How to Throw a Beach Party Your Guests Will Love

beach party

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Kick off your flip-flops, sink your toes in the sand, and crack open a cold beverage—summer is here! There is no better way to celebrate the season than by throwing the ultimate beach party. With fun, sun, food, family, and friends, how could you not have a blast?

Beach parties can be as elaborate or as low-key as you like, making them a great budget-friendly option. Invite your best sun-loving friends to enjoy the salty, sea air with you. Keep your party casual, transportable, and as relaxed as a day at the beach should be.

Ahead, find out everything you need to know about planning the best beach party.

Step 1: Find the Right Venue

Choosing the perfect venue for your event will require some research—perhaps permits too. So, you’ll probably want to start the process a few weeks in advance. (If you’re not located near the show, you can still throw a festive beach bash in your own backyard.)

Before your party, check with local officials to determine the rules regarding alcoholic beverages, bottles, and whether you will be responsible for taking your trash with you when you leave, or whether there are receptacles on the beach for your trash. If you're serving alcohol (if it's permitted on the beach), make sure to serve plenty of non-alcoholic options as well. Long hours spent in the sun can cause dehydration, and alcohol can make it worse.

If required, obtain a permit for your party or bonfire (if you plan to make one).

Step 2: Select a Theme

When it comes to summer soirees, we’re fans of tropical or beach themes. The fact that you’ve already secured a seaside setting puts you a step ahead. Break out the pineapples, outdoor torches, little paper drink umbrellas, and grass skirts for a Hawaiian luau. Transport guests to the tropics with bright hues, palm tree decor, and the sounds of steel drums (making a playlist is a budget-friendly alternative to hiring professional musicians). Or, go full-on Americana with a boardwalk-inspired fête featuring checkered napkins, burgers, hot dogs, and seasonal pies.

Colorful umbrellas in glasses of lemonade
Rmaebarkai/ Twenty20

Step 3: Send Out Invites

Write your invitations on a deflated beach ball. Ask your friends to inflate the ball and bring it with them to the party, along with their chair, beach blanket, and towel.

Step 4: Prepare All Things Food and Beverages

For safety reasons, most beaches don’t allow you to bring glass. The solution? Disposable plates, bowls, cups, utensils, napkins, and straws. You can always find biodegradable, recyclable options that are great for your party and the planet. Plus, being able to toss supplies will make clean-up a cinch.

Be sure to have enough large coolers and ice to transport your food and beverages to the party and keep them at a safe temperature until they're consumed. If you can, keep them in the shade under an umbrella to keep them out of the heat from the sun.

Step 5: Choose Beach-Friendly Decor

Ocean breezes are delightful...that is until your paper decorations blow away. When you’re planning a beachside soiree, consider the practicality of your accouterments. What’s awesome is that you’ll find a ton of inspiration—and supplies—all around you, which will help curb costs. After all, shells, sea glass, rocks, and driftwood are free.

Colorful seaglass and seashells
Angela_sikiric/ Twenty20

Step 6: Cook Up a Summer BBQ

Most people come to a party ready to eat, so you’ll want to have some little nibbles and appetizers ready for folks who are feeling a little peckish. You can’t go wrong with finger foods like fresh Vietnamese summer rolls, bruschetta (tomatoes are at their peak in the summer), and crudite with dip. And who doesn’t love chips and guacamole?

What to Bring for Your Main Course

Looking for a fun way to get guests involved and turn eating into an interactive experience? Try a build-your-own food bar. Bonus: It’s ideal for pleasing picky palates. Hot dogs are a classic summer classic. Grill franks to perfection and lets party-goers pile on their favorite garnishes and condiments. A do-it-yourself food station also works really well for sliders and tacos! On a budget? Opt for a "you bring it, we grill it” potluck.

How to Throw the Ultimate Hot Dog Grilling Party - 2 Ways!
Grilling Cheese Social

Simple Sides to Bring

Complement your mains with scrumptious sides. Prep-ahead side dishes like potato salad and watermelon and feta salad will make hosting a heck of a lot easier. Since you’ll already be firing up the grill for your mains, adding corn and veggie skewers to the menu is a no-brainer. And, of course, you can’t eat burgers and dogs without chips.

Refreshing Drinks

On a hot summer day, there’s nothing better than a cold beer. Fresh and fruity white wine sangria is another seasonal staple. If you’re feasting on Mexican fare, a pitcher (or two) or margaritas is a must. On the non-alcoholic front, be sure to fill coolers with plenty of bottled water. A jug of berry-infused H20 is effortless but looks extra fancy. Pro tip: Stock up on ice! You can always toss the extra in the freezer and use it later in the season.

Sweet Treats

Craving something sweet? S’mores are the epitome of summer. Get creative by adding strawberries, bananas, and caramel into the mix. An ice cream sundae bar with all the tasting toppings and specialty cones is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. And who could resist mini key lime pie cups?

Step 7: Plan the Fun, Games, and Activities

The difference between a good and a great bash? Entertainment. Turn up the tunes and start a limbo contest, or start a bonfire, which will keep the gathering going well after the sun goes down. Plus, it’s essential for making ooey-gooey s’mores. Just keep in mind you may need to obtain a permit.

Not all guests want to spend the day in the sun. And if you don’t have any shade, there’s a chance they might leave. Prevent that by setting up some colorful umbrellas. Similarly, don’t forget to pack SPF. Bug repellent isn’t a bad idea either. Pack enough for the group. We promise, your pals will thank you. Some other activities to try include:

  • Bring equipment for a game of beach volleyball.
  • Organize a sandcastle-building contest. Everyone can use the pail and shovel you have given to them. Judge creations in any number of categories including the tallest castle, biggest castle, most authentic-looking castle, etc.
  • If you're on a beach with interesting seashells, send your guests scavenging for the best variety of shells.
  • Remember to bring along music and play your favorite beach songs throughout the party.
  • Challenge your guests to a hula hoop contest to see who can keep one spinning for the longest time.
Boom box on the beach
Enlightenedpie/ Twenty20

Step 8: Create Fantastic Favors

Give everyone your party favor at the beginning of your party. Make it a beach pail with a shovel, sunscreen, water squirt bottle, and sun visor. If your budget allows, toss in an after-sun product too.