most balloons.

Learn to Hula Dance

Other Luau entertainment ideas:

  • Hire a fire dancer or a fire breather. It will really impress your guests.
  • Teach your guests to hula dance. Learn a few basic moves and dance to the party soundtrack. Your guests will get a kick out of swaying their hips.

Prizes for the games can be bought at a dollar store. Prize ideas:

  • plastic luau themed toys
  • Hawaiian rubber ducks
  • leis
  • Beach Boys or Jimmy Buffett CD's
  • citronella candles
  • sunglasses
  • sunscreen
  • beach balls
  • macadamia nuts
  • paper lanterns
  • tropical flavored candy
  • Kona coffee
  • hula doll for the dashboard

Dancing to the Island Beat

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Hawaiian Themed Music

No party is complete without rocking music to set the right atmosphere. Luau party CD's are easy to find. Or you can just stream Hawaiian radio.

Here are some music suggestions if you are putting together a playlist:

  • ukulele music
  • Israel Kamakawiw'ole
  • Jimmy Buffet
  • The Beach Boys
  • Elvis
  • Don Ho
  • reggae
  • other island/beach music

Try not to play too many unrecognizable theme songs, especially not back to back. That can get tiresome.

Mix in a variety of upbeat music that would sound like something heard at a beach party. You want your guests entertained and dancing and having fun.

More song ideas:

  • "Blue Hawaii"
  • "Wipeout"
  • "The Tide Is High"
  • "Day-o"
  • "Coconut"
  • "Gilligan's Island Theme"
  • "Beyond the Sea"

Aloha and Mahalo

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    • sunnyAk profile image


      3 months ago from India

      Nice article ...

    • Deborah Minter profile image

      Deborah Minter 

      3 months ago from U.S, California

      Hawai is a great theme for a party.

    • Deborah Minter profile image

      Deborah Minter 

      10 months ago from U.S, California

      This sounds fun.

    • profile image


      12 months ago

      Thanks for the post very helpful

    • cocopreme profile imageAUTHOR

      Candace Bacon 

      5 years ago from Far, far away

      prettynutjob30 - Thanks! Hope your volcano turns out smoking!

    • prettynutjob30 profile image


      5 years ago from From the land of Chocolate Chips,and all other things sweet.

      These are some really cool ideas for a summer party, no better way to start the summer off than with a party. I will definitely be trying to make the volcano cake, such a neat idea. Great hub, voted up, more and shared.

    • cocopreme profile imageAUTHOR

      Candace Bacon 

      5 years ago from Far, far away

      Hawaiian Scribe - Wow! That's a great compliment. Thanks so much!

    • Hawaiian Scribe profile image

      Stephanie Launiu 

      5 years ago from Hawai'i

      What a great hub! I'm a Hawaiian, and even I got some great ideas from you on how to throw a party Hawaiian-style. Voted up, useful, interesting, FB, tweeting and pinning. Mahalo and aloha, Stephanie

    • cocopreme profile imageAUTHOR

      Candace Bacon 

      5 years ago from Far, far away

      jakeiy - :)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      i loved my party

    • cocopreme profile imageAUTHOR

      Candace Bacon 

      5 years ago from Far, far away

      Glad it helped! Hope your luau is great!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      That sounds amazing! Thanks for your tips. Reading all that makes it seem like a lot of effort but so worth it!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      i love how you do know how to throw a hawaiin theme party

    • cocopreme profile imageAUTHOR

      Candace Bacon 

      5 years ago from Far, far away

      bella - That sounds like a cute outfit. Have fun!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      im going to be a luau girl for halloween im going to buy a uklule grass skirt tank top instead of count bra

    • TattooKitty profile image


      5 years ago from Hawaii

      This hub's got the aloha spirit, alright! Here's a wonderful website where you can buy lei-making materials and hawaiian-themed crafts:

      Happy hip-swaying to all!!

    • cocopreme profile imageAUTHOR

      Candace Bacon 

      5 years ago from Far, far away

      newusedcarssacram - It sure would! Thanks!

      Jackie - It sounds like your party is going to be awesome with all the stuff you have!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I am having a sleepover b-day party soon, and it will be hawaiian themed! We lived in hawaii 2 months ago, so we like have a bajilion hawaiian stuff and snuff!

    • newusedcarssacram profile image


      5 years ago from Sacramento, CA, U.S.A

      Wow...I must say...if you make your arrangements in this manner then your party will be full of fun and excitement.

    • cocopreme profile imageAUTHOR

      Candace Bacon 

      5 years ago from Far, far away

      GIRL - Hope your party is amazing! Thanks!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      i am having a luau themed bday party. i can't thank u enough

    • cityalice profile image


      6 years ago

      That buffet looks really good. It would be so much fun to throw such a party with an outdoor bar, food, and all the goodies.

    • jakta profile image


      6 years ago

      Loved your ideas..quite innovative.. Thanks..

    • cocopreme profile imageAUTHOR

      Candace Bacon 

      6 years ago from Far, far away

      Marcy Goodfleisch - I'm ready for a good luau, too! Thanks for sharing!

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      6 years ago from Planet Earth

      I love these ideas! I'm ready - bring on the food and music! Voted up and pinned!

    • cocopreme profile imageAUTHOR

      Candace Bacon 

      6 years ago from Far, far away

      ytsenoh - Luau parties are the best summertime parties. Thanks so much!

    • ytsenoh profile image


      6 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

      Thumbs up. What a great job in presenting ideas for those who needs a lot of ideas for the Hawaiian themed party. Thank you. This is really awesome. Luau parties are really the best there is!

    • cocopreme profile imageAUTHOR

      Candace Bacon 

      6 years ago from Far, far away

      Nare Anthony - Hawaiian stuff is awesome. I'll have to check out Jack Shimabukuro and add him to the list. Thanks so much!

      randomcreative - Thank you! Luaus can be a blast.

      writer20 - Getting motivated for a party shouldn't be too hard. :) Thanks!

      Turtlewoman - I love umbrellas and other foibles in drinks, too. They make it so fun. Thanks so much!

      Mmargie1966 - Thank you very much!

    • Mmargie1966 profile image


      6 years ago from Gainesville, GA

      Wow! This was an AWESOME read! Thanks :)

      Voted up and across!

    • Turtlewoman profile image

      Kim Lam 

      6 years ago from California

      I love luau parties! You've done a great job with this guide. I think the best part to this type of party is the roasted pig and the umbrella drinks. ;-)

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 

      6 years ago from Southern Nevada

      Sounds like great fun. I'll try to get motivated. Voted up useful and interesting, Joyce.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      6 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      This is a great resource! I really want to do this sometime.

    • Nare Anthony profile image

      Nare Gevorgyan 

      6 years ago

      Oh yeahhh! What a great and well researched hub! You have done an awesome job! I love Hawaiian stuff and I'm surely gonna bookmark this! Ukuleles are best by Jack Shimabukuro, bdw :D


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