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How to Throw a Hawaiian-Themed Party

Candace has a broad range of interests that keep her head filled with strange facts, such as experimental cooking, games, and mad science.

A few Hawaiian party decorating essentials

A few Hawaiian party decorating essentials

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 music. Plus, 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.

You'll Find Ideas for Each of These Categories

  • Decorations: Incorporate ideas and items that create a Hawaiian atmosphere for your party.
  • Costumes: Have your guests dress up with these suggested items.
  • Party Food: Serve both main and side dishes that work well for Hawaiian parties.
  • Hawaiian Drinks: No party is complete without themed drinks.
  • Dessert Ideas: Guests will love these tropical island desserts.
  • Games: Keep your guests busy with fun family games.
  • Entertainment: Guests can learn about traditional Hawaiian entertainment.
  • Music: Bring the island sound to your backyard Hawaiian celebrations.

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 location for the party that looks the part, like beside a pool or lake or in a backyard surrounded with flowers.

Items Great for Decorating Luaus

Tropical Flowers

Tiki Torches

Grass Table Skirts

Beach Balls

Palm Trees

Surf Boards

Beach Umbrellas

Tiki Masks





Fishing Nets

Buckets and Shovels


Parrots or Tropical Birds

Beach Towels

Paper Lanterns

Colorful String Lights


Luau Decorating Ideas

  • Volcano: Make a volcano out of clay (you could also use dirt). Place a dish in the center of the volcano, then add water and red food coloring, then add dry ice to create a great smoking effect for the party.
  • Makeshift Pool: Fill a wading pool with 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, as it may stain clothing.
  • Makeshift Beach: Fill a wading pool with sand and add some shovels and buckets. It's a great decoration and entertainment for kids at family parties.
  • Centerpieces: Place flowers or shells in the bottom of clear glass bowls and add floating candles. Coconuts, pineapples, and other fruits placed on tables also set the tropical scene.

Hawaiian Party Costumes

Part of the fun of luaus is seeing everyone dressed in Hawaiian style. Be sure to tell your guests to dress up for the party.

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.

A flower in a woman's hair is a Hawaiian tradition with a lot of meaning. Women wear them on the right side if they are single and on the left side if they are taken.

Don't forget to take pictures of everyone in their costumes. You can even have a contest and award prizes to the best costumes. Give one to the funniest, the most authentic, the most creative, best couple, or the best all-around.

Great Costume Items

Hawaiian Shirts

Grass Skirts

Straw Hats


Tiki Masks


Flip Flops

Floral Dresses

Coconut Bra

Bathing Suits


Palm Leaves

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Hawaiian Luau Party Food

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

Main Courses

  • Traditional Pig Roast: 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.
  • Fish: Salmon and other fish is another excellent main course. Grilled would be the most authentic way of cooking it.
  • Pizza: 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: They are great to serve for vegetarians and vegans as well. Mix up several different choices of meats like chicken, pork, and shrimp, and vegetables and fruits like peppers, onions, squash, and pineapples.

Side Dishes

  • Fruit: Fruit, fruit, fruit should be the food motto of a luau. Fresh pineapple, coconut, bananas, papaya, and other tropical fruit can be served on trays. You could even make fruit salads, or put them on skewers.
  • Nuts: Add macadamia nuts to the fruit trays or put some in bowls for guests to nibble on.
  • Vegetables: Sweet potatoes and yams are traditional Hawaiian luau foods. You can make baked sweet potatoes for guests, or make a sweet potato casserole.
  • Bread: Heat Hawaiian sweet rolls to serve with the meal.
  • Traditional Poi: Poi is made from ground taro root. It is a starchy dish similar to mashed potatoes. You can buy poi online in powdered or fresh form. To make poi, you just 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.

Don't forget to add the extra touches to make the party food look more appealing. You can use tropical designed toothpicks or umbrellas in the food. Pick colorful and floral-print plates and utensils.

Hawaiian Luau Drink Ideas

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

  • Cocktails: Serve tropical cocktails like daiquiris, Mai Tais, and piña coladas are perfect for luaus. They can be made without alcohol if your party is family or kid-oriented.
  • Fruity drinks: Mix up a tropical punch with real fruit. 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.
  • Smoothies: Blend up fruit for smoothies.
  • Hawaiian Coffee: Serve Kona Hawaiian coffee after dessert.
  • Presentation: Put the drinks in coconuts or pineapples. Stick umbrellas in the drinks or use straws with flowers attached.
  • Rim the Glasses: Use shredded coconut to rim the glasses. First, glaze the edge with sugar water then dip into crushed coconut shavings.
  • Volcano Drink: Make smoking volcano drinks by adding dry ice. Drop a few pieces into the punch bowl or use dry ice swizzle sticks to put it directly into guests' glasses.
  • Lava Shots: Create fiery, lava drinks by serving flaming shots.

Hawaiian Dessert Ideas

Make a pineapple upside-down cake or serve a 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 toppings you want. Wrap the banana in foil and put it on a grill, or in a fire, for about 10 minutes.

Another dessert idea is to make a volcano cake. There are several methods to do 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 and use icing to hold them together. Trim the cake 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 set, or glazed strawberries, or another 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 to 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 another red-colored ice cream to the middle of the cake. As the ice cream melts, it will drip down like lava.
Hula hoop contests are always a hit with guests!

Hula hoop contests are always a hit with guests!

Hawaiian Party Games

Make sure your guests are entertained at the party. Traditionally, luau games were contests of skills or to see who was the strongest. Here are some ways to "test" which of your guests is the best warrior.

  • Hula Hoop Contest: Give prizes to the person who can hula hoop the longest or can keep the most hula hoops going at once.
  • 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. Make cheap rings 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.
  • Limbo: It isn't exactly Hawaiian, but it is a fun beach-party type game.
  • Obstacle Course: Make an obstacle course race and have guests compete to see who is the fastest.
  • Tug of War: Ancient Hawaiians played a game similar to tug of war. Get a rope and have a match of your own.
  • Scavenger Hunt: Create a scavenger hunt that leads to a prize for the first one to get to the clues.
  • Puzzle Race: Print off Hawaiian pictures and cut them into puzzles. Divide the group into teams and see who can complete the puzzle first.
  • Swim Contests: If you are near water, have swimming competitions.
  • Fishing Game: Create a fishing game using magnetic fish and a fishing pole. See who catches the most.
  • Blow Darts: Blow darts is another traditional Hawaiian game. Blow up balloons and pin them to a fence. Throw darts and see who can pop the most balloons.

Dollar-Store Prizes for the Games

Plastic Luau Themed ToysHawaiian Rubber DucksLeisBeach Boys CDs

Jimmy Buffett CDs

Citronella Candles



Beach Balls

Macadamia Nuts

Paper Lanterns

Tropical Flavored Candy

Hula Doll for the Dashboard

Kona Coffee

Dancing to the island beat

Dancing to the island beat

Other Entertainment

  • Fire Dancer: Hire a fire dancer or a fire-breather. It will really impress your guests.
  • Learn to Hula: 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.

Hawaiian-Themed Music

No party is complete without rocking music to set the right atmosphere. Luau party playlists are easy to find, or you can just stream Hawaiian radio online.

Try not to play too many unrecognizable 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.

Try songs like:

  • "Blue Hawaii"—Elvis
  • "Wipeout"—The Surfaris
  • "The Tide Is High"—Blondie
  • "Banana Boat Song (Day-O)"—Harry Belafonte
  • "Coconut"—Nilsson
  • "Gilligan's Island Theme Song"
  • "Beyond the Sea"—Bobby Darin

Hawaiian Musicians and Music

Israel Kamakawiw'ole

Jimmy Buffet

The Beach Boys


Don Ho

Ukulele Music


Island Music


  • How to Make a Volcano Cake
    Create an active volcano for your next party. This is a guide to make an erupting volcano cake with smoke and flowing lava. It will look amazing and will really wow your guests. The steps are easy to follow and aren't hard.

© 2012 Candace Bacon

Aloha and Mahalo

Sergeant Rock on May 02, 2020:

A Viet Nam party! China Beach! Apocalypse Now! Magnum! Hawaiian shirts, Army Surplus uniforms on men and women. Recordings of Helicopters and Album rock music. Have character actors for Colonel Kurtz, Dennis Hopper, Dana Delaney! Have lots of Asian friends? Get straw hats with black pajamas and flip flops. White, khaki, and seer sucker suits. Moo moos and grass skirts and sarongs for women. Khaki and camouflage uniforms. What's that I smell? Marijuana? Motown and Stax music.....a motorcycle or two....toy and black berets.....fireworks at midnight......

Sunny from India on April 07, 2018:

Nice article ...

Deborah Minter from U.S, California on March 30, 2018:

Hawai is a great theme for a party.

Deborah Minter from U.S, California on August 26, 2017:

This sounds fun.

kristina on July 02, 2017:

Thanks for the post very helpful

Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on May 06, 2013:

prettynutjob30 - Thanks! Hope your volcano turns out smoking!

Mary from From the land of Chocolate Chips,and all other things sweet. on May 02, 2013:

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.

Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on March 06, 2013:

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

Stephanie Launiu from Hawai'i on March 05, 2013:

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

Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on March 01, 2013:

jakeiy - :)

jakeiy on February 24, 2013:

i loved my party

Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on January 05, 2013:

Glad it helped! Hope your luau is great!

Sarah on December 08, 2012:

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

sasha on December 04, 2012:

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

Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on November 04, 2012:

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

bella on October 27, 2012:

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

TattooKitty from Hawaii on October 04, 2012:

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!!

Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on October 04, 2012:

newusedcarssacram - It sure would! Thanks!

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

Jackie on October 02, 2012:

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 from Sacramento, CA, U.S.A on August 10, 2012:

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

Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on August 01, 2012:

GIRL - Hope your party is amazing! Thanks!

GIRL on July 22, 2012:

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

cityalice on June 16, 2012:

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 on June 16, 2012:

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

Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on June 02, 2012:

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

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on May 24, 2012:

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

Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on May 13, 2012:

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

Cathy from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri on May 10, 2012:

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!

Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on April 30, 2012:

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 from Gainesville, GA on April 28, 2012:

Wow! This was an AWESOME read! Thanks :)

Voted up and across!

Kim Lam from California on April 27, 2012:

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. ;-)

Joyce Haragsim from Southern Nevada on April 26, 2012:

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

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on April 26, 2012:

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

Nare Gevorgyan on April 26, 2012:

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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