3 Simple Rules to Having a Great Hawaiian Theme Party

3 Simple Rules to Having a Great Hawaiian Theme Party

A luau is a Hawaiian party or feast often accompanied by entertainment. It’s an event where friends and family eat, laugh and bond through a fun shared experience. You can do it as a simple backyard BBQ or go all-out and re-create a tropical Hawaiian experience. The best thing is that don’t have to go to Hawaii or spend big money to capture this magic. Throwing a Hawaiian theme party is easier than you think. Just follow these three basic rules and you’ll be elevated to hero status among your friends.

Rule #1: Everyone Wear Aloha Attire

Nothing says “Aloha!” more than a bunch of festive people in colorful Hawaiian shirts and cute floral dresses. Having everyone wear their favorite piece of Aloha attire is the easiest way to make your party look like a Hawaiian theme party. Make it mandatory! Not only will this add a ton of tropical color to the party, but your guests will also feel more festive. You can add even more fun by having a contest for best (or worst) dressed.

Wear a flower on your right ear if you're single and on your left ear if you're taken

Tip: Single women traditionally wear a flower behind the right ear. If a woman is taken, she should wear it behind her left ear.

use cheap fake flower leis if you don't have the budget for real flower leis

Tip: Lei your friends with real or fake colorful leis or flowers. The fake ones are pretty cheap from places like Amazon, Oriental Trading Company, or Party City.

Rule #2: Create a Tropical Atmosphere

grass table skirts and wall decorations are a cost-effective way to turn an apartment into a party zone

If everyone in Aloha attire is a feast for the eyes, then Hawaiian music will be a feast for the ears. An easy way to create a festive tropical vibe is to play Hawaiian or island party music over a decent boom box, computer or MP3 player speakers or a component sound system. Traditional Hawaiian music will create a more enchanting ambiance while contemporary music will create more of a festive ambiance. Either one is good. And you can get all the music you need from places like Amazon or iTunes or your favorite streaming service. 

Add more visual pizazz to your party by decorating the party area with real or fake flowers and grass table skirts. Use tropical looking plates, cups and napkins. If you can’t find tropical designs, use simple bright colorful yellow or red items that mimic tropical fruit colors.

Tip: Tiki torches are an awesome eye-catching prop that will add some enchantment to an outdoor party.

Rule #3: Serve Yummy Food

It's party time! Time to eat!

A party without food is just a meeting. Aloha wear, music, decorations…those are all fine and good but ultimately the food you serve can make or break your party. You don’t want to disappoint your guests on this one. You can find a ton of great luau food recipes to suit your tastes and cooking abilities. Here are a few basic stables to use as a starting point listed in order of importance.

Kalua Pig – At the very top of your menu list should be kalua pig. This one is an absolute must! A luau without kalua pig is like Thanksgiving without turkey. Do whatever it takes to get this on your menu.

kalua pig

Tropical Drinks – Tasty tropical drinks are the lifeblood of your party. All you need is a little mai tai mix from your nearby supermarket, ice, rum and a blender. Add some colorful flare with some punch syrup and add a drink umbrella and some sliced pineapple. And if you don’t really feel like trying, just go old school with some coconut rum and Coke. It’s better than nothing.

party outfit and a tropical drink

Poi – Perhaps the food most associated with Hawaii is poi. Some people like it. Some people don’t. If you can order it online, we recommend doing so. If you are afraid that poi will gross for your friends to handle, then substitute it with sweet potatoes or rice. Both are commonly served at luaus in Hawaii.


Mahi Mahi or other Fish – Fish is another common luau staple. The easy thing to do is get some frozen mahi mahi fillets from your local supermarket then bake them in the oven and serve it with tartar sauce. Costco has usually has an assortment of frozen fish fillets to choose from. Any white fish meat will do.

mahimahi with mango salsa

Lomi Lomi Salmon – This dish consists of salted salmon, diced raw tomatoes, onions and green onions all mixed together. Many people put lomi lomi salmon recipe in their poi to give it more flavor. This dish also adds some vibrant color to your spread. We would include it for that reason alone.

lomi lomi salmon

Lau lau – This is another popular dish but it is also really hard to make. It is made of beef, pork or fish and taro wrapped in ti leaves and banana leaves then steamed for hours until the ti leaves because super soft. If you are hardcore, make this. If you aren’t hardcore, buy it. If it’s not available to buy, skip it.

Haupia – This is a yummy coconut putting made of coconut milk, sugar and starch. If that sounds like rocket science to you, then we suggest you just order powdered haupia mix over the Internet. Just add water. It’s easier than making brownies.


Poke (poh-keh) -  Poke is raw fish seasoned with salt, seaweed, onions and some other oils and spices. Think of it as sashimi cubes mixed with a bunch of stuff. If your friends don’t like sashimi and sushi, they probably won’t like poke. But that just means more for you!

shoyu ahi poke

Final Thoughts:

Keep in mind that this article is just starting point for your planning. Here are a few more Hawaiian luau recipe ideas for you. Ultimately, use your own creativity and imagination to make your party something you’re completely comfortable and happy with. You can serve just pizza and still have a great “Hawaiian Shirt Party” if you do the other steps right.

festive mini luau Hawaiian theme party in an apartment