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An Ultimate Guide to Maui Luaus

An Ultimate Guide to Maui Luaus

Maui has two shorelines, where most tourists stay: West Shore and South Shore. All major Maui luaus are located along those shores.  There are 6 West Maui Luaus, and 3 South Maui Luaus. After reviewing the brief history of Hawaiian luau and its typical program, we provide the readers with all information they need to choose their first or next Maui luau. You can scroll down to the Master List of Maui Luaus.

Contents

Brief History of Hawaiian Luau
Typical Luau Program
How to Enjoy the Food at Hawaiian Luau
How to Choose a Luau
The Master List of Maui Luaus
— South Maui Luaus
— West Maui Luaus
Book Maui Luau on Activity Authority

Brief History of Hawaiian Luau

Traditional Hawaiian luau is a feast in celebration of important events, where the food is accompanied by entertainment. The original name was ‘aha’aina (gathering meal), and though it was designed to unite the participants, certain delicacies were traditionally forbidden (kapu) to women, who also ate separately. The luau as we know it today was born in 1819, when King Kamehameha II ended the religious taboo by openly eating with women.

The name of the feast comes from the Hawaiian name of the dish of young taro leaves (luau), which are cooked like spinach. The underground stems of this staple tropical plant are boiled, peeled and pounded into poi – a viscous and nutritious starchy dish. The consistency of poi – a sacred food for Hawaiians and an absolute must at all luaus – is known as “one-finger”, “two-finger” or “three-finger”, depending on how many fingers would hold it comfortably for eating. The luau food was traditionally eaten with fingers on the floor over lauhala (leaves of the hala tree) mats.

A bowl of poi
A bowl of poi

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Typical Luau Program

1. It starts with luau check-in, where you are warmly greeted with “Aloha!” and lei – a fresh flower lei, a kukui nut or a shell lei. In Hawaiian tradition, the gift of lei should always be accepted, and the lei should not be removed in the presence of the giver. Then you will be shown your seating and can head to the open bar for a Mai Tai or another tropical cocktail or a non-alcoholic drink.

2. While the guests arrive, some Maui luaus have Hawaiian arts and crafts demonstrations, some offer games. Local artisans may sell art pieces and souvenirs made on the island.

3. Most Maui luaus have an imu ceremony. A whole kalua pig (meaning – pig, cooked in the underground oven) is removed from the underground oven (imu) where it was steaming all day in layers of banana and ti leaves. If you have a desire to make this at home, here is is a detailed write-up on How to Cook a Pig in the Ground Hawaiian Style.

Two Hawaiian men uplift a Kalua pig cooked in an Imu
Two Hawaiian men uplift a Kalua pig cooked in an Imu

4. As the sun sets down, the official start of the luau is announced by the trumpet-like sound of a conch shell and a torch lighting ceremony.

5. The kalua pig is shredded and served and now it’s dinner time. All Maui luaus are buffet style, except for the Feast at Lele’s 5-course sit-down dinner. A typical buffet menu includes traditional Hawaiian dishes such as kalua pork, lomi salmon (a salsa-like dish with raw salted salmon, tomatoes and onions), squid or chicken luau (taro leaves cooked with coconut milk and chicken or squid), poke (raw seasoned seafood), chicken long rice, sweet potato, haupia (a type of coconut pudding), lau lau (chunks of pork shoulder, salted and steamed in taro and ti leaves) and poi (described above). To please all tastes, most menus also include American comfort foods such as chicken, teriyaki beef, rice, salad greens and chocolate cake.

Traditional Hawaiian food, including pole, kalua pork, lomi lomi salmon
Traditional Hawaiian food, including pole, kalua pork, lomi lomi salmon

6. During the dinner, there is usually some sort of entertainment with music – a fashion show or a hula lesson.

7. After dinner, the main show begins, often presenting traditional costumes, music and dances from all the major Polynesian islands and sometimes the story is about Maui.

8. The majority of luaus end with a fire-knife dance of Samoa. The only luau in Maui that doesn’t offer this finale is Old Lahaina Luau.

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How to Enjoy the Food at Hawaiian Luau

Poi is a staple in the Hawaiian cuisine, but the taste might be not that pleasing and pretty strong for those who never tried it before. It is the first solid food given to Hawaiian babies, so Hawaiians love poi.

Take a small amount of poi first and combine a bit of it with lomi salmon, kalua pork and other meat or fish dishes. See what combinations you like best. Hawaiian dishes have different flavors and consistencies – sweet, salty, sour, spicy, chewy, crunchy, creamy, etc. Take your time, mix the flavors, enjoy your food with aloha.

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How to Choose a Luau

First off, we normally recommend upgrading to premier or VIP seating, if available. You can get much better experience and likely better photo opportunities. But you can check reviews for the specific luau to see if its worth for most people.

Secondly, we recommend attending a luau close to where you stay. You will be (at least you should be) filled with food and some alcohol, you might be tired and sleepy, and getting back to your place quickly to enjoy the rest of the night and to reminisce about the luau experience might be best.

Other things to consider: Do you prefer assigned sitting? Do you have kids that might want to run around while you are watching? Is an ocean view important? Would you like to shop for souvenirs before the show? Is the food quality very important? Do you have any dietary preferences that must be met?

For any questions, not answered in this article, we recommend to go to the luau’s listed website and either find the needed information or call.

The Cost of Admission to Luau on Maui

As of April 2018, most Maui luaus are priced around $110-120 per adult for standard seating. One exception is The Feast at Mokapu luxury luau at Andaz Maui, with prices starting from $200 per adult. You can try to save by shopping for luau tickets in Costco, where you can save 20-25% off the regular admission. Not all luaus are available at Costco of course, but it might be worth to check.

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The Master List of Maui Luaus

We refrain from posting information that can change.  Instead, we include links to websites and highly recommend to review them before making your decision.  You can contact the activity company with questions.

South Maui Luaus

The Grand Luau at Honua’ula

Location: Grand Wailea Resort
Website: https://activityauthority.com/hawaii/maui/grand-wailea-luau-honuaula/
Reviews on Yelp
Premium seating: yes
Imu ceremony: yes
Fire Knife Dance: yes
Check-in: It’s best that one person comes earlier at 4 pm and gets a table assignment and wristbands for the whole party.
Additional information: hula lessons, Hawaiian games and crafts before the show, photos with cast members, great ocean views

Te Au Moana Luau

Location: Wailea Mariott
Website: https://activityauthority.com/hawaii/maui/wailea-marriott-luau/
Reviews on Yelp
Premium seating: yes
Imu ceremony: yes
Fire Knife Dance: yes
Additional information: ancient Hawaiian games and artisan craft display before the show, great oceanfront setting

The Feast at Mokapu Luau

Location: Andaz Maui
Website: https://feastatmokapu.com/
No reviews are available yet, as this luau is new. But here are Yelp Reviews of Andaz Maui where the luau is held
Premium seating: yes
Imu ceremony: ?
Fire Knife Dance: ?
Additional information: luxury luau, the most expensive on Maui, starting from $200 per person

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West Maui Luaus

Maui Nui Luau

Location: Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa in Ka’anapali
Website: https://activityauthority.com/hawaii/maui/sheraton-luau-black-rock/
Reviews on Yelp
Premium seating: yes
Imu ceremony: yes
Fire Knife Dance: yes
Additional information: oceanfront location on Kaanapali beach, the cliff dive off Pu’u Keka’a (black Rock)

Drums of the Pacific Luau

Location: Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa
Official website: http://drumsofthepacificmaui.com/
Reviews on Yelp
Premium seating: yes
Imu ceremony: yes
Fire Knife Dance: yes
Additional information: Polynesian fashion show, enclosed luau grounds with no ocean view, check-in process might get long

Old Lahaina Luau

Location: 1251 Front St, Lahaina, HI 96761
Website: https://www.oldlahainaluau.com/
Reviews on Yelp
Premium seating: no
Imu ceremony: yes
Fire Knife Dance: no
Additional information:offers traditional (floor) and table seating; demonstrations of island crafts; tickets can sell days and even weeks in advance; right on the beach, wear comfortable shoes

Feast at Lele

Location:
Website: https://www.feastatlele.com/
Reviews on Yelp
Premium seating: no
Imu ceremony: no
Fire Knife Dance: yes
Additional information: the only sit down 5-course dinner luau on Maui

Royal Lahaina Luau

Location: Royal Lahaina Resort
Official website: https://activityauthority.com/hawaii/maui/royal-lahaina-myths-of-maui/
Reviews on Yelp
Premium seating: yes
Imu ceremony: yes
Fire Knife Dance: yes
Additional information: oceanfront location

Wailele Polynesian Luau

Location: Westin Maui Resort & Spa
Website: http://www.westinmaui.com/luau
Reviews on Yelp
Premium seating: yes
Imu ceremony: no
Fire Knife Dance: yes
Additional information: smaller number of seats, more intimate setting, one of the best fire-knife dance performances, step-up from other luau buffets quality food

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7 thoughts on “An Ultimate Guide to Maui Luaus

  1. I can’t imagine a more detailed and thought-out article on luaus, you are one dedicated and good writer. This one should go to the Maui Chamber of Commerce.

  2. excellent article. have lived here 15 years and had no idea there were so many different ones.
    also enjoyed the actual history of the luau and the traditional foods offered.

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