Beat the Winter Blues with a Tiki Party Theme

Want a way to beat those winter blues? Bust out your summer best — think sandals, shades and sarongs — and throw a cold weather tiki party they won't soon forget! You can easily transport your guests to visions of sunnier climes with an easy mix of retro chic and kitsch décor, rum-based umbrella drinks, and tasty Asian-style dishes. (Facing a blizzard? Even better! This'll be your best snow day ever!)

Turn your home into an island-like paradise and enjoy the warm, bright atmosphere of the indoors, no matter what's happening weather-wise outside. Pretty much anything tropical, nautical or summery will work to give your pad a Polynesian feel. Easy ideas include bouquets of flowers (fresh or silk will do), pineapples and coconuts for decorating the tables, and banana leaves for lining serving trays.

Have some boogie boards or surfing gear lying around? Pull them out to add extra ambiance, along with fishing nets or poles, rattan and bamboo accents, and any ukuleles you can get your hands on. (Bonus points if you can perform Tiny Bubbles!) 

Strings of lantern lights or other party lights add a nice touch, and pick up Tiki-themed party-ware at your local spot: plates, cups, napkins, floral tablecloths and of course, cocktail umbrellas.

Time to Takeout the Tikis!

Don't have any tiki statues lying around? Get creative and paint your own tiki idols on cardboard or heavy-duty construction paper. Google is a great resource for images and the drawing is pretty straightforward. Not an artist? Enlist the kids to help! Once you're done, string your tikis together to make banners or hang individual pieces on the walls. Another great idea is to draw idols onto brown paper bags and drop in some battery-powered candles for easy, adorable DIY tiki lanterns.

No tiki party is complete without a tiki bar, and you can easily, inexpensively create one in about 15 minutes. All you need is a couple of strings of lights, two or three grass skirts from the party store and one of those floral tablecloths you picked up. Just cover the table with the cloth and attach the grass skirts to either the perimeter of the table or hanging above the bar (or both!) 

If you want to go all out, save the skirts for the ceiling and pick up some bamboo fencing to use around the table base. Add a few garlands of silk flowers and you're all set!

Beach it Up!

No matter what frigid things the weather’s doing outside, the weather inside is always warm and sunny. Invite your guests to dress their beach best: shorts and Hawaiian shirts for the guys, sundresses and flip-flops for the gals. While you're at the party store, grab some extra grass skirts, leis and cheap sunglasses to help guests really go all out.  

What to Serve?

Give your menu a loving luau touch with Asian-fusion small bites like coconut chicken or shrimp skewers, potstickers, BBQ spareribs or my Fried Crispy Veggie Wontons. (For a baked version, click here.) For more substantial fare, think Crispy Sesame Crab Cakes with Spicy Aioli or my Beer-Braised Shredded Pork Tacos with Spicy Serrano-Mango Salsa

Rum-based cocktails are a must. Trader Vic’s original Mai Tai is a great go-to for mixing up a big batch for your punchbowl. You can also break out the blender to make frosty fruit daiquiris. Fill a beach bucket or cooler with ice to serve bottles of beer and sodas.

Serve sweets like mini cupcakes, sliced tropical fruit or cookies decorated with fresh, shredded coconut. If you really want to go all out, bake up a cool volcano cake!

Party Time!

As guests arrive, greet everyone with a lei and a big aloha, and point out where they can drop their boots and coats to switch into beach gear. Have some funky surf or tiki music rocking, and maybe play a classic beach movie in the background. Elvis did tons of Hawaii films you could use, or you could throw on a marathon of old school Hawaii Five-O. 

If kids are invited, keep 'em busy with a fun craft station with construction and tissue paper, crayons, markers, tape, string, staplers and (age-appropriate) scissors so they can make their own tiki masks, tissue paper flowers, or paper flower leis.

Fun Ideas to Take It Over the Top!

  • Hula Dance-Off: Let the loudness of the applause (or laughter!) determine the winner.
  • Funniest, Sunniest, Bravest Costumes: Set categories and let guests vote for their faves.
  • Let them Limbo! Use a bamboo pole (or broom) to see just how low your guests can go!

Make sure you've got your camera ready for this one. There are sure to be lots of fun photo ops. Be sure to share them with me on my Facebook page ( so I can see how great it all turns out!