The Best Luaus on Oahu – For You (Part Two)

Cultural demonstration at Nutridge Luau Oahu

Now, how to really find the best luau on Oahu? In part one we went through how to use the process of elimination to narrow down your choices so that you can find the luau that is going to work best for you. Hopefully by now you’ve got a much shorter list, and you’re ready to make comparisons based on quality, past guest reviews, and all the little quirks that make each venue special in their own way.  Now that you’ve narrowed down your list, it is time to find your best luaus on Oahu.

Use this simple process to determine which luau is the best Oahu luau – for you.


Step 1:

Know what’s a good fit. Do you want to be educated or entertained? While most luaus try to blend cultural education with entertainment value, some naturally lean a bit more in one direction than others. Those that lean heavily towards cultural education are often smaller and feel more intimate and authentic but also tend to have smaller shows. This might be a perfect fit for some guests while others may miss having a flashy, high-energy show with a great sound system and lighting. Likewise, the luaus with most highly produced shows may not offer many cultural activities. What would your ideal luau be like? With wanting to learn as much about Hawaiian culture as possible on one end of the scale, and just wanting to relax and be entertained on the other, where are you? Wherever you land on that spectrum, keep an eye out for luaus that are a close match.       

Step 2:

Know your deal breakers. You’ve probably been daydreaming about a Hawaiian luau for weeks, months, or maybe even years. What does that scene look like? Are you sipping Mai Tais while watching the sunset? What’s the vibe? Is it a laid back, family-style luau or a fancy resort-style event? What makes your imaginary luau feel like a luau? Knowing what details matter most to you is important, no matter how trivial they may seem to someone else. You’re trying to find your best luau on Oahu, after all. Will you be disappointed if you don’t receive a fresh flower lei? What about fancy tropical cocktails with umbrellas in them? How about fire-knife dancing or having an in-ground oven onsite? These are all common luau elements, but not every single luau has them. You don’t want to end up at a luau that doesn’t have that one thing that you’ve been looking forward to the most. So, what are your deal breakers or must-haves? Once you know, be on the lookout for these when skimming through the luau descriptions.   

Step 3:

Evaluate based on the three key areas. Luaus consist of three parts: the pre dinner cultural activities, the luau dinner, and the evening show.  Most venues excel in some areas (and less so in others) and a few venues do a decent job in all three areas. You’ll have to decide for yourself if all these areas matter to you and if you’re willing to make a trade-off. For example, having a so-so buffet but an amazing fire dance performance and plenty of fun, interesting pre-dinner activities.     

1. Cultural Activities: Some venues pay close attention to cultural activities, offering a variety of games, demonstrations, and arts and crafts. Hands-on activities can be a great way to connect with Polynesian culture and have one-on-one conversations with the performers and artisans. These are the experiences and interactions that make a luau feel authentic and meaningful. However, shorter luaus (and short-staffed luaus) often skimp in this area and some of the more touristy luaus may treat activity hour as just a convenient way to keep guests occupied until they get everyone checked in and situated. Depending on your priorities this might be just fine. For example, if the rest of your vacation is already filled with immersive cultural activities, then a short, entertaining luau might be the perfect fit for you.

2. Luau dinner: Dinner is usually served buffet-style. All luau buffets will offer some traditional Hawaiian foods, such as roasted Kalua pork and poi, mixed with a variety of multi-ethnic foods that reflect Hawaiian regional cuisine, plus some kid friendly options. Larger luaus tend to offer more variety, but smaller luaus tend to rate a bit higher on quality. If you’re a foodie, traveling with picky eaters, or this will be your only opportunity to sample traditional Hawaiian foods then pay close attention to the menus, as these vary greatly from venue to venue.   


 3. Evening show: The evening show tends to be the highlight of the evening, regardless of the venue. Most luau shows are “tour” through the Polynesian islands, with each act depicting an island with a new set of music/rhythms, style of dance, and costumes. This is the most common style of luau show, though some like Mele Luau, will weave all those elements into a cohesive story. And then there are completely non-traditional shows, like Rock-a-hula that incorporate pop-music and tribute artists into the mix. Almost all luau shows end with a fire-knife performance which is thrilling in any setting. However, bigger venues will have more performers, which will make the performance even more dramatic and over the top. That said, at some of the smaller and more intimate luaus, it can be equally thrilling to sit so close to the stage that you can actually feel the heat from the flames – even if they may only have one or two fire-knife dancers. 

By now, you should have a better idea about what you want and don’t want in a luau. Having a realistic idea of what to expect and what to look out for will help you determine what is the best luau on Oahu – for you. 

The tools on this website can help you compare luaus based on past guest reviews. You can compare prices and availability, and you can even see photos and videos of the venues and read detailed descriptions about any luaus that interest you – all right here! And once you’ve chosen your best luau on Oahu you can easily make a reservation right from this website too.       

More on Hawaii Luaus