My coworker Meg always jokes with the Maui visitors, “You know it’s state law that you have to go to a luau when you visit Hawai’i”. She always gets a big laugh, because it feels too true. A Hawaiian tradition since the early 1800’s, a luau is a feast and a party rolled up into one fun night. Of course, as with everything aimed at us tourists, it’s been a bit altered from it’s traditional roots. For instance, I don’t think unlimited Mai Tai’s and Pina Coladas were a huge draw for King Kamehameha II and his people. However, a lot of the foods and traditions have remained the same.
No matter which island you’re visiting in Hawai’i, most luaus are going to be Polynesian reviews. Polynesian reviews include traditions, dance and clothing from the different Polynesian people who ultimately made up the people of the Hawaiian islands. This includes Otea dancing from Tahiti, often described as the “girls with the crazy fast hips”, as well as Fire Knife dancing which is the men who spin the fire knives, typically the finale of the show. Once in a while, you’ll see a luau touted as a “traditional Hawaiian luau” only, meaning this will only include Hula dancing.
What you can expect at a luau, starts with standing in lines to get into the luau grounds. Upgrading your tickets to a better seat often cuts down on line lengths and wait times. Once inside the luau grounds, you can expect to see several tables with local artists displaying traditional arts, such as wood carving and jewelry making, often with samples on sale. Most luaus will also have areas with body painting and coconut shucking to enhance the lull between entering the grounds and when the feast begins. There will be a bar or bars on the grounds, so you’re never too far from your next tropical cocktail. There is also always table service for additional cocktails as well once you’re seated.
The beginning of the feast starts with the ceremony for unearthing of the Kalua Pig cooked in an underground Imu, the underground oven. Once the pig has been taken out, it’s sent to the kitchens for some chop-chop action – and once ready for service – the buffet begins. You’ll find several other proteins among the Kalua Pig such as salmon and teriyaki chicken. There will be tons of sides, including Poi, which is the most traditional item on the buffet table. It comes from the root of the Taro plant which has aided in sustaining the people of Hawai’i since they first peopled the islands. Try it, you may not like it, but try it. Mix it with something if you must, but when in Rome, amiright?
Once the feast has concluded with the dessert buffet and coffee, it’s now dark and time for your show. You’ll be able to see from anywhere in the luau grounds – but if you want to be closer to the stage you’ll likely have to upgrade your tickets to the front section.
TIPS & ADVICE FOR FLUFFIES:
A majority of luaus use long tables that are perpendicular to the stage. Unfortunately, they are placed rather close together. This means if you’re seated in the middle of the luau grounds and baby’s got back, you’re going to find it extremely difficult to move away from your table to go to the bathroom or get another cocktail. I’ve gotten stuck once and couldn’t leave my table until the luau was over and it was a claustrophobic nightmare. My advice is to either book yourselves in the VIP front row section, insist on sitting on an outside table or on an aisle, or sit in the back. While I never want you to feel like you need to sit in the back, away from people, I always personally opt for the front table. THAT, and I like to feel the fire warmth on my face during the Fire Knife finale.
The number one question I get from other fluffies and the one with the worst answer is, “Are all of the chairs those flimsy white folding chairs?”. The answer is mostly yes. There are a very few that have actual chairs. The best news is I’m likely in the heaviest percentile of fluffy folk and I’ve never broken one of these death traps. I don’t think you will either – but it does lend to that nervous hesitation when deciding to book. The Old Lahaina Luau has wooden chairs if you’re traveling in Maui, FYI.
Most luaus have valet parking if you want to avoid a long walk from the parking lot, but for West Maui specifically, most won’t have too long of a walk. For luaus in South Maui, you can either plan a 5-10 minute walk down to the luau grounds or ask the front desk from a golf cart ride down to the grounds.
PSG Rating: 1-3