Hawaiian Luau FAQ

Hawaiian Luau FAQ

You've got questions. We have the answers. Meanwhile, here are some pretty girls.
You’ve got questions. We have the answers. Meanwhile, here are some pretty girls.

Whenever you try something new, you’re bound to have some questions about it. You could spend hours online, searching for answers, but we like you, so we’ve made a list of some of the most frequently-asked questions about Hawaiian luaus. We want  to make the whole process, from choosing the perfect luau to getting there and enjoying the evening, to be as easy as possible.

To help you decide whether a luau is something you’ll enjoy (hint: it totally is!) and ease your worries about any aspects of this traditional island activity, we’ve come up with this list of common questions you may have—and some you may not have even considered!

Of course, no two luaus are alike, so some of these questions won’t apply to all venues.

Where Did the Tradition of the Luau Come From?

Kamehameha II made the modern luau possible. He was also a snappy dresser.
Kamehameha II made the modern luau possible. He was also a snappy dresser.

Luau history can be traced back to the reign of King Kamehameha II. After shattering the ancient religious traditions that forbade men and women from eating together, Kamehameha II introduced a less rigid atmosphere where all could gather and celebrate. These new feasts were the forerunners of the luau as we know it today.





Should I Book My Luau in Advance?

Yes! Booking in advance is the only way to guarantee your spot at the luau of your choice. Luaus have limited seating that books up quickly, especially during the spring and summer months. Also in the autumn and winter. Just book ahead.

When Should I Arrive to my Luau?

A warm welcome awaits your arrival
A warm welcome awaits your arrival.

Many luaus provide transportation that will get you there right on time to begin enjoying the festivities.

If you’re planning on making your own way to the venue, we recommend that you arrive to the entry gate 30 minutes prior to the start of the luau. Most luaus start letting guests in 15 minutes prior.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some luaus, such as Ka Moana, Diamond Head, and the Polynesian Cultural Center, have lots of activities to enjoy well before the luau officially gets underway.


Is There a Dress Code?

Relax, you’re in Hawaii! While we’re not aware of any luaus that have a formal dress code, it’s customary for guests to wear Hawaiian print shirts or dresses. Remember, luaus are family-friendly, so please don’t be that guy who thinks it’s funny to show up in a raunchy t-shirt. Since most luaus are outdoor, often beachside events, flip flops and sandals are fine.

Are Luaus Held Indoors or Outside?

Luaus are almost always outdoor events. Enjoy a feast and great entertainment under the star-filled Hawaiian sky.

Are Luaus Buffets or Sit-Down Dinners?

Luau Buffet
Luau buffet

The food at most luaus is served buffet-style, which tends to be more popular with guests. A few, such as Luau Kalamaku on Kauai, do offer an option for a sit-down dinner.

What About Booze?

You’ve been dying to ask about this since the very first question, right? While most luaus have well-stocked bars, drinks are usually not included in the cost. Some luaus, or at least upgrades, include a drink ticket or two for adult guests.

The Ali’i Luau Buffet—as well as everything else at the Polynesian Cultural Center—is completely alcohol-free.

What Kind of Food is Served at a Luau?

Traditional flavors of the islands are common at luaus. Kalua pig, lomi lomi salmon, poke, poi, roasted vegetables, and fresh fruit are common luau fare. Many ingredients are sourced locally for the freshest flavors.

What is An Imu?

Kalua pig is one of the traditional foods found at every luau
Kalua pig is one of the traditional foods found at virtually every luau.

Traditionally, kalua pig is cooked in an imu, which is an oven dug into the earth. A whole pig, wrapped and covered in ti leaves, is placed on hot stones and left to steam. There’s a whole ceremony when the pig is removed from the imu and carried off to be chopped up and served.






Do Luaus Accommodate Dietary Restrictions?

Generally speaking, luaus have no problems accommodating dietary restrictions and specific diets. Most luaus will have options that fit into a vegetarian and vegan diet, including poi and other vegetable-based dishes. Many traditional luau dishes are naturally gluten-free, but if you’re seriously intolerant it’s a good idea to note that at the time of booking. Just ask the luau if they can accommodate your needs. In most instances, they’ll have had the same request hundreds of times before.

Are Luaus Kid-Friendly?

All luaus are intended to be suitable for children of all ages. So behave.

What Are Some Typical Luau Activities?

Most luaus offer cultural activities for guests of all ages. You can learn some hula and ukulele strumming, make a lei, and even get a (temporary) Polynesian-style tattoo.

Is There Audience Participation?

Pay attention at the hula lesson - you may get to show off your moves!
Pay attention at the hula lesson – you may get to show off your moves!

When it comes to the entertainment, some luaus encourage guests to join in. Participation isn’t mandatory, but it can make the night even more fun. Just don’t have too many mai tais and fall off the stage. People will laugh at you.





Do Luaus Have Upgrade Options?

Most luaus offer a number of upgrade options. VIP upgrades typically get you a fancier lei, some extra drink tickets, first crack at the buffet, and seating closer to the stage for the show.

Can I Get Transportation to a Luau?

Some people prefer to drive themselves, but we highly recommend paying a bit more and taking the transportation offered by the luau. That way, you don’t have to worry if you want another cocktail before, during, or after dinner.

Can I Take Photos During the Luau?

Of course you want pictures of dudes with flaming blades!
Who doesn’t want pictures of dudes twirling flaming blades?

Are you kidding? Of course you want to to capture the memories of your luau, whether it’s your first or your tenth. Bring a camera—and a spare memory card—and take lots of pictures of the expansive buffet, the thrilling entertainment, and the beautiful views (both the performers and the landscapes). Your friends will be so jealous!





Are Luaus Wheelchair Accessible?

Most luaus take place outside, so in most cases they are wheelchair accessible. Be sure to let your booking agent know of any special needs so they can accommodate you.

Will My Luau Be Cancelled if it Rains?

Probably not. In the event of rain, luaus generally move to a covered area. For more severe weather conditions, the luau may need to be cancelled, but such occurrences are rare in the islands.

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