Pool party ideas: 21 ways to maximize the fun factor

Get inspired with the latest pool party ideas and throw the perfect backyard gathering for family and friends

pool party ideas
(Image credit: Niccol Pontigia EyeEm/Getty Images)

Make your get together an occasion to remember with the latest pool party ideas. From fab cocktails and imaginative food to fun floats and games, as well as creative lighting and decorating ideas to set the scene, there are plenty of ways to make your backyard party one to remember.

Whether you want a relaxed affair with a few friends or are aiming for a more upscale event with a crowd it's good to make sure you cover the basics. You'll need to make your pool space feel special by decorating it, have plenty to eat and drink, and some fun games to play.

If your party is going to stretch into evening you'll need to set the scene with the right lighting for your pool ideas, and maybe even add a fire pit or two for a magical glow. 

21 pool party ideas for a get-together to remember

With a few quick updates, you can create some unforgettable pool party ideas that adults and children will love.

1. Pick a pool party theme

pool party ideas flamingoes and floats

(Image credit: Alamy)

With a shimmering pool as your party centerpiece all you need to do is choose a delightful theme your guests will love. 

Maybe flamingoes are your thing or perhaps you prefer a vacation vibe for your garden party ideas with Hawaiian tiki bars and tropical fruit punches. 

Perhaps you like the idea of a full-on dress code (mermaid and pirate themes are popular for the kids) as your starting point, or you might like to keep things simple and choose a garden color scheme to base your pool party ideas around. 

Once you've settled on your theme it's easy to decorate accordingly, and match food and drinks so everything is co-ordinated for a professional feel.

2. Plan something unique

pool party ideas floating cinema

(Image credit: Svetikd/Getty Images )

Laying on entertainment for your guests means going the extra mile to come up with something to surprise them.

Why not try a floating movie party for a laidback way to enjoy the latest release. What could be better on a hot summer's evening? 

Use the best outdoor projector to display the movie onto a wall or sheet, or buy an inflatable outdoor screen, available from Amazon (opens in new tab) to do things in style.

Lie back and enjoy for a movie experience like no other. And don't forget the popcorn.

3. Add the right lighting

pool party ideas Koopower Led Bulb Lights for Outdoor Swimming Pool Umbrella.

 Led Bulb Lights on umbrella by Koopower

(Image credit: KooPower)

Set the mood for your pool bash by layering up outdoor lighting ideas to suit your party’s theme. After all no summertime soirée is complete without the right lights to make the pool look magical at night.

Go for a layered look, adding lights at different levels. Illuminate the area near your pool by wrapping fairy lights around tree trunks and overhead, place solar uplighters in borders at ground level, and use large battery operated candles on the pool deck and smaller ones on tables.

Hang fairy lights from umbrellas and pergolas, or make them a feature of your pool fence ideas by stringing them along the length of your pool boundary to add a sense of night-time enchantment. 

4. Set up a drinks area

pool party ideas bar cart in summer garden

(Image credit: Ray Kachatorian/Getty Images)

Keep the drinks flowing by setting up a dedicated bar area near the pool. To make it feel special decorate the table or bar cart with tropical blooms.

Set up everything you need on your trolley to make all the cocktails and frozen drinks you're planning. Make sure you have plenty of fresh fruit and ice to hand too, as well as coloured glasses to add to the party feel. 

A large glass punch barrel is handy for dispensing ice cold home-made lemonade.

5. Chill drinks fast

pool party ideas floating drinks cooler Trona Bar by Viadurini.it

Floating Trona Bar (opens in new tab) by Viadurini.it

(Image credit: Viadurini.it)

Why not take your outdoor bar ideas to the next level with a floating version? Guests will love swimming up to this floating drinks cooler and helping themselves to a glass of bubbles. If they're feeling lazy it can be floated across the pool to whoever wants a top up, so no one misses out on the fun.

Choose a design that keeps your drinks and glasses cool at the same time for deliciously chilled drinks on tap.

6. Add a luxe detail with petals in the pool

pool party ideas floating flower petals in pool

(Image credit: Andrea Edwards EyeEm/Getty Images)

Floating petals and flowers add an elegant design touch to create a real sense of occasion if you're planning a special celebration. Decorating your pool with floating flowers is a creative way to add a decorative detail that picks up on your general party theme too. 

You can use real flowers or faux blooms to achieve a pretty look like this. At night ramp up the glam by adding some floating flameless candles from Wayfair (opens in new tab) to the mix for maximum impact.

Do bear in mind that removing any petals and flowers from your pool will be an essential part of your pool maintenance checklist after the party to prevent them clogging up filters.

7. Style up a party cabana

pool party ideas decorated party cabana by pool

(Image credit: Beyond the Road/Getty Images)

Every swanky poolside soirée needs a luxe party cabana where guests can gather for a welcoming cocktail. If you don't have a permanent pool house, this is a great alternative for celebrating a special occasion. They can be hired or you can style up your own version if you already have a gazebo, pavilion or summer house in your garden.

It's a great opportunity to get creative with your patio cover ideas too. Drapes are essential to set the scene. Add a selection of large lanterns on the deck, drinks trolley, Bluetooth outdoor speaker and party decorations to suit the mood.

8. Create some Insta-worthy moments

pool party ideas people jumping into pool

(Image credit: Aleksandar Nakic/Getty Images )

No pool party is complete without some plunge pics for Insta. After all, when does a pool not look good? Just add your favorite friends and some props, and get them in the party mood to create some photo ops for the memory album.

9. Offer cooling popsicles

pool party ideas popsicles

(Image credit: Westend61/Getty Images)

Who doesn't love a popsicle on a hot summer's day. Frozen drinks are, of course, a warm weather go-to. 

They're easy to make yourself and you can either stick with fruit flavours or add some alcohol to the mix to make boozy ice pops.

Try Pimm's popsicles, or frozen margaritas, mojitos or Strawberry Daiquiris. And if you like rosé, try Frosé (frozen rosé cocktails) wine popsicles.

10. Serve cocktails afloat

pool party ideas tray of drinks floating in pool

(Image credit: Creativ Studio Heinemann/Getty Images)

Kick-off your party with a splash by serving some cocktails to remember. Grab your guests attention with some brightly colored electric-blue and rhubarb pink cocktails to complement the pool party setting.

Blue curaçao has long been the go-to blue liquor for cocktails. Use it to transform margaritas and martinis into stunning blue drinks. Meanwhile when it comes to bright pink cocktails, how about a Strawberry Rhubarb Gin Rickey anyone?

Floating them out on the pool is a nice touch to serve your guests in style.

11. Fire up the grill 

pool party ideas poolside bbq grill by Traeger Grills

Grill by Traeger

(Image credit: Traeger Grills)

Nothing says summer quite like the smell of barbecue wafting on the breeze. And what better setting than a poolside party to celebrate the season? 

Just add family and friends and a few beers, and get grilling. You’ve got everything you need for the perfect summer barbecue. 

The best BBQs can make grilling outdoors hassle-free too. Many of the latest models have built in-tech that monitors the cooking temperature and lets you know when everything has been cooked to perfection, you can get on with partying with your guests while the food takes care of itself. 

12. Set up a poolside bar

pool party ideas outdoor bar Teak Drinks Cooler Table Garden Trading

(Image credit: Gardening Trading)

A dream poolside bar switches up your backyard into a destination that's perfect for summer entertaining.

Elegant counter-style bars look sleek and don't take up a lot of space. Look for a style that has an integral steel trough that can be filled with ice and bottles to keep everything handy and those drinks coming.

A fabulous bar with a view of the pool? Your guests will feel like they're on vacation.

13. Create a relaxation zone

pool party ideas furniture set

Garden furniture by Barlow Tyrie

(Image credit: Barlow Tyrie)

After a dip, barbecue and drinks, all you need is a chill out zone where you can relax with your guests. Combine luxe lounging options (don't miss our best garden furniture guide) with plush seating and plenty of cushions. Add a mellow playlist of tunes to create the right vibe.

Look out for furniture designs with waterproof cushions to ensure your seating can withstand people lounging around on it while wearing wet swimwear. 

14. Put out some poolside punch

pool party ideas fruit punch by pool

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Fruit punch says summer pool party like no other drink. Cool down with gorgeous summer punches that are just the thing for entertaining or an afternoon by the pool.

The perfect combination of sweet and sparkly, fruity punch is the best complement to a hot summer's day. 

Serve up a selection of boozy (like tropical pineapple and rum) and alcohol-free (such as refreshing berries and mint leaves) offerings so there's something for everyone.

What better drink to have when kicking back by the pool?

15. Add statement lighting

pool party ideas Nedgis lights

(Image credit: Nedgis)

Set the mood for your summer bash with some patio lighting ideas that suit your party’s style and space for an inviting set-up by the pool. Sometimes it's good to go large with some statement floor lamps to cast a lovely glow over the water.

Choose multifunctional lights like these that you can also sit on (they have foam seat pads) or use as a table. The curvy design throws a sun ray design on the ground at nightfall for a magical special effect.

16. Prep poolside nibbles

pool party ideas tray of food by pool

(Image credit: Prachanart/Getty Images)

The best summer poolside snacks are light and tasty. Easy appetizers and dips are just right for outdoor dining on a hot summer's day chilling by the water. 

For your next poolside get-together try a combination of cool and creamy dips like guacamole or mango salsa, sliders, tacos and skewers, and wedges of fruit. These are all easy to hold finger foods that are just right for poolside snacking.

Prep ahead, cover and leave in a cool place until you're ready to enjoy. You could even float trays of snacks in the water if it's just too hot to get out of the pool.

17. Get crafty with terracotta pots

pool party ideas terracotta pots with straws and cutlery

(Image credit: Future)

If you've set up a cart poolside with supplies for food and drink don't forget the basics. Straws, napkins and cutlery can all be stored in small terracotta garden planters for easy access. It looks good too, making a pretty tablescape that's perfect for entertaining in the garden.

If you are using used terracotta plant pots that have been hanging around in the garden, first brush off any dirt or debris from the outside and wash thoroughly with hot soapy water.

If you're feeling crafty, try customizing the pots with quirky labels. Use chalkboard paint and write on your own messages with chalk.

18. Have some fun with floats

pool party ideas floats

(Image credit: Alamy)

There's a huge range of floats out there to choose from. Whether you go for donuts, watermelon slices, pineapples, flamingos, popsicles or giant swans - there's a floatie to suit everyone and every occasion.

Throw some inflatable beach balls into the mix to add to the fun and max up the opportunity for pool games. 

Balloons are one of the easiest and most affordable ways to decorate any party. They will bring a playful splash of color to your pool if you float them in the water. They can be matched to your pool party ideas theme too.

19. Wrap trees with fairy lights

pool party ideas fairy lights by Lights4Fun Tropic Dreams Collection

Wrap some sparkle around trees with a string of fairy lights from Lights4fun (opens in new tab) 

(Image credit: Lights4Fun)

Make sure you include some outdoor tree lighting ideas in the mix to really elevate the mood in your plot. Wrapping a tree trunk or two with fairy lights adds a twinkly detail that's great for evening pool party ideas. Choose a tree with a bare trunk that's poolside and will look good illuminated. Wrap it with twinkling lights to add some party magic.

Small trees can look just as good as large ones and have the bonus that you need less lights. Start by wrapping the string of lights around the base of the trunk, moving upwards. Make sure the lights are evenly spaced for a professional looking result. Finally secure the end with twine to finish things off neatly.

20. Create an evening vibe

pool party ideas Nedgis lights

Choose an outdoor lamp (opens in new tab) from Nedgis to add a touch of glam to your poolside entertaining 

(Image credit: Nedgis)

Stylish lanterns will look great silhouetted against the tranquil backdrop of your pool landscaping. It adds a luxe tropical island vacation vibe to glam things up for evening entertaining by the pool. 

Outdoor lamps on a pool patio are a quick way to transform your pool for parties and will enhance your pool so it looks its best at night.

21. Spark up a fire pit or two

pool party ideas Hofats Cube 51

The Cube fire basket (opens in new tab) by Hofats is multi-purpose piece that's great for entertaining. You can gather round it to enjoy the fire, cook on it, or use it as an extra stool or table when it's not lit

(Image credit: Hofats)

Fire pits, log burning braziers and fire baskets are great for pool party ideas as the daylight starts to fade. They are a real design feature that everyone can enjoy and look even more impressive if you place a few round your pool rather than just limiting things to one single buy.

What should you have at a pool party?

To make sure your summer get-together is the best yet be sure to include the following in your list of pool party ideas:

  • A selection of mix and match floats and inflatables for comfy chilling and lounging with friends as well as fun times in the pool.
  • Waterproof wireless speakers and a cool playlist that fits your pool party theme so make sure you choose the music in advance.
  • Decorations and accessories to create a party mood.
  • Arrange games and activities - you won't go wrong with a selection of the best Nerf guns and inflatable balls for adults and kids alike.
  • A drinks cart or trolley together with plenty of coolers and ice on tap.
  • A variety of easy-to-eat poolside snacks - keep them coming so make sure you have enough to go round.
  • Popsicles and other frozen treats to take the heat out of the day.
  • Enough sun umbrellas, canopies and garden parasols so everyone is covered when they need to be.
  • A selection of towels and plenty of sunscreen - set up a sunscreen station so no one forgets.
  • A mix of mood lighting if your party is going to stretch into the evening.

pool party ideas pool lights Vasi by VG New Trend

Vasi Illuminati lights by VG New Trend 

(Image credit: VG New Trend)

How do you throw a perfect pool party?

There's no better way to beat the heat that with a summer pool party. Invite friends and family over to take a dip in the pool, lounge around enjoying the best poolside snacks and drinks, and have some fun in the sun. 

When it comes to planning your pool party, first come up with a theme and then decide how you're going to decorate your garden. Plan what you're going to eat and drink, and if you need any games or other garden activities for kids to ramp up the fun factor.

pool party ideas Nedgis lights

(Image credit: Nedgis)

How do you host a pool party for adults?

Hosting an adult pool party is all about creating the right vibe. Once you've decided on a theme choose a playlist that reflects it and decorate your poolside area accordingly.

Choose drinks and food that packs a punch and make sure there's plenty to go round. When it's hot everyone will want cool drinks and light snacks. Keep them poolside for easy access or stock up on floaties so you don't even have to get out of the pool.

Make sure there's lots of options to have fun. After all, you're never too old to enjoy firing a water pistol at your friends.

pool party ideas woman by pool holding slice of watermelon

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Sarah Wilson
Sarah Wilson

Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, Easy Gardens and Modern Gardens magazines. Her first job on glossy magazines was at Elle, during which time a visit to the legendary La Colombe d'Or in St-Paul-de-Vence led to an interest in all things gardening. Later as lifestyle editor at Country Homes & Interiors magazine the real pull was the run of captivating country gardens that were featured. Having studied introductory garden and landscape design as well as a course in floristry she is currently putting the skills learned to good use in her own space where the dream is establishing a cutting garden.