One activity you should consider doing in Hawaii is attending a luau, right?
OK, it’s not an “absolute must-see,” but… many people place it high on their bucket lists – and with good reason. Here’s everything you need to know about attending a Luau on Oahu in Hawaii.
Related read: 6 Day Adventure Itinerary for Maui, Hawaii
Here is an overview:
So what is an authentic Hawaiian Luau?
Luau is a joyous celebration deeply ingrained in Hawaiian customs and heritage. This lively event typically consists of a feast, music, and dancing to commemorate special occasions or significant life events.
In the 1800s, King Kamehameha II challenged conventional norms by hosting an enormous luau where men and women could dine together. This paved the way for today’s more modern interpretation of this cherished festivity.
Although luaus continue to be organized by locals for personal celebrations or family milestones, they have also evolved into tourist attractions that showcase Hawaii’s rich culture and traditions.
These visitor-oriented luaus usually feature all-you-can-eat Polynesian cuisine along with entertainment such as cultural performances at hotels, resorts, theme parks or private beaches.
Related read: Top 5 Kauai Tourist Attractions You Can’t Miss
Is it worth going to a Luau?
A luau offers a delightful opportunity to experience Hawaiian culture, though in a quite touristy way. Going to a luau can be pretty pricey, with tickets usually costing between $100 and $250 per person. But don’t let that scare you off!
When you think about everything that’s included in the experience – like an unlimited feast and one-of-a-kind entertainment – it really is worth the splurge.
Plus, if you break down the cost into two parts (dinner and show), it might not seem quite so steep after all. Trust us, attending a luau will definitely be money well spent!
Additionally, a luau serves up the possibility to sample exciting and exclusive Hawaiian food that you may not find at other eateries. This can be especially captivating for individuals who are keen on tasting innovative and rare dishes.
How to find the best Luau
Searching for the perfect luau, consider its location. Opt for a luau situated in a picturesque or historically significant spot, since it can make the difference to offer an unforgettable experience.
There are so many luau choices on Oahu! However, the one that stands out as a favorite is definitely the Paradise Cove Luau located in Ko’olina.
That’s where you will have a special cultural immersion. Paradise Cove Luau is located on 12 acres of picturesque oceanfront property in Oahu near Ko Olina.
The Paradise Cove Luau experience
Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted with a delicious Mai Tai and have free rein to explore all that this tropical paradise has to offer – from hula lessons and Hawaiian games to canoe rides and flower showers.
Paradise Cove is truly remarkable. There are so many things to do in the expansive area overlooking the sea.
Treat yourself by leaving Waikiki for a night and visiting Paradise Cove’s with the Orchid Luau or the Deluxe Luau package. With these options you’ll get better seats plus drinks included through your “Cove Card”.
If you’re on the standard package, you’ll receive a $12 gift card that can be used at the bar or in their gift shops. You could easily grab one or even two drinks with it (unless of course, you opt for premium beverages). If you like to drink more, consider to go for the Orchid Luau or Deluxe Luau package.
The hour before sunset tends to be quite warm, so keep an eye on how much of your beverage allotment you use up while exploring; if you’ve only done the basic luau deal, then make sure to purchase extra refreshments beforehand as all beverages may have been consumed before dinner being served.
Paradise Cove is not your typical hotel-affiliated luau. It’s actually an independent operation with a permanent facility solely dedicated to the event. This means they can smoothly manage and accommodate guests without worrying about setting up or taking down every day.
Plus, it has stunning waterfront views which makes for some great photo ops!
Many people want a real Hawaiian luau. Note that there is no paid celebration that is truly authentic. In Hawaiian culture, it’s more like a home gathering with friends and family – where people eat great food, chat or play games while singing songs.
The commercialized version has taken certain aspects from this native tradition, such as hula dancing and feasting on particular dishes, but bear in mind that doesn’t make them ‘authentic’ events! Nonetheless, don’t stress about not experiencing absolute authenticity – these are still enjoyable occasions worth attending.
Be prepared for some wacky experiences, such as selecting audience members for an on-stage boogie and applause for special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries or honeymoons. But this specific luau is still full of rituals you won’t find at any other luau.
This luau has numerous attractive “upsells” with three major cultural demonstrations (Flower Shower, Hukilau and Emu Ceremony) that makes it a very exciting choice for a fun-filled experience compared to other luau options.
Food at a Luau
The highlight of the evening is undoubtedly watching as the luau pig is dug up from its underground oven in front of everyone gathered at the imu amphitheater.
Kalua pig is a renowned Hawaiian banquet delicacy and also a beloved feature of Oahu luau feasts. The dish consists of an entire swine seasoned with sea salt and wrapped in banana leaves before being cooked to juicy perfection beneath the surface in an earthen oven known as imu.
There’s so much mouth-watering food!
The menu includes traditional dishes like poi. This is a classic Polynesian staple dish that originates from Hawaii. It’s created by mashing boiled taro roots and blending them with water to achieve a silky texture. While it may be somewhat plain on its own, you will enjoy combining poi with kalua pork or Huli chicken for an extra burst of deliciousness!
Then they will serve you lomi salmon. In Hawaiian cuisine, this delightful side dish resembles salsa. Smoked salmon is crumbled into tiny bits and combined with chopped tomatoes, onions, and a variety of other mini garnishes.
Alongside there is a continental cuisine such as salad bar options (broccoli surimi salad or macaroni), stir-fried veggies & island-style baked chicken for those who prefer something different.
With fresh pineapple chunks for dessert plus hot coffee/tea served after dinner service ends; it’s no wonder why people keep coming back year-after-year!
So don’t miss out on an unforgettable experience where culture meets culinary delights.
Extra tip: book your spot well in advance at Paradise Cove Luau.
Entertainment at a Luau in Oahu
A good luau should provide a spectrum of entertainment options to keep attendees amused and engaged throughout the gathering.
At dinner, there is a delightful performance to start the night off. Afterward, an incredible show kicks in with classic hula dances and also featuring Tahitian steps as well as Samoan fire dancing!
Hula dancing is a fundamental part of Hawaiian culture and an exquisite, expressive art form that narrates tales through motion and melody. The fire show, typically done by Samoan dancers, is breathtakingly impressive with their spinning and juggling flaming torches.
In general, cultural shows may involve conventional music, reciting, as well as other activities to highlight the background and customs of Hawaii.
Good to know about attending Paradise Cove Luau
The Deluxe seating package offers an upfront experience, as there is the option of ‘prime’ seats located at front and center or in the elevated ‘Luxury Box’, behind central section tables. Sitting right up close to all the action is a bit more superior to being further away; so if you choose the Royal Package, try to get those coveted front-and-center spots if you can!
The seats on the wing are great for anyone looking to enjoy a relaxed view and to save a bit of money.
Begin your luau experience at 5pm, with pickups from Waikiki around 4:30.
You might hear suggestions to arrive super early (around 3:30-4:30), but the venue doesn’t really open until 5 (depending on the season), and official activities won’t kick off until around 5:45.
What to wear to a luau
Dress comfortably and be sure to wear something a bit more formal than you would for the beach. We suggest flat-soled shoes as there’ll be lots of walking involved! A light jacket may also be practical if the temperature drops during nightfall.
If you’re taking a journey from Waikiki, be sure to factor in additional time for potential delays. Heading west away from the beachfront can get especially busy during peak hours, so leave yourself plenty of extra minutes!
Round trip transportation services are available for an additional cost of $39 per person, or free entry and transport is provided for all toddlers (4 years old & under).
To make sure you don’t miss out on this incredible event we recommend booking well ahead – ideally one month before arrival! Payment isn’t taken until just prior to vacation commencement, so remember that credit card details will need confirming when reserving tickets online.
Youngsters below four years of age enter free. There is a reduced cost for kids as high as 12, and decreased fees for teens up to 20!
In the US, tipping is generally expected and Hawaii isn’t any different. If you reserve a package meal at a luau upfront, no extra charge will be present. So there’s not much opportunity to leave gratuity with your card.
And at self-serve buffets it’s common courtesy to abstain from giving cash tips on tables.
But when having table service that comes along with VIP packages, it wouldn’t hurt to give recognition by leaving behind some monetary appreciation. If you should order beverages at the bar, don’t forget about placing something into their tip jar as well.
You’ll gain a richer appreciation of Hawaiian culture by taking part at a luau, which is an enjoyable and engaging way to join a Hawaiian festivity.
This luau certainly presents a higher number of “opportunities” to spend additional money compared to others. You’ll find a gift store and numerous stands where you can purchase various items.
However, it also provides an unparalleled variety of cultural activities and demonstrations that make it stand out from the rest.
Hawaii’s activities fill up quickly, so good advice is that you are to not dawdle and secure your reservations for the luau as soon as possible. You don’t want to miss out.
To make it easy on yourself, book ahead right here – that way everything is set when arrival day comes around.