Hawaiian Luaus: 10 Reasons Why You Should Go

Tropical Hawaiian beach lit with a colorful pink sky and sunset.

by Suzanne G., March 20, 2024

You may have heard that Hawaiian luaus are touristy, expensive, and even a little cheesy. And yes, in some cases that is true. But we still recommend going to a Hawaiian luau to all visitors, and here are ten good reasons why.

1. It is a great introduction to Hawaiian culture.

No matter what luau you choose, it will teach something you about Hawaiian history, language, music, dance, foods, and what the ancient Hawaiians believed and how they lived. Just how thorough the education is can vary greatly though, so be sure to pick a luau that is a good fit for you. (And if you’re looking for a luau that strongly emphasizes cultural education we recommend Mauka Warriors, Toa Luau, or Nutridge Luau).

Fire knife dancer leaps into the air at Mauka Warriors Luau, one of the best luaus on Oahu.
Don’t miss the fire-knife performance at Mauka Warriors Luau!

2. It’s the only place to see fire-knife dancers.

Fire-knife dancing might not even be on your radar, but it should be. This is what people remember the most about luaus. Seeing fire-knife dancers perform in person is like nothing else, especially if you are in a small venue or lucky enough to sit close to the stage. And unless you attend a fire-knife competition or visit the Polynesian Cultural Center on the North Shore, luaus are the only place you’re likely to see them perform.

3. It is the best place to see Polynesian dancing.

You’ll find that hula dancing is everywhere in Waikiki, from cultural demonstrations held in the parks to free shows at the malls, and many hotels, bars, and restaurants hire hula dancers and Hawaiian musicians to entertain their guests. But this is not the same experience you find at a luau. Luau shows are polished and professional productions that will take you on a journey through Polynesia. They feature the dances, costumes, instruments, rhythms, and stories from many Polynesian nations, including Hawaii.

Hawaiian hula is a beautiful and intricate art form that deserves a proper stage. Viewing it in the right setting can only enhance your experience and help you appreciate the skill and years of training that it requires.

4. You’ll get to sample traditional Hawaiian food.

Luau buffets are filled with delicious Hawaiian foods like roasted Kalua pork, poi, lomi lomi salmon, and haupia. But we all know new foods aren’t for everyone. If you (or someone you’re traveling with) are not an adventurous eater, but you still want to try Hawaiian food, then luaus are the way to go. Luau buffets are always a mix of Hawaiian foods and standard buffet foods like BBQ chicken, rice, potatoes, salad, and sometimes even chicken nuggets for the kids. At luaus, you can try as much or as little as you’d like, without committing to a sit-down meal that you (or someone else) might not enjoy. (And if you would enjoy a sit-down meal at a Hawaiian restaurant, we recommend the Highway Inn or Helena’s).  

5. It is a fun, relaxing, and enjoyable experience.

What could be more fun than watching the sunset over the Pacific Ocean with a Mai Tai in your hand, a lei around your neck, and the breeze in your hair? This is why you came to Hawaii, right? Of course, it is. Be sure to take some good selfies so you can remember this moment when you’re back in the “real world”.

Nutridge Luau guests sit on a hill and enjoy the view as they wait for dinner.
Nutridge Luau guests enjoy the view as they wait for dinner.

6. It’s an easy, can’t-miss way to spend an evening.

Luaus are incredibly convenient. It’s your happy hour, dinner, and entertainment all rolled into one. You don’t have to make a thousand decisions, drive all over town, read a bunch of reviews online, or even read a menu. And if don’t want to drive they can take care of that for you too! 

7. It’s a great way to see another side of the island.

A luau on another part of the island gives you a reason to see and explore a new area. Some drives, like the one to Aloha Kai Luau, are breathtaking. Even a twenty-minute drive out of Waikiki feels like a whole new world. And if you use the luau’s shuttle service these scenic drives are often narrated too. 

Royal luau in 1889 with King Kalakaua, Princess Liliuokalani, and Robert Louis Stevenson
A Royal luau in 1889 was held by King Kalakaua & Princess Liliuokalani, for Robert Louis Stevenson.

8. You’ll follow in the footsteps of a century of Hawaiian visitors.

Starting with the Hawaiian monarchy, which welcomed heads-of-state and celebrities royal luaus, and continuing with visitors who arrived by the first commercial flights in the 1950s, luaus and tourists have been going strong for a long, long time. Yes, commercial luaus are a bit touristy, but they are also something of a rite of passage. You wouldn’t go to Venice and not ride the gondolas at least once, would you? 

9. You’ll meet fellow travelers.

Even if you’re not the most outgoing person, luaus are designed to help you make friends. Between the free Mai Tais, buffet lines, communal seating, and the joyful atmosphere everyone becomes more of a social butterfly as the night unfolds. Whether you’re traveling solo or in a party of ten, you’re bound to make a few new acquaintances and have a few good laughs at a Hawaiian luau.

10. Gather to celebrate Hawaiian culture.

The ancient Hawaiians gathered to celebrate life’s milestones, from important battles to birthdays. Luaus strengthened community ties and familial bonds, and stories and traditions were passed from one generation to the next. Hawaiians keep this tradition alive today. Even the commercial luaus of today still have a little of that same unifying spirit. We are social animals after all. Parties, feasts, concerts, etc., all large gatherings are the social glue that binds families, communities, and societies together. The point is: the world needs more luaus, and you probably do too.

If you’re ready to book your Hawaiian Luau click here!

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