A fun Moana Birthday Party on a Budget, from easy decor to fun themed food, this party is low-stress and easy to prepare, letting you enjoy hosting and your child’s special day.
Moana Birthday Party Ideas
My baby just turned seven! Seven!
But thankfully, she’s still little enough for swimming parties and Disney themes, and she’s not yet embarrassed by my party antics (though she is fully over cake and didn’t even eat a slice of that epic Mermaid Cake I made a couple months ago).
After a bit of hemming and hawing between Moana, Frozen and Wonder Woman themes, she finally settled on Moana – which was perfect because I knew just the venue!
Her birthday is in the summer, which can either be perfect party weather or involve thunderstorms. Up until last year I hosted all parties at my house, but I’m really digging hosting our parties at a local hotel and taking advantage of the pool, pretty patio area and then having a “hotel sleepover” with a few best friends afterwards. A community centre or YMCA would also be great for a low-key indoor pool party venue.
The hotel (and gift bag items) were my big splurges for this party – everything else was under $170 and included food for over 20 guests and party decor. I also brainstormed several free or low-cost Moana party activities which you can find below. Since we opted for an ice cream cake, my kitchen prep time was about 3 hours (done the day before the party).
My favorite thing about this party was how low-stress and fun it was. I’ve had a couple parties where I’ve been pulling details together at the last minute, or I’ve overplanned and had too much going on that I wasn’t able to be a good hostess, or I simply blink and the party is over and I didn’t get a chance to enjoy most of it.
I absolutely refuse to throw parties like that anymore. I want parties that are inclusive with as many friends as we can invite, have fun details that I enjoy planning but don’t take weeks to pull together, and allow for real connection and fun with friends. This party was exactly that.
If you’re here, you’re probably planning a Moana party of your own, so I hope this post is useful to you and I hope you and your family have a blast planning and hosting your Moana party!
(And if you don’t have time to read this all through right now, you can always pin it for later!)
Things to Do in Advance
While it took me less than a day to whip up the food and DIYs for our party, there were a few things I had to take care of beforehand.
Personally, I just e-mailed or texted each parent to avoid invitations getting lost or any hurt feelings at school (as we had a limit on how many we could invite based on the hotel’s rules). My daughter has a summer birthday so we try to invite everyone early, at least one month.
These cute Moana invitations from Etsy would be great if you wanted to do paper invitations.
“Thank you”/Goody bag gifts
I don’t like junky gift bags (giving or receiving). Who needs more clutter or broken toys? One of our biggest expenses for this party was ordering a Moana dress and necklace for each girl attending.
We could have made DIY Moana shirts, done just the necklaces, or given smaller gifts – but I loved how excited all the girls were and it was an equalizer among the girls who showed up already wearing Moana outfits and those who didn’t. (The dresses were all great quality – we’ve ordered a few styles of this dress – but a few of the necklaces needed some hot gluing at the clasp. It took less time than the website said for the dresses to arrive, but I would order these at least 2 months in advance just to be safe.)
I laid out the dresses and necklaces before the girls arrived rather than handing them out at the end of the party and we got some fun shots of the girls all wearing them.
I also purchased plastic coconut cups for the kids to double as a reusable drink container at the party and another fun take-home gift. I painted half of them to look like Kakamoras from the movie. (I’ll share a tutorial for that soon!)
Our free Moana coloring pages would also make a cute (free) goodie bag item.
Reserving the Space/Room
After last year’s amazing hotel party, we decided to do the same thing this year. Most hotels have a set number of people who can use the room/facilities, but call around and see if any hotels in your area have party packages or are willing to let you pay to have a few more guests for a few hours.
We paid about $50 more than the hotel’s normal price for the room and instead of just 6 guests, we were allowed 15 (just during the day) and then also parent non-swimmers could hang around the room/patio area where I set up the food and non-swimming activities.
I love hotel parties now because you don’t have to worry about weather at all, you don’t have to worry about cleaning the house (before or after the party), and if you pick a pretty venue, the decor is taken care of for you! This hotel has an awesome indoor pool area, so entertainment was built-in.
We were just planning on swimming, watching Moana and then having a few friends sleep over after (another perk of a hotel party), but if you plan to hire an entertainer, or need to order a movie (etc), do it well in advance.
(I have a list of possible Moana party entertainment further down on this post.)
Any food you don’t plan on making, order it well in advance. My daughter has a summer birthday and trying to hire anyone for cupcakes, cakes or cookies requires securing a baker 3-4 months in advance (darn weddings!)… so I just end up making it myself. We did order an ice cream cake though, which only required 2-3 days notice.
*If you plan to host at your home, plan to clean 2 days before the party. Only worry about areas guests will actually be in – bathroom, party room, and outdoor spaces.
Moana Party Decor
The built-in decor of the tropically themed hotel really took care of most of the decor for me, but I still added a few fun touches.
I already had a ton of beach-themed items (which I previously put to use at our Mermaid Birthday Party) – some of these are items we use everyday, while others were mostly Goodwill Store finds. The pretty pink conch shell I found while diving in Grand Turk, but a scattering of any seashells will work for this party. (Or you can order your own conch shell here.)
We also had some cute coconut cups from our luau at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, which reminded me of the “Remember the Coconuts” song so I had to include them.
I stuck with a simple color palate for the plates and platers – silver and blue – colors inspired by Moana’s locket. If I had more time I would have replaced the flowers on the grass tiki table skirt with white and blue flowers, but I think it still ended up looking great.
The candy and cupcakes also helped add to the decor and filled out the tablescape – we used Celebration by Frey candies which you can order in custom colors to suit your party. (They are the same candy brand we used on our 24k Gold Cake.)
We borrowed a couple Moana toys (figures and the hook) to add to the table decor.
I made our own balloon arch using balloon tape and Dollar Tree balloons. Pre-made kits to make these arches run over $60, and getting a party supply store to make your arch can run you a cool $100. Our arch cost about $10 between the tape and 4 packs of balloons.
Full list of Moana party decor we used:
- Homemade silver and blue balloon arch
- Husked coconut cups
- Moana toys
- Grass table skirt
- If having at home, you could add signs or some potted hibiscus plants to add to the theme
Here are some other affordable Moana decor items that would really add to the theme:
- Raffia “Grass Skirt” Curtain (can use as a backdrop for the table)
- Tropical Beach Backdrop
- Lei Garland
Moana Party Food
I try to strike a balance between fresh, healthy options and party food. People look forward to a bit of indulgence at parties, but for longer parties or ones involving activities (like swimming) it’s nice to have some fruit, veggies or healthy protein to refuel.
I had a case of water in a cooler to the side of the table, and extra plastic cups for lemonade – though I also customized “Kakamora” coconut cups for all the kids so they weren’t going through a million cups each and it doubled as a fun take-home gift. (These would have been awesome if I had seen them in time, but the kids loved the customized cups.)
We had an ice cream cake, but if you are looking to make or order a Moana Cake, I collected 18 Moana Cake Tutorials here that you should definitely check out.
The full party menu was:
- Heart of Tefiti sugar cookies (homemade pinwheel cookies)
- Pineapple cupcakes with coconut buttercream, candy pearls and white candy “seashells”
- Carrots, snap peas and a whole bottle of dip
- “Shiny” popcorn mix (see recipe below)
- Celebration gumballs and chocolates (these serve double duty – adding to the decor and adding two desserts)
- Lovely Candy Co. Tropical Hard Candies (my daughter loves these candies so adding them to our tropical theme was a no-brainer. Plus since they are individually wrapped, we could keep any that weren’t eaten)
- Chicken Caesar “taco boats” (see recipe below)
- Fresh shrimp and cocktail sauce
- Pizza (my dad headed out for 3 large take-out pizzas after the kids had been swimming for about an hour and that worked out perfectly)
- Ice cream cake
- Lemonade (I bought 2 2L containers and the hotel had plenty of ice)
- Our Moana punch would have also been a great option but I took this party EASY.
I purchased all the groceries two days before the party – this gave me time to hit a second store or make a new menu if I couldn’t find something.
The day before, I washed the strawberries, made the cupcakes and cookies, prepped the chicken-bacon taco filling, and made a giant tupperware container of the popcorn mix. It probably took me about 3 hours total.
All that was left to do the day of the party was assemble the taco boats and set everything out.
I called these Chicken Caesar “taco boats” “Hei Hei and Pua in a Boat,” which most of the kids found hilarious. (The parents were probably questioning leaving their children alone with me at that point.)
I got the idea to turn these mini taco boats into Moana’s sailboats after seeing this fun taco boat idea from Eats Amazing. I liked the idea to use cheese for a sail, but it also sounded a bit too finnicky for a party for me. I decided to use yellow paper to make sails… and then forgot them at home and ended up using hotel paper and toothpicks from the hotel restaurant!
These are delicious hot or cold, so do what works for your party. I had 12 or so ready right when the party started, and the rest of the mix and tacos in the hotel mini fridge.
To make these Chicken Caesar Taco Boats:
- 5 chicken breasts, chopped
- 10 slices bacon
- 1/2 to 1 cup cheese
- 2 boxes Taco Boats
- Caesar dressing, to preference
Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until it reaches your desired level of crispiness. Remove bacon to a towel-lined plate.
Add the chopped chicken to the bacon grease and cook until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165F
Remove from heat and safely dispose of grease.
Chop the bacon and add to a bowl or container, along with the chicken. Toss in the cheese and then add as much caesar dressing as you’d like.
Refrigerate until ready to serve and then just spoon a heaping tablespoon into each taco boat.
Top with toothpick sail, if desired.
For the Shiny Popcorn mix, I used my air popper to prepare fresh popped popcorn – and added directly to a giant tupperware container for bringing to the party. I tossed in chocolate chips and mini marshmallows, and I sprayed some pretzel sticks with gold food spray and sprinkled on edible glitter as it was still wet.
The edible color and sparkle wasn’t super obvious in the end – next time I would spray it directly on the popcorn.
We served the popcorn in cute Tiki-style popcorn cups.
Moana Party Entertainment
A pool or water theme is a natural fit for a Moana party. If you don’t have access to a pool, a water table, water balloons, sprinkler, paddling pool, or slip and slide are all fun options.
Other than water, hula hoops are great and you can play so many party games with hula hoops! Hula hoops are inspired by hula dancers so this is a fun themed activity – and you can get super cheap hula hoops at dollar stores. You or your child could learn some Samoan/Polynesian dance moves from Youtube and teach them to the kids, adding the hula hoops in for fun. (Anyone else picturing a “Can’t Buy Me Love” moment – the Patrick Dempsey one, not the Beatles one?)
Watching the movie is a low-key activity to ease into when the party is about to end.
You can also hire Moana actresses through “Hire a Princess” companies to come visit. We’ve done this a couple times and the kids just love it.
Here are some more Moana party game/activity ideas:
- Pin the Heart on Tefiti (instead of Pin Tail on the Donkey)
- Relay games are great – especially sitting as it mimics the action of rowing
- Karaoke (always a hit!)
- Coconut bowling
- Pass the Chicken (instead of Hot Potato – use a rubber chicken if you can find one!)
- Making “leis” – you can use artificial flowers or even coffee filters cut into flower shapes, and then yarn or string
- Or, grass skirt decorating – have lots of random craft supplies and cheap grass skirts and let the kids decorate to their heart’s content
- Find the Heart scavenger hunt (paint a rock to look like the Heart of Tefiti and hide it)
- If you’re not afraid of a little mess, you could make baking soda and vinegar volcanoes inspired by TeKa (check out this tutorial for making a baking soda volcano)
The Final Cost
While this party had a few lavish expenses (renting a hotel room instead of hosting at home and buying dresses for all the girls), the rest of the costs were super low. We had 11 child guests (who received goodie gifts) and I think about 10 grown-ups. Most guests stayed for between 3-6 hours.
(The sleepover component of the party had a few expenses of it’s own, but pretty minimal.)
All of the decor was reusable – including the tape on the balloon arch. And full disclosure, the candy was sent to me back when I worked with Celebration on a sponsored blog post so that was free but averages about $6/lb.
- Hotel rental $177
- 12 Moana Dresses $56
- 12 Moana necklaces (plus 2 “boy gifts”) $25
- Ice Cream Cake $26
- Party food $50 (approximately)
- Take-out Pizzas $24
- Coconut cups $12
- Plastic cups, paper plates $2
- Ice – free from hotel
- Balloon arch $10
- Case of water $3
- Grass table skirt $10
- Tiki popcorn boxes $7 (we have tons left over)
Without the hotel $225
Without the hotel or dresses $169
My favorite details from this party were the Heart of Tefiti cookies and having all of the girls dancing around in their Moana dresses – but my favorite thing was that I was relaxed and got to enjoy everyone’s company and even spent a good bit of the party swimming with the kids.