Bring Hawaii home.

By Skye Sherman
April 07, 2020
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You may not be able to take a trip to Hawaii at the moment, but that doesn’t mean the spirit of the islands can’t find its way to you. While travel is restricted, you can bring the ancient Hawaiian aloha to your home by throwing a DIY luau. Here's how.

Read up on its history.

Being cooped up inside presents a great opportunity to expand your horizons and learn new skills — and fun activities like throwing an at-home luau don’t have to be without educational value.

For example, did you know that luaus are an ancient Pacific-island ritual that began as a way for communities to gather and celebrate a momentous occasion, such as a major life event or achievement? They’ve always involved feasting, music, and hula dancing, so make sure to include those elements in your at-home luau experience.

Poke around the Internet to discover the history of luaus and their significance in Hawaiian culture. You can even have kids help with the research and creatively present their findings for a culturally enriching school-from-home activity.

Learn the lingo.

Lots of people are using their state’s stay-at-home orders as an excuse to learn a new language, so why not pick Hawaiian? You already know aloha, so spend some time adding to your Hawaiian vocabulary and getting a better grasp on the culture – not to mention a more immersive luau experience. Plus, your new skill will get you all the more excited when travel restrictions are lifted and you can finally take that vacation to Hawaii.

Credit: Courtesy of Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa

Plan a menu of mai tais and more.

It’s not a luau without a flavorful, colorful Hawaiian feast, so plan on cooking traditional luau dishes like kalua pork, lau lau, poi, and haupia (a sweet pudding-like dessert). Grab a few pineapples on your next grocery run — they’re edible decorations and a delicious addition to the luau menu.

Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, hosts a nightly Drums of the Pacific luau on Ka’anapali Beach. It’s the longest-running show on the islands, so you could consider them experts.

At Drums of the Pacific, the resort serves huli huli chicken, Polynesian fried rice, Pacific ahi poke, and chocolate macadamia nut pie (recipes here), but feel free to get creative with recipes that work for your family, like pineapple shrimp luau served in a hollowed-out pineapple half, lomi lomi salmon, slow-cooker kalua pork, Hawaiian luau meatballs, or fluffy Hawaiian luau bread.

Another must? Stirring up mai tais, which have their roots in Polynesian culture. Hyatt Regency Maui’s traditional mai tai recipe calls for two ounces of light rum, one ounce of dark rum, three ounces of pineapple juice, one ounce of orange Curaçao, two teaspoons of orgeat syrup, and two ounces of sweet and sour mix. Stir it all together, add a pineapple wedge as garnish, and enjoy sipping one of the most tropical tipples. Kids can get in on the fun with easy-to-mix Moana Hawaiian punch.

Credit: Courtesy of Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa

Set the scene.

Transport yourself to Hawaii by adding tropical plants, scented candles, and other décor to your home. You can order luau-themed party supplies online or create your own island-inspired retreat with items you’ll want to keep for the long haul.

Looking to spruce up your home now and long after the luau winds down? Order some houseplants from The Sill, like a white orchid ($75) or red anthurium ($65). Then, add some Hawaii-inspired home goods for a travel-happy twist (think dish towels ($20), tiki statues ($105), or a framed vintage Hawaii tourism advertisement ($106). You can even order a window view of Hawaii to get the full experience ($42).

Get kids involved with themed drawings or DIY crafts such as flower chains. You can collect blooms outside to get some fresh air or create a paper flower chain.

Lighting tiki torches inside probably isn’t the best idea, so instead, fire up the scene by opting for candles with island-inspired fragrances, like plumeria, gardenia, coconut, and tuberose.

Make it easy on yourself and order the Homesick Hawaii candle ($30) — the pineapple-coconut notes are enough to make you feel like you're on vacation. Target’s Opalhouse candles in Hawaiian Honey ($10), Mandarin Hibiscus ($6), Palm Oasis ($13), or Mango Coconut ($10) are other great options. Hey, even Hawaiian Aloha Febreze ($5 for two) works in a pinch.

Want to dress the part? You don’t have to have grass skirts and leis (though bonus points if you do); flowered shirts will deliver the same breezy island vibes. You can order a Vineyard Vines Hawaiian shirt (on sale for $68) or a Target graphic tank ($15) online.

Assemble the playlist and practice your hula.

The final touches are the most important for creating a true luau atmosphere: Find the perfect playlist and get grooving. Even with island décor and Hawaiian cuisine, your at-home celebration isn’t truly a luau if it doesn’t involve hula dancing.

Luckily, whether or not you have natural rhythm, you can learn to hula on YouTube. iHula Hawaii is a great place to start, and you can branch out from there to learn new techniques. Quick tips: Hula dancing is always done barefoot, and keeping your knees bent helps your hips sway in true hula style.

To set the mood, turn on a paradise-inspired playlist (listen for something with lots of ukulele) or play mele, the sung poetry that accompanies a traditional hula dance.

Make it a party.

A true luau relies on a celebratory communal spirit, so invite your ohana to hop on virtually and join you in an online island atmosphere. They’re sure to express their mahalo to you for making their Zoom-background dreams a reality.