A luau is never the same as an ordinary Hawaiian-themed party that can be held in everyone’s backyard. It is one of the most traditional festive events that convey the authentic vibe of Hawaiian people. Typically, these parties include a feast and conventional forms of entertainment such as games, dancing shows, art demonstrations, and musical performances.

    However, what to wear to a luau party remains a tricky question for everyone. It can be thorny enough to boggle our minds and distract us from all the fun and excitement awaiting. If you’re not confident in your fashion-savvy instinct, this article will provide some exclusive tips and advice on how to dress for a luau.

    luau dancing performance

    Within only 5 minutes of reading, you should be able to choose the best luau clothing ideas that bring a wonderful time and don’t make you look alone in a crowd.

    The History of Luau Parties

    Men and women of ancient Hawaii used to have their meals separately, which was put into practice due to a society’s prejudice against women. This law prohibited them from eating certain types of food that were often meant for special occasions and events.

    Only until 1819 did King Kamehameha II remove these preconceptions and biases. To commemorate this remarkable change of law, he made everyone more than a little shocked by offering women big feasts and joining them.

    His action was considered an official decision to free women from Hawaiian religious taboos, paving the way for the creation of luau parties.

    luau feast

    These feasts were originally called a “pāʻina” or “ahaʻaina” - an old Hawaiian ritual held to preserve and enhance the collective unity of people in town. It can be regarded as a social gathering to celebrate a significant life event, such as war victory, tribal achievement, and new canoe launching.

    A royal luau in Hawaii could be luxurious and much more elaborate than ordinary occasions, gathering hundreds, even over a thousand people to join in a single feast. Of course, a huge amount of food must have been available to serve.

    One of the most well-known luaus was hosted by King Kamehameha III in 1847, requiring approximately 270 pigs, 3100 saltwater fish, 1800 freshwater fish, 2245 coconuts, 4000 taro plants,... Another one hosted by King Kalakaua at his 50th birthday party also drew a great deal of attention with over 1500 guests and participants.

    People usually served “ahaʻaina” feasts on bare floors or mats decorated with ti leaves and flower ornaments. The main dishes of food included kālua pig, chicken, squid, coconut milk, and poi (Hawaiian native cuisine made from taro roots), which were rich with symbolism representing strength, virtues, and high hopes.

    royal luau feast
    A royal luau feast in former times.


    To cook food, they used the imu - an underground oven. It contained heated rocks for several hours to accumulate the temperature and create a layer of steam inside. After that, the food would be added and sealed until becoming edible.

    Of all traditional foods, the kalua pig is considered to best represent an “ahaʻaina” feast. The pig is seasoned with salt and vegetation like bananas and tea leaves, then slowly roasted while buried in a pit where hot rocks have been prepared in advance.

    By doing this, Hawaiian locals can create a distinctively smoky, juicy flavor mingled with herbal scents that tailor well to their taste. During the feast, a hula performance is presented with chants and drums to get everyone pumped up.

    Over time, “lūʻau” (luau nowadays) started to completely replace “ahaʻaina” and gain more popularity than ever. Since the 1960s, Hawaiian culture and tourism value has sparked interest and attracted people from all over the globe.

    luau kalua pig

    A Kālua pig is cooked on an imu. 

    The advent of fast, convenient, and affordable air flights has also encouraged the Hawaiian tourism economy to thrive. As a result, the increasing number of luaus somehow altered the party’s meaning and purpose.

    These days, luaus are not considered a private party for only royal friends and family but much of a social event for tourists to be exact. Therefore, luaus are now held widely on Polynesian islands to spread more insights into their traditional customs and entertainment.

    What to Expect of A Luau in Hawaii

    Joining a luau-themed (or Hawaiian-themed) party in your friend’s house will not make you on pins and needles, but a real luau event on a tropical island will do, especially in Hawaii. That said, joining a luau is a must for tourists who visit Hawaii if they aspire to experience the local distinctive vibe.

    However, it’s not as simple as having an outdoor backyard to hang decorations, put on barbecues, and some tropical music. Instead, a luau needs to be prepared and furnished with certain traditional stuff.

    Most luaus take place within the area of beautiful resorts or by the beach, with the view of the sunset over the ocean. An open bar can be found nearby to serve tasty tropical fruits and unusual drinks.

    modern luau beach party

    A luau party is often held by the beach nowadays.

    As mentioned above, luau foods including pigs and taros should be cooked in an underground oven called an imu. These are still applied in modern times to retain its original tradition and atmosphere. The event can even include a dress code rule of Hawaiian attire for a party, not to mention art and dancing performances.

    The cost of joining a luau

    A wide range of cost for a luau is introduced by the island authority and tourism agencies, with a minimum fee of about $100/adult. For children under 13 years old, the cost should decrease to the point of $60/child. Additional fees are free for children under 6 years old.

    The typical format of a luau

    Usually, a luau will start with a lei greeting performance whose details vary upon the cost and tickets. Relevant information of lei greeting is provided by luau hosts from the moment of booking. After that, there may be some more games to break the ice, and music to pump up the atmosphere.

    Drinks are included in the initial cost but limited to certain categories and numbers (in case you are used to drinking off every glass of Hawaiian iconic beverages). Anyway, don’t worry about being dead drunk before the luau ends. As reviewed by tourists, luau cocktails are mostly light alcohol drinks.

    Before joining the dinner feast, participants will observe the process of preparing cooked food from the imu. Yet, it is different from the ancient feast in terms of serving styles. Note that the foods are available as a buffet, and you may share your table with a lot of strangers.

    luau art performance

    After the dinner comes the dancing show, along with traditional music, costumes, and cultural entertainment. The most breathtaking performance is fire-knife dancing which is likely to bring a sensational emotion to observers.

    How soon should you book a luau?

    The only answer is “as soon as possible”, at least a month ahead of your trip. Many hosting companies arrange the guest seats in chronological order of booking. For this reason, the sooner you confirm your seat number, the better view you should get to watch the show.

    Still, there’s nothing wrong with you being an arbitrary man who just wants to visit the island first. There are likely to be remaining luau seats for you on most occasions. Make sure to seek more information from either your hotel or some tourism websites.

    Hawaiian Party Outfit Ideas: What You Need To Know First

    Hawaiian fashion in a nutshell

    Wondering about what people on Hawaiian islands traditionally wore before the Western textile trends and fashion industry interfered?

    The benign weather and climate in Hawaii match perfectly with simple and cool textiles. The most popular material is Kapa - made from the bark of mulberry plants, then undergoing a complicated process of fermentation.

    Afterward, it is transformed into soft woven fabric used to make loincloths for males and Hawaiian-distinctive skirts for females.

    hawaiian loincloths

    Through the years, the industry of fashion and tourism have changed, paving the way for a whole host of style innovation and technology.

    From the late 19th to early 20th centuries, Hawaii started to receive a great deal of public attention for its economic potential, attracting expats from a variety of foreign countries to come and bring their styles.

    Over time, the pragmatic aspect of fashion has become new trends and preferences, of which the Hawaiian shirt a.k.a. Aloha shirt is a huge success. They were created for the sake of tourists and foreign visitors to blend in the Hawaiian culture and have something to carry back home as a memorable souvenir.

    People nowadays desire to wear Hawaiian clothing and express their traditions in an authentic way as well as spread cultural knowledge to the world.

    hawaiian shirt dress

    For this reason, local designers and fashion firms are making a bold move in showcasing their unique ideas of Hawaiian patterned apparel.

    According to some Hawaiian elders, only by absorbing the spirit of nature can one feel the authenticity of Hawaiian customs and clothes.

    It exerts a great impact on how Hawaiian fashion outfits are shaped in modern times to present practices rooted in Hawaiian culture while appealing to young generations.

    Is Hawaiian dress code for parties necessary?

    This is the question that has long bothered a majority of people when they are first invited to a Hawaiian party in general or a luau in particular.

    Of course, you don't need to wear exactly certain types of clothes to a Hawaiian party or else will be kept from joining in.

    Still, conforming to this standardized custom gives the idea that you have respect for the party owner. As a result, a suitable outfit makes you appear as a nice person, helping you to quickly fit in and make connections with others.

    Hawaiian shirts

    Nothing can contribute more to an Aloha atmosphere than getting people to wear Hawaiian festive clothes in sync, with vibrant colors and vivid decorative accessories.

    Therefore, making it mandatory to wear Hawaiian party attire is a good decision. It subtly forces people to prepare an appealing look and pick up some Hawaiian vibes even when the party doesn't happen on a real Hawaiian island. Also, this concept can add a ton of fun with a mini-contest of the best (or worse) outfit of the party.

    But then, how do you pick the best Hawaiian shirt for the party that tailors to your aesthetic taste?

    What to Wear to A Luau in Hawaii

    There are some requirements of Hawaiian luau clothes for you to meet when coming to a local luau. Or else, you may find yourself unable to fit in the event atmosphere, even get your butt kicked out of the door.

    No need to be fashion-savvy, we already prepared some amazing styles of women’s and men’s luau attire. These outfit ideas are sure to have you immersed in the aloha spirit of luaus and look like a local.

    Hawaiian shirt/dress

    Traditional Hawaiian shirts and dresses, mostly patterned in oceanic and sunny styles, are among the most popular choices.

    Everyone likes and wears Hawaiian shirts, for which the reason is very simple: They are highlighted with eye-catching decoration, comfortable and easy to pair with shorts or trousers, enough to rid the wearers of boring daily outfits and adapt a dressy style in just minutes.

    Apart from shirts, a classic aloha dress always does a good job. Due to the bright, colorful, and comfortable design, aloha dresses are undoubtedly ranked as the most prevalent choice for women at a luau party.

    hawaiian floral shirt

    If you desire a bit elegance and uniqueness instead of prevalent floral printed shirts, a customized Hawaiian shirt or a tee shirt-polo-jeans combo should compensate.

    However, remember to opt for vivid and eye-pleasant details like Mr. Incredible suit, and cast aside the idea of a “Bob Parr” ordinary office style. Only with vibrant shades of tropical prints can you feel the dynamic atmosphere of a luau.

    Tropical-themed shirt

    Sounds similar to a Hawaiian shirt? Still, this type of apparel is a little bit different. They don’t need to be emphasized with Hawaiian artworks. Instead, a color palette is enough to make a strong impression.

    These include bright, vivid tones that stand for tropical symbols (orange for sun, deep blue for ocean, rich green for nature…). Another way to replicate a tropical look is to opt for warm and bright items that resemble the tropical fruit colors.

    Neon-themed clothes

    Don't be deterred by ideas that are off the beaten path. Feel free to expose your wildest thoughts and styles with loud colors of neon tones. The brighter you look, the stronger impression you make in a tropical festive event and party.

    neon hawaiian shirt

    For your information, neon is sparkling, glowing color tones that are likely to draw a lot of attention. This has created a trend in the fashion world since the 1980s, including clothing apparel, interior furniture, and graphic designs recently as well. Neon blue and pink are a great combination; otherwise, warm tones of orange can also make your shirt and dress stand out brilliantly.

    Maxi dress

    For women who don’t like Hawaiian shirts that much, there’s no better idea than a maxi dress. It is flowy and beautiful enough to help your outfit be the cream of the crop at your party. The rules are simple: Stick to a warm-toned maxi dress to pop against the blue ocean and sky. You can thank me later.

    If you prefer a 2-piece set of clothes as the luau outfit for ladies, a maxi skirt mixed with a crop top and a jean jacket should suit them best. This trio creates a more attractive, sexier look. One pro tip is to keep your top in neutral tones, while your maxi skirt can be in the limelight with some warm-colored tropical patterns.

    maxi dress


    “The muumuu is a loose dress that originated from Hawaii. It hangs from the shoulder and is like a cross between a shirt and a robe.” - Wikipedia.

    In short, the muumuu is a super oversized tee-shirt colored with Hawaiian patterns of flowers. It is often considered to be either a formal dress for some local events or a kind of maternity clothes due to its comfortable waistline. A muumuu is a good choice when the air temperature seems to climb and a cocktail at the bar cannot keep your head (and your body) cool enough.

    hawaiian muumuu dress

    Coconut bra

    No efforts are needed to describe the simplicity of this outfit. Coconut shells are made dry and clean, then strung together on a strong cord to form a bra.

    Despite the shape, it doesn’t require people to wear it like a real bra, but more like a decorative accessory. Men and children can also put them outside of their shirts to take some funny pictures. Another variation is the seashell bra which is seen in the epic animated movie “Little Mermaid”.

    luau coconut bra

    Hula skirt

    As known as grass skirts, the hula skirt was first introduced over 200 years ago. They are made of long ti leaves on the islands, having several color variations of red and green.

    Just like the coconut bra, both men and women can wear a traditional hula skirt. There should be some types of garments and clothes underneath, of course. Bring a light jacket or windbreaker if necessary, the weather can get a bit cooler in the evening.

    luau hula skirt

    Shorts or trousers?

    It mostly depends on the party background, although your personal preference also plays an important part. Also, bear in mind that being at a party would make you constantly move and change your posture.

    Specifically, shorts are more suitable for hot temperatures, while trousers are the best option for a cooler day. Therefore, choosing the right outfit style should make you feel and enjoy it a lot better.


    Wearing Hawaiian clothes without accessories is like cooking your most appetizing dish without any spices to enhance the flavor. Consequently, your whole outfit can hardly blend in harmony with the local Hawaiians. What’s worse than being out of tune in all your family pictures and missing all the fun of this trip?

    If you don’t want that scenario to occur, pick some options from the list below:

    • Lei: Regarded as a decoration reflecting the symbol of love, healing, or respect, lei is a type of adornment that can go with virtually everything mentioned above. It is a wreath of flowers, often given to guests in a luau to show affection and hospitality. Hawaiian hula girls, graduates, and many others wear them, which makes leis the perfect head start to get on adapting to the local customs. It works well with another necklace or a pair of earrings, so don’t hesitate to show your individuality.
    luau lei flower
    • Lauhala hat: This was invented 1 century ago, mainly worn by farmers or plantation workers to avoid the heat while working. Made from lauhala leaves being weaved and braided tightly, these hats are durable enough to be used as a small basket to carry fruits and stuff. Nowadays, people often see them on every occasion, even in special and formal ceremonies.
    • Flip-Flops: Not so many things can bring a vibe of tropical islands faster than a pair of flip-flops. They are cheap, easy to handle, and supersede your chunky shoes in terms of beach strolling. Maybe sandals are the only suitable option to match up with flip-flops at a luau party.

    DOs & DON’Ts for A Hawaiian Party Outfit


    • Get to know trustworthy apparel brands

    If you don’t know the first thing about what to wear to a Hawaiian party, seek help from reputable clothing brands. This helps you save a lot of time when looking for a wonderful Hawaiian shirt that fits you the best.

    Also, keep an eye out for scratchy fabric materials such as low-quality polyester no matter how cheap those shirts are. Their texture is rough, easy to be worn out, and causes discomfort to the wearer.

    • Embrace the ideas of vintage-themed Hawaiian shirts and dresses

    You should find no difficulty blending in a Hawaiian party with such an outfit. Abstract and floral patterns are the go-to options to take without rethinking.

    hawaiian party group shirts

    Besides, try out some Cuban-collar Hawaiian shirts to see if it goes well with your style. For your information, the Cuban collar is an embodiment of the retro vibe that can appear authentic and capture the true spirit of Hawaiian fashion.

    • Go beyond your comfort zone

    Hawaiian shirts are often made of loose fabrics for wearers to feel comfortable, which enables us to create a wide variety of styles up to our taste. Having the shirt tucked in and out, pairing with a vest or basic tee, not to mention footwear like sandals and shoes - your decision to make.

    There is no exaggeration to say that you can wear a Hawaiian shirt to both a casual meeting and a summer pool party, depending on your cleverness.

    Lastly, don't forget about unique custom Hawaiian shirts. A bit of adjustment is enough to show your authenticity and become an inspiration for everyone.


    • Choose rigid fabrics for your Hawaiian party attire

    Its texture will be uncomfortable to wear, which cannot match the comfy and cozy atmosphere of the party. A loose textile material such as lightweight cotton or linen will be the best choice to not only highlight your look but also make you feel more relaxed.

    • Wear a lot of showy costumes, especially overuse of colors

    The Hawaiian shirt or dress can be bright, not a bunch of neon lights flashing constantly. To tackle this, utilize pastel tones for better control of color combinations and styles.

    • Make a dimmed and sad face

    Your perfect Hawaiian party clothes mean nothing if you are not here to enjoy and celebrate. Keep in mind that your attitude and confidence is the best outfit you can wear to present yourself under any circumstances, even when you are not necessarily on a real Hawaiian beach.

    That’s all we have for today’s tutorial on what to wear to a Hawaiian party. With the help of these 9 valuable pieces of advice, you are sure to steal the limelight and showcase your chic style at a luau party.

    Whatcha waiting for? Make a plan, come create your own wardrobe of amazing Hawaiian outfits and brace yourself for the upcoming loads of fun and experience.

    Don't forget to find out some amazing tips on How to Wear a Hawaiian Shirt and Not Look Silly.

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