Luaus are a “can’t miss” opportunity if you have the chance to go to Hawaii. They give you a fantastic introduction to Hawaiian food, music, and culture. Yes, they can be incredibly cheesy, but I guarantee you will have fun. Even the cynical and cantankerous Anthony Bourdain once admitted that he had a great time going to one.
So what does a luau consist of? Basically, great food and a great show. We attended one in Maui, but luaus are very similar no matter where you go. I went to one in Oahu nearly 10 years ago, and not much has changed since then. Since Hawaii thrives on tourism, I’ve found that most places are pretty consistent when it comes to delivering the “authentic” Hawaiian experience.
You will find that the food at a luau is typically served buffet style. Before serving the main dish of pork, everyone gathers around an underground pit, called an imu, where the pig has been cooking. It’s a very interesting presentation, and I’d imagine a bit disturbing to young children who might wonder why a pig is being shoveled out of the ground for consumption. Nonetheless, it’s those same children who stand at the front to watch.
Aside from the pork, the buffet offers chicken, rice, sweet potatoes, and poi. Poi is the grey “pudding” that only Hawaiians seem to like. It’s made from the taro plant and, in my opinion, tastes like clay. Drinks are found in abundance: you can choose from various alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. I also can’t forget about the dessert, which was my favorite part of the buffet. We had guava cake, pineapple upside-down cake, and haupia, which is a soft jello-type dessert made from coconut milk. In case you are wondering, yes, I did treat myself a slice of each!
As the sun sets and you are finishing your meal, the show begins. We get to watch as performers showcase a variety of traditional Polynesian dances, including hula, fire, and stick dances.
Most luaus have an interactive portion during the night. At our luau, the host of the show asked about the Honeymooners, and invited the grooms to come up on stage and perform a dance for their new brides. Since we came here on our Honeymoon, my dear husband is featured 4th from the left in the picture below!
After this “Honeymoon dance”, other people were welcome to come on stage and try their hand at hula dancing. As you can see, it was the funniest part of the show as the guys up on stage tried in vain to circle their hips properly.
Overall, luaus are a great way to spend an evening in Hawaii. The food is copious (not to mention delicious) and the show itself is interesting, impressive, and at times hilarious!