Aloha shirts, grass skirts, flowery leis and tiki torches… The luau is a colorful and casual party theme that children of all ages are sure to enjoy. Whether you’re celebrating around the backyard pool on a hot summer day or chasing away the winter doldrums by taking tropical vacation in your living room, we have some helpful suggestions to transform your home into a Polynesian paradise.
Luau Party Invitations
We’re sure you’ll want to get your guests to “limbo on over” with the perfect invitation. Whether you prefer beach scenes, hula girls or tiki totems there are many delightful designs to choose from. Mermaid, under-the-sea and surfer themes fit the luau theme as well. “Retro” typestyles evoking the Polynesian craze of the 50s and 60s are an excellent choice.
In general, luau invitations should be whimsical and fun, so don’t be afraid to be playful when writing them. You can even mix in a little of the Hawaiian language. Look up phrases such as “Ho’olu komo la kaua” for “please join us”, or even Hawaiian names for the month and day (such as “Po ‘aono” for Saturday and “Lulai” for July.) Be sure to include the English translation for the mainlanders!
Do you have a photograph of your child or family from a recent vacation to the beach? Send a personalized photo invitation telling your guests “Wish you were here!” (If you don’t have a photo, dress in beach wear and fake it!)
Luau Party Costumes
No matter what the time of year, ask your guests to dress for the occasion: Hawaiian shirts and shorts or surfer tees and jams. If it’s a summer luau by the pool, don’t forget to ask them to bring swimsuits and a towel. If the parents are invited to stay at the party, you could even have a contest to award the “Big Kahuna” prize to the adult who wears the tackiest shirt!
Of course, when it comes to costumes you’ll want to be the first to play the part. Wear a grass skirt, Hawaiian shirt or surfer clothes. You can even look like you’re ready for the beach by painting your nose white with zinc.
Luau Party Favors
Whether your little luau guests arrive in costume or not, you’ll want to have plenty of accessories on hand to set the scene. Of course, you or your child should greet the guests at the door to say “aloha” with a lei. Silk flower leis look the best, but plastic is more durable for the younger crowd.
The girls will love grass skirts; buy them pre-made or create your own cutting green streamers in long strips. They will also love to put real or silk flowers in their hair; have hairpins ready or glue them to barrettes ahead of time. Boys and girls alike will adore straw hats and plastic sunglasses, and why not let them be tourists by handing out disposable cameras?
Another fun idea is to have an assortment of flip-flops ready. Ask your guests to remove their shoes and wear them throughout the party. These make wonderful take-home gifts as well.
Luau Party Decorations
Is it possible to have too many decorations at a luau party? We don’t think so either. Decorate the entry with a garland of flowers, and line your walk with pink flamingos and an “aloha” banner to let your guests know they’ve arrived in paradise. Streamers, balloons and tableware should be festive tropical colors such as turquoise, hot pink, lime green and orange. Decorate the walls with tiki masks island vacation posters and the table with a colorful Aloha print table cloth. Tropical fruit (coconuts and pineapple) make the perfect centerpiece, and of course, sea shells, flowers and more flowers.
Outdoors, think tiki statues, umbrellas, inflatable palm trees and paper lanterns. A backyard hammock strung between two trees is a wonderful island prop…But don’t expect to have time to take a nap!
You’ll want to have plenty of luau music on hand. Fortunately there are many fine compilations available; have some dreamy Hawaiian folk songs ready to set the mood as the guests enter and livelier numbers for the activities later. Why not mix in some classic surfing tunes as well?
If you’re artistic, paint a beautiful beach scene as a backdrop. Use a surfboard as a prop (if you can’t acquire one, an ironing board will do) and take photos of your guests as they hang ten!
Luau Party Activities
No luau is complete without a game of Limbo! Use a long bamboo stick, or a broomstick wrapped with streamers and flowers. Play some festive music and have two adults hold the pole. Lower it a few inches each time to see how low the children can go.
Pineapple bowling and hula-hoop contests are silly and fun ways to keep the kids laughing. Throw together old clothes and other items to see who can pack a suitcase the fastest…Or, if don’t mind the wear and tear on the luggage, see who can stuff it the most!
Of course your guests will want to dance the hula. There are many instructional videos available, and you may even be able to find reasonably priced instructor in your area willing to give lessons at the party. If you have guests who don’t like to dance, have island drums ready (upside-down plastic pails) so they can join in the rhythm.
If someone is musically inclined, why not have a sing-along? Print the lyrics to Hawaiian songs and play along on the guitar or even ukulele. If no one knows how to play, download instrumental versions of popular surfing songs and do it karaoke style!
Luau Party Crafts
Children love to express their artistic sides, and there are many ways to bring out the creativity at your luau party. Decorate picture frames or with shells and glitter, or “paint” island scenes with multi-colored sand, construction paper and glue. Make your own leis by trimming colorful tissue paper or even cupcake liners into flower shapes. Or take apart store-bought silk flower leis and let the artists re-assemble them as they wish.
You can even make tiki masks from cardboard and construction paper! You may want to do your homework and have books of actual Polynesian masks on hand for inspiration.
Luau Party Refreshments
No luau is complete without tasty food and exotic drinks. There are plenty of easy to prepare recipes that will keep the “keiki” (children) well-fed.
Serve banana chips, “limbo sticks” (pretzels!) and goldfish crackers in beach buckets. Hawaiian pizza (pineapple and ham) is sure to please, though you may want to order pepperoni as well for fussy eaters. Or how about a mock pig roast of pineapple bites wrapped in ham and a pupu platter of cheese and exotic fruits like mango, guava and papaya?
Do you want to bake a Hawaiian themed cake that’s sure to be remembered? Ice half with blue and white frosting to resemble the ocean, half yellow and brown for the beach. Add graham cracker crumbs for the illusion of sand, and adorn with toy hula girls, surfboards and palm trees. Another popular option is the pineapple upside-down cake served with coconut ice cream. If cupcakes are more your style, try garnishing with candy flowers, or iced with several colors of frosting to resemble beach balls.
Your partygoers are sure to get thirsty and tropical drinks are the order of the day. Blend fruit juices with ice, with or without milk to make a smoothie. Garnish with orange slices and cherries and serve in colorful Hawaiian-themed cups, or even tiki glasses. Don’t forget novelty straws and bamboo umbrellas!
A cool and exciting treat that is guaranteed to amaze the children is the “Hawaiian Volcano.” Start with a tropical punch and slowly add sherbet. When you’re ready to serve, pour ginger ale, lemon lime or even club soda over the sherbet… It will foam over like an erupting volcano!
After the Luau Party
Say “mahalo” to your guests with goody bags. Sand pails and straw hats make excellent containers; fill them with fruit candies such as Tropical Skittles and Fruit Stripe gum, gummy sea creatures, Hawaiian-themed stickers, plastic flowers and hula dancers. Other popular gifts include toy ukuleles, water guns and inflatable beach balls. These, along with the flip flops, sunglasses, leis and other favors you’ve provided will make wonderful souvenirs.
Be sure to take lots of pictures of your tropical vacation to send with notes to tell your guests “ahalo nui loa na ho’olaule’a me la kaua” (“Thank you for celebrating with us!”)