The sun is setting and the tiki torches are on fire. The weather is invitingly warm. The very essence of old Hawaii is in the air. Better than taking a walk on a green sand beach with your love (well, almost), this luau conjures up images of Trader Vic’s, Elvis and every tiki bar worth its puffer fish. It is SO on. WE ARE HAVING A LUAU!
Want to plan a luau for 20 – 200 people? If you want to create a wonderful, over-the-top luau they’ll be talking about for years – you’re in the right place. Here’s everything you need from the menu and recipes to retro tiki decoration and fun activities.
Bring out the Tiki Torches!!
Mix up the Tiki Drinks and Shave Ice!!
But before we start, let’s get you in the Right Frame of Mind …
First, press ‘Play’ …
Hawaiian War Chant
… now isn’t that much better?
Nothing like the Hawaiian War Chant to get your tiki juices flowing. (How can you not love a culture whose war chant sounds like this.) Next go grab a fruity drink, kick off your flip flops (they call ’em slippas in Hawaii) and read on for everything you need to host the MOST AMAZING LUAU EVER!
Your Luau Poster & Invitations
Your luau invitations and posters are the first peek your guests will have of the fun you have planned for them. Looking forward to an event is a large part of the fun of any event. Just like it’s important to create a sense of excitement and place with the entry to your house, your printed material helps set the stage for your party and starts everyone’s tiki juices flowing. Let’s turn up the excitement and give everyone their first hint of just how great a party this is going to be!
I use Vista Print for my posters and postcards. Their interface is easy to use and their prices are reasonable. I generally order one or two (2 foot x 3 foot) posters and 500 postcards. (I’m a “the more, the merrier” kind of gal when it comes to guests…) Here’s the poster and postcard for my latest Luau invite along with the images I used to create them.
Your Luau Menu
Guests come to a Luau expecting fabulous food. That includes great variety and abundance – after all, a luau is a feast! Add-in an over-the-top retro Hawaiian tiki vibe and you’ve got yourself a winner. Forget the time-worn Hawaiian Haystacks. You can do so much better. Serve all of the items on this menu or pick and choose your preferences. We had 170 people at our last luau. Since there was no way I was going to cook all that food myself, I simply assigned most of the dishes out to our church members. That’s the easiest way for you to do it too.
It's easy! Just follow these 3 simple steps:
1. Send your volunteer a link to this page.
2. Tell them which item to make,
3. And how many batches.
Items which can be assigned to volunteers are marked with an *
By the way, most of recipes below have family-sized recipe versions as well
- or better yet, make a big batch and freeze!
The Stars of the Show
You’ve got a number of options on the meat. There is nothing like a whole roast pig. And it’s really not that hard. I’ll walk you through it if you’re up to it (and even if you’re not, you’ll enjoy my pig procurement story). At the last luau, I made up 80 chicken thighs in case someone didn’t want Kalua pig. Guess what? Not only DID they want pig, they wanted chicken too! For the first time forever, I ran out of food – in this case the “back-up” Huli Huli chicken. You really gotta include this chicken, and if you serve pork as well, plan on
most people pretty much everyone taking some of both. I’ll be posting all the recipes shortly, so check back in soon,
Luaus really ARE all about the food.
Fabulous Side Dishes
Check back often. I’m adding recipes all the time!
Kona Macadamia Nut Banana Bread *
Polynesian Fruit Salsa *
Tangy Teriyaki Pineapple Meatballs *
Luscious Luau Desserts
Set up Dessert Tables
I like to set up several dessert tables around the party area. It gives people the fun of finding unexpected new delicious things to eat and encourages them to move around and mingle. I have volunteers plate the desserts on individual dessert plates and set out forks and napkins on each table.
Fun Luau Serving Ideas
Cover your tables with fun Hawaiian fabric like those shown above and use tablecloth clips to fasten grass skirts around the edge. Here’s a great source for Hawaiian Fabrics. This is what it looks like.
Your Luau Tunes
Music is the energy of any party. Want to turn an average event into something special? Make sure you have great music. The best event without the right background music will fall way short. You gotta have tunes! Here is a fabulous family-appropriate playlist guaranteed to add over-the-top energy to your luau. You could always buy a kitchy Luau CD, but this playlist is the perfect mix of wonderful up-beat high-energy songs, nostalgic retro beach tunes, and wonderful iconic Hawaii music.
Be sure and listen to Ku’u Lei Lu’u Ipo and Ka Uluwehi O Ke Kai by Hapa. “Ku’u lei” literally means “my lei”, and it’s a metaphorical way to refer to your beloved. Ku’u is an affectionate form of ko’u or ka’u and means ‘my’ in the Hawaiian language. Ipo means sweetheart, darling, or my love. By the way Ku’u Lei Lu’u Ipo is featured on one of my Virtual Romantic Vacation pages. If you need a quick break, it’s a great quick escape to paradise.
Best Day of My Life – American Authors
Wipe Out – The Sufaris
Kaimana Hila – All-Star Hawaiian Band
We are Family – Sister Sledge
Hawaiian War Chant – New Hawaiian Band
Tighter, Tighter – Alive ‘N Kickin’
Wahine ‘Ilikea – Hawaiian Style Band
Theme from Hawaii Five-O – The Whodads
Hawaiian War Chant – Bill Akamuhou
Akaka Falls – New Hawaiian Band
Walking on Sunshine – Katrina and the Waves
Hawaiian War Chant – All-Star Hawaiian Band
E O Mai Ku’u Milimili – Hapa
Soak up the Sun – Sheryl Crow
Ke Beauty A’o Manoa – The Brothers Cazimero
Radiate – Jack Johnson
Little Grass Shack – The Polynesians
Beach Baby – First Class
Ku’u Lei Lu’u Ipo – Hapa
Say Hey (I love you) – Michael Franti & Spearhead
Shambala – Three Dog Night
Ka Uluwehi O Ke Kai – Hapa
Song of the Islands – The Diamond Head Project
That’s the Way (I like it) – KC & the Sunshine Band
This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You) – The Isley Brothers
Pagan Love Song – Duke Kamoku and His Islanders
Celebration – Kool & The Gang
Hawaiian Love Song – The Surfers
Sweet Leilani – All-Star Hawaiian Band
Saturday Night – Bay City Rollers
God Only Knows – The Beach Boys
Then Came You – Dionne Warwick
Wouldn’t it Be Nice – The Beach Boys
Ray of Light – Madonna
Surfin’ USA – The Beach Boys
Flower Lei Greeting
Let’s get this party started! And there’s no better way to transport your guests to Hawaiian than with their own festive lei. We have our beautiful young women stationed at each entrance to the luau greeting our guests with a colorful fabric flower lei. Oriental Trader has a great selection of flower leis. To help the young women feel that Aloha spirit, we give them each a pretty flower hair clip. They love them!
Do the Haka!
The haka is a traditional war dance or challenge of the Maori people of New Zealand. The New Zealand national rugby union team, the All Blacks, perform the haka before their international matches. Some non-New Zealand sports teams, such as the BYU football team, have also adopted the haka for use before games. The haka is a sign of respect for the performer’s ancestors and for the performer’s opponents. It shows the team is prepared to do whatever it takes. Certainly my motto.
The haka is a TERRIFIC ADDITION TO YOUR LUAU. We had 20 young men from our church learn it and it took them 2 weeks, about 3 hours total. We had the young women face paint war tatoos on them before the party started and THEY BOTH LOVED IT (go figure). Once all the guests arrived and before we served the food, we kicked off the luau with the young men doing the haka. The guests loved it EVEN MORE. You really need a Haka.
The All Blacks Rugby Team Ka Mate Haka
The BYU football team has performed the Ka Mate version of the haka, so do the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team — it’s one done without weapons, so it is not considered a formal Maori pre-war dance. The Ka Mate traces its roots to the 1820s, when Te Rauparaha, the high chief of the Ngoti Toa tribe, was trying to elude his enemies. He came to one of his friends, Te Wharerangi, for help. Te Wharerangi hid the Te Rauparaha in a leaf-covered kumara (sweet potato) pit, with Te Wharerangi’s wife sitting on top.
The words to the Ka Mate Haka are Te Rauparaha’s mutterings to himself as his enemies arrive — fearing he will die and then realizing he will live as his pursuers leave. His hairy friend, Te Wharerangi, uncovers the pit, and Te Rauparaha climbs out into the open area, without fear of capture.
Here is an easy video to learn the Ka Mate Haka.
Words to the Ka Mate Haha
Ka mate! Ka mate! Ka ora! Ka ora!
Ka mate! Ka mate! Ka ora! Ka ora!
Tenei te tangata puhuru huru
Nana nei i tiki mai
Whakawhiti te ra
A, upa … ne! ka upa … ne!
A upane, ka upane … whiti te ra!
Kaw muh tay! Kaw muh tay! Kora! Kora!
Kaw muh tay! Kaw muh tay! Kora! Kora!
Tenei te tangata puhuru huru
Nana nei i tiki mai
Whakawhiti te ra
Ah oopa … nay! Kaw oopa … nay!
Ah oopa nay! Kaw oopa nay! … whiti te ra!
Ka Mate Haka English translation
I die! I die! I live! I live!
I die! I die! I live! I live!
This is the hairy man
Who fetched the Sun
And caused it to shine again
One upward step! Another upward step!
An upward step, another … the Sun shines
You’ll need a Tiki Bar
You ABSOLUTELY MUST have a Tiki Bar. It can be as simple or as outrageous as you want, but you have to have one. Check back soon – I’m adding the step-by-step instructions to build one.
And of course, Tiki Drinks!
We don’t drink. And even if we did, this Luau is a family event and I wouldn’t serve drinks with the kids and teens present. But, trust me, you don’t need alcohol for a fantastic luau. Here are some of my favorite virgin Tiki Drinks.
Serves: 30 (10 ounce) servings. Use a 12 ounce glass and this one doesn’t need any ice.
- 2 large cans of pineapple juice (46 ounces each)
- 2 (2 liter) bottles Hawaiian Punch Fruit Juicy Red Fruit Punch (about 8 1/2 cups)
- 1 Liter of Ginger Ale (half a 2 liter bottle)
- 96 oz. Orange Sherbet ice cream (You don’t have to be exact on the amount of sherbet. Just get roughly this amount. NOTE: Many companies are now offering only 48 oz. of ice cream in each container. A true half gallon contains 64 fluid oz. of ice cream (measured by volume).
- 5 gallon Igloo cooler or large glass drink dispenser
- 30 (12 ounce) glasses
At least 8 hours in advance, put the pineapple juice, Hawaiian Punch and Ginger Ale in the refrigerator or a cooler with ice to chill. When ready to serve combine all ingredients in a large 5 gallon Igloo cooler or large glass dispenser. Stir to combine the juices and ginger ale. The sherbet will melt over time and continue to flavor and chill the punch.
Serves: 30 (10 ounce) servings. Use a 12 ounce glass.
- 2 (2-liter) lemon lime soda (4 liters total)
- 2 cans (46-ounce) pineapple juice (92 ounces total)
- 1 (2 liter bottle) Hawaiian Punch (Polar Punch)
- 5 gallon Igloo cooler or glass drink dispenser
- 5 – 8 pounds ice
- Ice for glasses (optional)
- 30 (12 ounce) plastic cups
- Sharpie marker (otherwise your guests will go though way more glasses each)
At least 8 hours in advance, put the lemon lime soda, pineapple juice, and Hawaiian Punch in the refrigerator or a cooler with ice to chill. When ready to serve combine all ingredients in a large 5 gallon Igloo cooler or large glass dispenser. Stir to combine the juices and ginger ale. Add 5 – 8 pounds ice.
75 servings of 8 ounces
- 2 gallons Juicy Red Hawaiian Punch
- 2 (12 ounce) cans frozen Pink Lemonade concentrate
- 2 (46 ounce) cans pineapple juice
- 1 gallon orange juice - you can use a Tropical blend if desired
- 1 liter lemon lime soda
- 1 - 2 cups sugar to taste
- 1 (25.4 ounce) bottle sparkling white grape juice
- 5 gallon drink dispenser
- 2 (20 pound) bags ice
Put all items in a large cooler with ice 8 hours prior to serving
When ready to serve, pour all ingredients in a 5 gallon drink dispenser and add ice as needed.
An Aloha Dreams Recipe
Fun Luau Activities
I don’t tend to cheoreagraph parties too much. It’s better to have a range of fun activities going on around the party area and let folks pick and choose what looks fun to them. Here are my Proven Luau Winners.
Face paining is a perfect activity for your luau. The children love it and your young women attendees can face paint your young men attendees in preparation for the Haka.
You’ll want to do this under a shade tent.
Did I mention OUTSIDE? Let me tell you what happens if it’s not outside (you can guess, can’t you?) The kids get excited and start running around your home. Specifically, they start running around your (brand new) beautiful (cream colored) sofas. And naturally they have to test out the face paint sticks on your (brand new) beautiful (no longer cream colored) sofas. Now let me tell you what fixes this. OxiClean. Here’s the brand new beautiful cream colored sofas after a brief date with the OxiClean.
You don’t EVEN want to see the ‘Before’ picture.
Back to the OUTSIDE face painting. Just print out several of these sample pictures below to give the young women some examples. Set up several tables and multiple chairs under a shade tent. Purchase several sets of face paint and you’re good to go! The kids will LOVE IT.
Hula Hop-on Mad Dash Relay
Want a fun luau party game that everyone LOVES? This is it! It’s simple too. Divide the players into 2 teams. Each team gets a full hula outfit including a grass skirt, coconut bra, lei and lovely hula girl wig. When the referee yells go – the first member of each team has to put on the full outfit, run to a checkpoint (beachball or inflatable palm tree) and back, jump on a surf board (old ironing board decked out to look like a surf board or a plywood surfboard cut-out) and get his picture taken. He then passes the outfit on to the next player in line who has to do the same. The team that finishes first is the winner. This can be played just as well in a gym or outside in the yard.
Recommended Number of Players & Teams:
2 or 3 teams
3 to 10 players per team plus 1 judge per team. Each judge should have a camera. Cell phone cameras work just fine.
One set of the following for each team:
Coconut bra (the more outlandish, the better – coconut monkey faces work nicely!)
Mop wig (get a Leibman mop head and dye it using Ritz dye a lovely lurid yellow or island beauty brown)
Old pair of sunglasses
“Surf board” (ironing board works just fine)
Checkpoint (beach ball or inflatable palm tree)
Gather the clothing into piles for each team. Set the “surf boards” about 10 feet away from each pile of clothes.
How to Play:
Divide into teams. Line up 10 or more feet away from the pile of clothes. When the Host yells “Go”, one team member from each team then:
1. Races to the pile of clothes
2. Puts all the clothing on and races to the check point and back
3. Hops on the “surf board” and waits for the judge to take their picture (pictures should be taken of them running too!)
5. Removes the clothing and tags the next person to complete the relay.
The team who completes the relay first “wins”, although this one is hoot and everyone “wins” just watching it. Folks will be clamoring for the pics.
ʻUlu maika is a traditional ancient Hawaiian game, similar to lawn bowling or horseshoes, requiring concentration and coordination. It was played as part of the festivities of the Makahiki season and used to demonstrate a boy’s strength and accuracy. Similar to bowling, ‘ulu maika involves rolling disk-shaped stones (often made from basalt lava or coral and similar in size and shape to a hockey puck), down a kahua, a course of flattened ground 90 to 120 feet long. The goal was to roll the stone between two wooden pegs standing only several inches apart without hitting either one of them. Sometimes in tournaments, the aim was to see who could roll the stones the farthest. Still played today in Hawaii to remember ancient tradition, ‘ulu maika reminds us how easy it is to create simple outdoor fun for all ages to enjoy.
‘Ulu maika is easy to play and you don’t need many materials. Here’s a retro antique ‘Ulu maika game from the early ’60s that we’ll be using. You can substitute a hockey puck and make a couple of sticks made from a dowel rod.
Recommended Number of Players:
2 to 10 players
2 stakes (15″ to 24 ” tall and about 1 ” in diameter) tapered at 1 end
Mallet to pound stakes into ground
1‘Ulu maika stone
Placing the two wooden stakes in the ground, about 15 feet away from where the players will stand. Start by placing the stakes about 1 yard (or meter) apart.
How to Play:
Line up the players. Have each player roll the stone and if he’s able to roll it between the stakes he advances to the next round. At the beginning of each round, move one of the stakes 6 inches closer to the other stake. Eventually, your stakes should be only 6 inches apart.
The remaining player whose stone goes through the stakes and lands the furthest distance away is the winner.
Check back soon. I’ve got LOTS more great Tiki items to post.
Like this amazing Huli Huli chicken recipe!
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