Luaus are one of the top activities for most tourists to the Hawaiian Islands. However, like most things in Hawaii, the answer to, “What’s the best Hawaiian luau?”, is subjective. For one, there are many types of luau, and there are several options for luau on each island. The “best” will actually have very much to do with the island you will be visiting, the amount you wish to spend, and the experience you are looking for. Here is a selection of top luaus on each island, what they have to offer.
Big Island (Hawaii)
Royal Kona Luau “Voyagers of the Pacific”
The Royal Kona Luau takes place at sunset on the Kona Coast in a Coconut Groove. The Polynesian show “Voyagers of the Pacific”, is a fully authentic and beautiful. As a traditional start, the conch sound to begin the feast, which features kalua pork pulled from the ground.
Waikoloa Beach Marriott Sunset Luau
As with most other luaus, this event takes place at sunset over the ‘Anaeho’omalu Bay. It features classic Polynesian entertainment under the stars with live music, an imu ceremony, traditional- style dances from various islands in the South Pacific, and a full buffet and open bar.
Island Breeze Luau at King Kamehameha Hotel
The newly-renovated grounds of Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Hotel is home to the Polynesian production company, Island Breeze. They provide an amazing sunset-to-night luau experience three times a week. The display of Polynesian entertainment and activities combine with traditional and contemporary fare for an unforgettable night for each attendee.
Old Lahaina Luau
The Old Lahaina Luau has been owned by four friends: Michael Moore, Robert Aguiar, Kevin Butler and Tim Moore since 1986. Since then, it has grown from humble beginnings to become a leading favorit on the island of Maui that is at nearly 100% capacity every night it is open.
Feast at Lele
Taking you on a journey through Polynesia, the entertainers provide traditional dances, while the feast runs a royal five-courses from the Pacific Island nations of Aotearoa, Tahiti,
Samoa, and Hawaiʻi. Each table in this luau is an intimate affair and offers a panoramic view of the acclaimed Maui sunsets.
Royal Lahaina Luau
Located on the world-famous Ka’anapali Beach at sunset, the beating drums and sounding of the conch signal the start of the island’s longest running Polynesian luau. You will be treated to a wonderful night of Hawaiian, Tahitian, Samoan and Maori dance performances. Wearing the warm shell lai you are greeted with, you will enjoy tropical cocktails and all the Polynesian cuisine you can handle.
The Polynesian Cultural Center Ali’i Lu’au
The award-winning Ali’i Luau is held at the Polynesian Cultural Center in a covered outdoor venue against the backdrop of luscious waterfalls and green gardens. It includes a Royal Court procession, presentation of the imu pork (cooked in underground.) Other food options include, steamed local fish, glazed chicken, marinated strip loin, poi, poke, and more.
Paradise Cove Luau
At Paradise Cove Luau, you are greeted with a tropical Mai Tai. Before dinner, casually stroll through the Hawaiian Village and test your skills at some Hawaiian Games. You will even have the opportunity to learn the net fishing techniques of the islands. The menu blends the traditional Polynesian dishes with local favorites and even a few mainland dishes. FInally, performers entertain you with a dramatic display of dances from the various South Pacific island nations.
Luau Kalamaku at Kilohana Plantation
The historic Kilohana Plantation is home to three package experience designed to give you the most customized experience. The luau is operated twice per week, and features fire dancers, graceful hula dancers, and of course, delicious food. Arrive early to take a stroll through the plantation’s tropical grounds and watch the gorgeous sunset.
Smith Family Garden Luau
While “Smith” may not sound like the most traditional of Hawaiian names, the luau was started to celebrates the Hawaiian spirit, and four generations work the luau in various roles. They welcome you into their ohana (family) for the night for an all-you-can-eat (and drink) night of traditional Kalua pork and other traditional dishes. Finish the night with the traditional dance, hula, and fire performances.
Currently, Lanai does not offer a regular schedule of luaus, but a luau can be arranged at the Four Seasons Resort at Manele Bay upon request. Be sure to call well in advance (at least a few months), as there may be a waiting list, and much preparation goes into putting on a luau event.
Molokai does not currently offer a Luau. However, flights to and from the islands which do offer luaus are available for rock-bottom prices during the right season.
The island of Kahoolawe is the only uninhabited Hawaiian island. It was once used as target practice for the US Navy, and of course, does not have luau events.
Niihau, also known as the ”Forbidden Isle”, is the only privately-owned island and is home to less than 250 people. No one is allowed to visit without express permission from one of the residents, and luaus are not provided (unless privately at one of the family homes.)
Remember that a luau is not just a fun night of dinner and entertainment. Traditionally, luaus were either between families to celebrate events or peace, or they were used as a way to great dignified visitors to the islands. A luau is meant to foster a family atmosphere of aloha as well as educate visitors about the traditions of the various islands of the South Pacific. Whatever you choose, you are sure to have an amazing time, and walk away with a whole-new view of Hawaii.