Party Treats

Island properties create unique and elaborate theme parties

By: By Marty Wentzel

The Sheraton Maui’s Greek theme party was a big hit with guests. // © Ignite Production Group
The Sheraton Maui’s Greek theme
party was a big hit with guests.

Groups heading to Hawaii may huddle around conference tables by day, but as the sun starts to set, they’re ready to unwind. That’s when hotels around the state swing into action, fashioning memorable theme parties indoors and out.

At the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Oahu, for instance, groups can gather for parties with themes ranging from Hawaiiana to Elvis to TV shows like "MASH" and "Lost."

"It’s all very versatile depending on the clients’ budget," said Terry LaGrange, the Hilton’s assistant director of events. "We once put together a very interesting party for club managers across the nation, such as country club managers. We asked the group’s members to come through a darkened service corridor with candles on the ground. As they made their way through the corridor, they were handed bottles of beer and brown paper sacks. They proceeded into a ballroom that was partitioned and every room was a different theme."

One of the biggest distinguishing characteristics of the Hilton Hawaiian Village is its huge amount of outdoor space, including its own lagoon. It can even bring in VIPs by outrigger canoe over the lagoon or ocean.

"A theme party builds identity and sets the pace for a group’s meetings," said La Grange. "In Hawaii, you can regale clients with an extravagant, welcoming, opening party that shows off the beauty of the property and the islands. It’s not like going to Chicago."

At the Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa, groups can gather for such parties as a traditional luau, jazz under the stars or the ultimate beach bash. The 23-acre hotel has the advantage of space, including the only beachfront lawn in Kaanapali Resort.

"For one large group we did an elaborate Grecian party on our ocean lawn that turned out beautifully," said Sheraton Maui spokesperson Jocelyn Elfstrom. "Large pillars were placed around the lawn with beautiful red drapes forming tents around lounging furniture. Fire dancers were brought in wearing Grecian outfits and twirling flames. With a colorful sunset in the background, the event truly looked like an elaborate party for the gods." 

For another group, the Sheraton Maui resort staff took the motorcycle theme to the hilt by creating a Boss Hawg’s Biker Bar in the parking garage. They closed the hotel’s parking structure for the evening and prepared the entire lower level for a group of about 400 people. The event was decorated with road signs, fake graffiti, neon signs, a large bar and a stage for a rocking band.

Theme parties can be the highlight of a group’s visit to Hawaii, said Elfstrom.

"Put together a theme party at a great location with impeccable service and you can’t go wrong," she said.

The Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa’s theme parties run the gamut from extreme elegance to casual Hawaiian style, showcasing Hawaii’s history as well as its beauty. The hotel’s classic Hawaiian architecture, broad oceanfront setting, lush gardens and 65,000 square feet of function space — 40,000 of which is outdoors — is big selling points. For one event, the hotel turned its Ilima Garden into a tropical rainforest with human butterflies, trees and rainforest creatures. Another party celebrated the days of the paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy), complete with music, dancing and a country cookout at a nearby ranch.

"Theme parties help to create an unexpected surprise for the guest," said Grand Hyatt Kauai spokesperson Diann Hartman. "With fun themes, clients — especially guests who return again and again — really enjoy the ambiance created by the lavish decor."