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How do I Host an Authentic Luau?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 23, 2024
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A luau is a Hawaiian party involving food, music and entertainment. These relaxed gatherings are a great way to spend a summer evening or host a graduation, birthday or even a casual wedding. To throw a great luau for friends and family, all you need to do is create an atmosphere straight off the beaches of Hawaii.

Traditional luau food features a variety of seafood and meat. Most often seen at commercial luaus is the famous Kalua pig. For an authentic Kalua pig, a salted and seasoned whole pig must be buried in an underground oven called an imu, and slow-cooked for many hours. If your backyard fails to contain an imu or you find a whole pig difficult to get home, consider making an alternative dish, like pineapple glazed ham. Barbeque is a staple of luaus, so fire up your grill and make your favorite dish.

Dessert at a luau is traditionally haupia, a coconut custard similar to flan or crème brulee. This delicious dessert is available as a packaged mix in some grocery stores. To make your own version, simply add coconut flavoring to any standard vanilla custard recipe. You might want to add toasted coconut flakes on top as a garnish.

In terms of beverages, the sky is the limit with tropical concoctions. Blend ice with coconut cream and pineapple juice for a non-alcoholic piña colada. For an alcoholic kick, choose one or two drinks that sound exciting to you and make pitchers of them. Blue Hawaii, Lava Flow, Tiki Ti, Fishbowl Punch and Mai Tais are all colorful island cocktails. Many party supply stores carry inexpensive tiki-shaped mugs or coconut shells to use as glasses.

To set the mood at your luau, try using traditional Hawaiian ukulele or slack-key guitar music. One popular Hawaiian artist is the late Brother Iz, a famous singer and musician, whose music is easily available online. If you have any soundscape compilations that feature ocean or jungle sounds, you may want to add these in as backgrounds. Setting the right mood with music is a great way to break the ice among guests and bring the islands to your backyard.

For décor, consider purchasing a few tropical flowers to place in vases or as centerpieces. Orchids, birds-of-paradise, and plumeria are all colorful Hawaiian flowers. You may also want to consider giving your guests leis as party favors. Fresh floral versions, which are beautiful and sweet-smelling, begin at around $30 US Dollars (USD.) For a casual luau, pick up fake-flower or plastic leis, which are available at most party supply stores and generally cost less than a dollar a piece.

Tiki torches are a popular way to light your luau, and add an island vibe. These torches burn on oil or propane and prices begin around $10 USD. If you are using an open flame out of doors, be sure to keep a fire extinguisher nearby and clear the area of any dried plants or debris that could catch fire. Some newer models of outdoor torches use solar powered lamps instead, and may be a safer option for a children’s party.

With the basics taken care of, make the luau authentically yours by choosing a fun activity for party goers. Consider a hula competition, or make the party retro-1960s by playing limbo. Fill a child’s swimming pool with water and have guests “fish” for water-proofed party favors. These additional touches are fun, but not necessary. Luaus are supposed to be places of relaxing and easy fun, so make it your first priority to enjoy yourself.

WiseTour is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis , Writer
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for WiseTour. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.

Discussion Comments

By anon949908 — On May 07, 2014

I have a Luau every year. Try going to Oriental Trading Company online. They have lots of luau stuff. May is Luau month. Also try your local dollar store. Mine is called the Dollar Tree. Hope this helps.

By nextcorrea — On Oct 22, 2012

A friend of mine on Facebook just posted pictures of a party he threw that had a beach luau theme.

They had an actual roasted pig and the girls wore coconut bras. It looked like a lot of fun, especially when I was trapped in Minnesota in January and he was in sunny San Diego.

By Ivan83 — On Oct 21, 2012
I am hoping to throw a luau party, but I am having a tough time finding grass skirts. Does anyone know where I can buy them, hopefully in bulk, or is there and easy way that I could make my own? I would like to get about 20 of them and pay less than $100 if possible.
By truman12 — On Oct 20, 2012

I love a good luau party. I think it is one of the best party themes there is because everyone can get into it and it doesn't take a ton of decorating or planning to pull off the theme.

Jessica Ellis

Jessica Ellis


With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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