Always wanted to throw a luau? A luau can go from zero to bad theme restaurant in no time. Here's how to throw a party full of island-inspired authenticity. (Hint: Do not buy toy ukuleles in bulk.)


The Do's and Don'ts

Don't: Grill in a grass skirt!
Do: Don an island-print apron ($19). Look for floral half-aprons ($11) or pinafore styles with mix-and match tops and flounces.

Don't: Plop hors d'oeuvres on platters decorated with grass trimmings. 
Do: Line serving platters with large leaves, like banana or palm ($14). Use pineapple tops, slices of citrus, and edible flowers to garnish food.

Don't: Resort to the Mr. Pineapple Head centerpiece.
Do: Whip up a tasteful floral combo that mixes island blooms, fruits, and foliage. Try decorative mangoes ($9), a bunch of artificial anthurium ($11).

Don't: Limbo. (If you do, know that it's not a luau activity; it originated in Trinidad!)
Do: Ask a talented friend to hold a hula lesson. The dance's core step, the kâholo, is sure to get hips swinging to the tunes.

Luau Party Island Menu

From simple snacks to a stunning main course, this menu upgrades your typical backyard spread to something a little more exotic.


Poke Bites

poke bites
Credit: Photography by Kate Mathis

Give your guests a taste of island living with these delicious tuna snacks.

Recipe: Try our Poke Bites

Tropical Shrimp Salsa

tropical shrimp salad
Credit: Photography by Travis Rathbone

Break out the chips and salsa!

Recipe: Try our Tropical Shrimp Salsa

Pineapple Upside-Down Bites

pineapple upside down bites
Credit: Photography by Sang An

Who says you can't serve dessert first?

Peppered Pineapple-Beef Kebabs

peppered pineapple beef kebabs
Credit: Photography by Ellie Miller

Grilling pineapple amps up the fruit's natural sweetness. Pair it with ham or beef and it's a party win!

More quick app ideas:

Grilled Shrimp with Cool Cucumber Salad: Hot and cold play well together in this refreshing salad. Bonus: it also tastes great room temp, so your guests can eat it whenever. Recipe: Try our Grilled Shrimp with Cool Cucumber Salad

Mini Hawaiian Sandwiches: Make a simple chicken salad and pop it on a cocktail roll for the easiest-ever slider situation. Recipe: Try our Mini Hawaiian Sandwiches

Surfin' Nacho Boards: Add some heat and sweetness to nachos with jalapeños and peaches. Recipe: Try our Surfin' Nacho Boards

Main Dishes

Tuna Poke

Tuna Poke
Credit: Photography by Christopher Testani

Poké bowls are super trendy right now - and for a good reason! They're healthy, easy to make, and pack major flavor. Set it up so guests can serve themselves. 

Recipe: Try our Tuna Poke

Hawaiian Dog

hawaiian dog
Credit: Photography by Marcus Nilsson

Grab some hot dogs and pile on the pineapple goodness. 

Recipe: Try our Hawaiian Dog

Grilled Pork with Macadamia Rice

grilled pork with macadamia rice
Credit: Photography by Ngoc Minh Ngo

Fire up the grill and make this party-ready main.

Hawaiian Pork Burgers

Hawaiian Pork Burgers

Top these burgers with pineapple salsa!

Recipe: Try our Hawaiian Pork Burgers


Mai Tai

mai tai cocktail
Credit: Photography by Romulo Yanes

Made with orange, mint, lime, gold rum, and curacao, this drink will make anyone want to do the hula.

Recipe: Try our Mai Tai

Blue Hawaii Cocktail

Credit: Blue Hawaii

Blue curacao gives this drink its fun hue. Tiki umbrella not optional. Buy a 12-pack of coconut cups (that come with umbrellas, of course) on Amazon for $18.

Recipe: Try our Blue Hawaii Cocktail

Aloha Fashion

Hawaiian shirts aren't just those things you talk your dad out of wearing on vacation. The classic shirts and dresses are full of artistry. We asked Dale Hope, author of The Aloha Shirt, what features will keep you looking classically cool.

Fabric: Buy garments made of fabrics woven from cotton, silk, rayon or a blend. "Polyester is bad," Hope says. Plus, it wasn't yet invented in the aloha shirt's heyday.  

Design: Seek clean lines and detailed motifs: Hope's favorite iconic prints include canoe and surfing themes. Ladies, take inspiration from traditional Tahitian pareos, featuring white flowers on red or navy backgrounds. 

Fit: Look for a body-conscious fit in shirts and dresses -- despite the cliché, a mu'umu'u should hug a woman's curves. And say yes to coordinating his-and-hers sets! 

Buttons: Faux wood ultimately prevailed, but good vintage shirts often have buttons made of natural materials. "In the '40s, it was coconut shell," Hope says. "The '60s brought bamboo from Japan."

AHH...Kick-Back Tunes

An authentic soundtrack—replete with ukuleles, marimbas and, yes, Elvis—means instant island atmosphere. DJ Mark Riddle, host of the Polynesian—and Hawaiian-centric Quiet Village podcast—told us how to make a luau sing.

Vintage: Channel 1950s and '60s Americana, Riddle says. Hence Elvis Presley: "The movies Blue Hawaii and Paradise, Hawaiian Style are considered time capsules. They were filmed at famous Hawaiian locations that no longer exist. 

Mellow: You might not know it by name, but the exotica genre is what you hear when you think of all things tiki. Try Hawaiian Sunset, Volumes I and II, by vibraphonist Arthur Lyman -- one of exotica's pioneers -- to lend "that dreamy Hawaiian feel." His music "represented a romanticized version of the tropics," Riddle says.

Modern: Modern Hawaiian singer Israel Kamakawiw'ole is most famous on the mainland for his ukulele-kissed version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," but Riddle favors his more vintage tunes, like "'Ulili E.".