Best Tropical Theme Party Ideas for Adults

Tropical themed party ideas with a retro vibe for the modern host. You’ll love these decorations, food, and tips for an Island party whether you’re hosting a Luau or Caribbean theme. Plus you can grab free printables including place cards and invitations.

Tropical themed party ideas

Tropical theme party ideas 

Today we’re going to the Tropics for some fun in the sun and delicious food and drinks! This party has a definite tropical vibe, but it’s not kitschy.

A tropical party is the ideal theme party for adults or families. And it’s a fantastic summer party idea.

I opted to forgo the grass skirt trim and flowery leis, but I did include mini drink umbrellas, shells and coral. You can also grab some inspiration from this Havana theme party full of tropical ideas with a Cuban influence.

Tropical party bar

When to use this theme

I’ve listed all the details to show you just how easy it is to pull together a tropical theme for an occasion. Here’s a list to start.

  • Backyard summer party “just because.”
  • A ladies night in.
  • Adult birthday party.
  • College graduation idea.
  • Engagement party, especially if the couple is heading to the tropics for the honeymoon.

Grab your sunscreen and lets head to the islands! 

Tropical themed party ideas

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How to Decorate a Tropical Theme Party

Sure you could go to the party store and purchase a complete themed party set. But why not add more personality to your tropical party instead? Plus, the items you use here can be used for other occasions too.

Start with fabric that has a pattern with the right balance. Blue to emulate the sea, bright colors to reflect the beautiful flowers, and neutral/brown tones to give that rustic island feel. I found it all in this fabric pattern that feels very retro. Just lay it on the table as your base and build up from there.

tropical flower centerpiece

Place brightly colored flowers in a tall vase and wrap it with a bamboo place mat cut to size. Total Island vibe!

Ideas for a Tropical party

Add lanterns, coconuts, and pineapples to the table for decoration. Other items include decorative corral, sea shells, starfish, and sand dollars.

HOW TO OPEN A COCONUT: To open a coconut, hold it in the palm of one hand. In the other hand use a hammer to hit the coconut with enough force to crack it. Turn the coconut slightly and hit it again until you’ve gone around the coconut full circle. It should be cracked open by this point. Make sure to have a bowl underneath to catch the coconut water when it opens up.

tropical party buffet

Create a DIY party banner with these retro style postcards. String jute twine between two garden stakes and place them above the buffet table. Use mini clothes pins to attach the cards to the twine. The post cards are so festive and add more of the retro look we love for this party.

chicken satay skewers

If you want to host a sit down meal check out this green dinner party with a tropical inspired tablescape, and then see how to decorate your deck or patio with greenery for a relaxing retreat.

skewered soft tacos

Use wooden serving pieces to present the food. Top them with real or faux tropical leaves and palm fronds for an INSTANT island touch!

tropical mango salsa

Insert mini umbrellas into salsa bowls, drinks, or cupcakes.

pineapple salsa
papaya avocado salsa
mini shrimp cocktail
coconut parfait mini desserts

Food menu

I think food plays a major role in any good themed party. Serve a menu with an island vibe. Fresh tropical fruits are great for making salsas, and mini shrimp cocktails bring the ocean to you. Other popular flavors include coconut and light sauces.

  • Make a trio of tropical salsas. Here I made Mango, Pineapple, and Papaya with Avocado. I didn’t really follow a recipe, I just blended different combinations using green & red bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, red onion, black beans (drained and rinsed), cilantro, diced tomato, lime juice and salt. Serve these with rice chips or tortilla chips.
  • Seems like islanders are always cooking pork on a spit so use that as inspiration for mini tacos. Combine pulled pork with Sriracha and bbq sauce. Then layer it onto soft shells with jalapeno slaw. They’re tasty and have great texture! HOSTESS TIP: Used a biscuit cutter to make smaller party size rounds in the soft taco shells.
  • What’s a tropical party without seafood? Individual servings of shrimp cocktail are served in glass votive holders.
  • Chicken satay is one of my favorite foods. Just thread thinly sliced chicken breast onto skewers and brush with a jarred satay sauce when grilling. They’re so convenient to pick up and eat, and they make great party food for all occasions. HOSTESS TIP: Make these Jerk Seasoned chicken skewers for more island flavor.
  • Put tropical flavored bottled drinks in a tub of ice so guests can help themselves. You can also use these drinks to mix into cocktails. Just add rum! My go-to mix-in is Coconut Rum. I added it to the Kiwi Strawberry flavor and it was soooo good.
sea shells in ice bucket

PARTY TIP: Add sea shells to the ice bucket for an unexpected touch.

Party drinks

Aside from offering easy-to-grab bottled beverages, choose a signature cocktail for the occasion. Any of these would add delicious tropical flavor.

coconut creme parfaits
strawberry topped cupcakes

Tropical Themed Desserts

It doesn’t take too much effort to make some sweet treats with an island feel.

  • Use my fluffy white pineapple cake recipe to make cupcakes instead. Ice them with the frosting included in the recipe, or classic buttercream. Then top them with sliced fresh strawberries and glaze. HOSTESS TIP: Make an easy glaze by warming up strawberry jelly until it’s like a syrup and easy to drizzle.
  • Make mini coconut cream parfaits using packaged pudding mix. When you present them like we did here, your guests won’t know they’re not homemade! Layer the pudding with graham cracker crumbs and then top with a chocolate shell.
  • These lemon & lime tartlets would also be a nice addition to the dessert table.
  • You can add these delicious banana pudding mini desserts, too.
tropical party table
party fans
easy party favor trail mix bags

More tips & ideas

  • Send out invitations at least two weeks beforehand {or more if you know people are busy}.  Download these FREE printable invitations here, and the tent cards here.
  • Graham cracker crumbs or brown sugar give a beach sand effect. Use it on the table for a food-safe base. Add a fun and whimsical touch by “writing in the sand” the word “FUN.”
  • Be a thoughtful hostess and provide paper fans for guests to stay cool. I found these HERE. They fold up so they’re easy to corral in a small bucket and guests can pick one up as needed.
  • Simple party favors are easy to make. You can make them ahead or put out the supplies and lets guests make their own. Fill small paper sacks with tropical blend trail mix. Secure them with decorative tape.
  • Want to know what to wear to a tropical theme party? Check out these outfits for inspiration.

tips and ideas for a tropical party theme

Add a festive playlist

Here’s a party play list with tropical vibes that will get you in the right mood!

  • Bob Marley – Legend album
  • Jimmy Buffet – Songs You Know By Heart album
  • Carlos Santana – Supernatural album
  • Girl From Ipanema by Astrud Gilberto
  • Hey Mambo by Dean Martin
  • La Bamba by Ritchie Valens
  • Let’s Get Loud by Jennifer Lopez
  • Cha Cha Slide by DJ Casper
  • I Like it Like That by Pete Rodriguez
  • Havana by Camila Cabello
  • Senorita by Camila Cabello

What do you think?  Are you ready to host a tropical themed party?  I hope you’ll incorporate some of these party ideas!

how to host a tropical theme party

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  1. thanks for taking the time to answer my question! I have been to three fabric shops and numerous websites searching and searching and searching… Thanks again!

  2. I am going to try to recreate this masterpiece of a spread!!I have looked and looked and looked everywhere for the fabric in the cute luau picture! I have checked out joann’s but no luck!! Do you remember the name or brand of the fabric?!

    1. Hi Aly, it says “Folk Fairytale” on the fabric edge so I searched and found an Etsy seller who has it

      Good luck!

  3. This is gorgeous! Where did you find the tablecloth!?? Ohh id love to have it for my mom’s 50th birthday! Thanks!!

  4. What a great party idea….it’s like having a holiday in the backyard! I love the fabric you choose for the table 🙂

  5. Loving this so much!! I’m planning a shower and need lanterns like you have here…where did you find yours? I’m having the hardest time hunting them down!!

  6. this is AMAZING, chris! i would LOVE to come to this party. you did such a fabulous job. love those postcards, the florals, the coconuts…everything!

  7. This party is GORGEOUS Chris! I love all your details. That vintage card banner is my fave! Those look like the perfect drinks for our block party on the 4th of July!

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