Hawaiian Luau Party Theme Ideas

A Hawaiian luau party theme is perfect for an adult birthday celebration. It's casual and festive at the same time, and it's very easy to find (or create) all the decorating touches you'll need to bring your backyard luau to life.

If you have the time and the inclination, experiment with some easy luau recipes. You'll be giving your guests a unique experience and we guarantee they'll be talking about it for days afterward. 

Of course tropical drinks are a necessity, although they don't have to be alcoholic. But at our luaus you'll always find plenty of rum. Just sayin'.

By the way, a luau doesn't have to be held outside. You can host a luau indoors too. It's a great way to perk up during those long winter months.  

So go on and create a tropical paradise right in your own backyard or even your living room. You'll be feeling the warm breezes in no time.

And if by some chance you're not, drink a Mai Tai or three ... that should do it.

Ten Easy Steps to Hosting an Adult Luau Party

1. Send invitations that serve two purposes: they should establish the theme of your party, and make your guests excited to attend.

How to accomplish the latter? One way is to include something tangible that hints at what's to come. This could be a plumeria bloom, a few tiny seashells, or a drink umbrella. If you're having a tiki bar, use ribbon to attach a tiki cut-out to the invitation. If you're going all out and serving a roasted pig, attach a cute pig cutout. You get the idea.

2. Decorate, decorate, and decorate some more.

Transform your backyard into the tropics with lots of colorful Hawaiian decorations. And don't feel limited to the supplies you find in a party store or party supply catalog. Kitschy touches are fun but let that be your choice and not your default decorating decision. There are so many places to find fabulous (and inexpensive) luau supplies.

Our Hawaiian luau party theme decorating essentials:

  • tiki torches —yes, even if your luau is in the daytime. They add great atmosphere and if you fill them with citronella oil you'll get mosquito-repelling benefits as well. 
  • grass skirting —especially around the tops of patio umbrellas for a tiki hut look, and skirting your food table.  
  • exotic flowers —strewn across the buffet table, tied in bouquets to your torches, and in the leis you hand out to your guests.  
  • colorful paper globe lanterns and, if your party is at night, tiny white café lights —string the lanterns and lights above the party-goers or hang from tree branches for great ambience. 
  • hot pink, aqua, lime green, or tangerine colored buckets —fill these with ice and use as coolers for sodas, beer, and water. If there are smokers in your crowd, fill a few small tin buckets with sand for ashtrays. 
  • dishes and serving pieces in colorful Hawaiian patterns —make these  paper, plastic, or melamine, your choice. 
  • tablecloths, runners, and napkins in tropical colors and/or patterns that coordinate with your dishes —more ways to add color! A luau is food-oriented so your table and/or buffet will be focal points of your party. Straw placemats in bright colors look pretty under plates if you're having a sit-down meal. Place them under serving pieces for extra color if your meal will be buffet-style.

If you don't want the paper or plastic-backed variety of tablecloths, here's a really easy way to make table linens.

Search local and online fabric stores for material in tropical colors and/or patterns. If you're lucky you'll find some on sale. Cut the fabric to size with a pair of pinking shears. Do this for your main table, buffet table if you have one, and make napkins too. All done! No need to hem.

If you want to cut your expenses further, forget the tablecloth and make a table runner instead. 

3. In Hawaii a luau is a feast, so put out a big spread for your guests.

Having authentic food to go along with your Hawaiian luau party theme is key. Browse through the simple luau recipes we've collected and impress your guests! They'll appreciate the extra effort. For the adventurous among you, go ahead and roast a pig. 

4. Have an assortment of tropical drinks on hand or have one signature cocktail. 

Don't knock yourself out learning to make all the popular tropical drinks. Pick two or three to offer or -best option- decide on one and make it your party's signature Hawaiian cocktail. These recipes make tropical drinks that'll put your guests in a happy Hawaiian state of mind (and pretty quickly, too). If you mix up your drinks by the pitcher you'll save yourself a ton of time behind the bar. Offer some non-alcoholic choices too. 

If you go the signature drink route, it's fun to find a tweak that makes it a bit unique. For example, try a coconut mango or pineapple mojito (yes, Cuban not Hawaiian, but let's not be fussy —they're fabulous), or a watermelon or blood orange mai tai.  

Your drinks will look even more delicious in tiki mugs, coconut shells, or festive glasses. Add tropical garnishes too: flowers (real or paper), slices of pineapple, and the ever-popular paper umbrellas.

5. Provide shady spots for guests who want to get out of the sun.

Use a couple of beach or patio umbrellas to make shady areas for guests who want to take a break from the sun. Decorate them with raffia streamers or drape grass skirting around the top and attach a few large flowers for a tiki hut look.  

6. Greet your guests with leis as they arrive.

You could appoint a special greeter (a willing child perhaps?) dressed in fancy luau garb for this duty. A properly worn lei drapes down in both the front and the back.

Buy leis or make them yourself with paper flowers. You can also incorporate shells, feathers, leaves, and nuts into the strands. This is a great kid project!

It's traditional in Hawaii for the guest of honor to be given a special lei to wear so he or she stands out from the other guests.

7. Present your guests with name tags that display their Hawaiian names.

Translate your guests' names into Hawaiian at Internet Island here.

8. Fill a basket with silk plumeria blooms for the women to wear in their hair.

Hawaiian tradition has it that wearing the flower behind your right ear means you're single, and behind your left ear means you're taken. Have bobby pins handy too.

9. Keep the fun going with some luau party games.

You know that dreaded feeling in the midst of a party when you suddenly wonder if everyone's truly having a good time? Or when you spot that guest standing alone looking at his or her shoes? A good party game can be a real lifesaver.

Games are a great way to get everyone involved and interacting with each other. You can use a game as an icebreaker at the beginning of your party to introduce everyone, or bring games out at a later point to keep energy levels up.

We came across some party games specifically for luaus from Python Printables. We think they're fantastic! 

10. Send your guests home with luau-themed party favors.

Grab some kitschy luau favors if you want, or do something totally unexpected and present your guests with mini bottles of Malibu® coconut rum tucked into tiki mugs, or mini jars of honey from Maui. You can check out more of our luau favor ideas here.