The Best Luau in Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach Resorts

The Best Luau in Waikiki Beach

by Suzanne G., April 18, 2023

If you’ve got a tight schedule or a tight budget, a luau in Waikiki is a must.

Looking for a luau near your hotel in Waikiki Beach? While there’s no shortage of luau options on Oahu, there’s only a handful of venues located in Waikiki Beach. Although many venues outside Waikiki offer roundtrip transportation, this can greatly increase the luau’s total cost and turn an evening event into an all-day or all-afternoon affair.

Unfortunately, staying close to “home” comes with a trade-off: bigger venues that can feel a bit touristy. For intimate, culturally centric, family-style luaus you will need to travel outside of Waikiki and should expect to pay more for the experience. However, if you’re willing to sacrifice a little in this department, you can save yourself some time and money and still get to experience a Hawaiian luau while you are here.

If staying in Waikiki Beach is important to you, here are a few great options:

Best Traditional Luau in Waikiki Beach: Diamond Head Luau

The Diamond Head Luau is located at the Waikiki Aquarium, which is within walking distance from most of the resorts in Waikiki Beach. The luau is held outdoors on the lawn behind the aquarium, a large grassy area that overlooks Waikiki Bay. It’s a great spot to watch the sunset and enjoy an evening under the stars, and Diamond Head Crater at your back.

Aerial view of the Diamond Head Luau on the Waikiki Aquarium grounds.
Diamond Head Luau is a small venue with fantastic oceanfront view.

This luau has all the bells and whistles of a traditional luau: guests are welcomed with live Hawaiian music, a fresh flower lei, and a Mai Tai. Then, the evening unfolds in three parts: pre-dinner cultural activities, buffet-style luau dinner, and an after-dinner Polynesian show.

The cultural activities include a group hula lesson, an introduction to traditional Hawaiian musical instruments, a weaving lesson, as well as temporary Polynesian tattoos for the kids.

The buffet offers traditional Hawaiian foods, local favorites, and kid-friendly options. On Fridays, Diamond Head forgoes the buffet for a “food festival” where local restaurants set up booths on the lawn and guests can sample their signature dishes.

The evening show features a lineup of talented performers and dancers representing the various Polynesian islands, but the star of the show is the finale: the fire-knife dancing performance.

Diamond Head Luau’s Polynesian show consistently receives rave reviews from past guests and the walkable location and pretty waterfront setting can’t be beat.

Pros: Small, intimate venue, convenient location, picturesque outdoor setting, spectacular performances

Cons: A little pricier than some other luaus, no imu or imu ceremony

Bottom line: Great option if you want the traditional luau experience without having to travel too far.    


Best Non-Traditional Luau in Waikiki Beach: Rock-a-Hula

If you’re looking for a luau near your Waikiki hotel and having an educational experience is not a top priority, then Rock-a-hula might be the best option for you. An evening at Rock-a-hula combines an upscale luau-themed buffet with a spectacular Las Vegas-style stage production. It’s the largest and most popular show on Oahu and unlike anything else on the island.

An Elvis Pressley tribute artist performs at the Rock A Hula show surrounded by hula dancers
Rock-a-Hula is campy and fun, it’s definitely not your average luau.

Conveniently located in the Royal Hawaiian Center, Rock-a-hula is easily within walking distance of most resorts in Waikiki Beach. The event also doesn’t start until 5:30 pm, which makes it easy to coordinate with daytime activities.  

Additionally, the Hawaiian luau buffet is held outdoors, under a large tiki-like structure on the terrace. This makes it one of the few rainproof (and least likely to be canceled) luaus on Oahu. There’s also live Hawaiian music, hula dancers, and one of the best-rated luau buffets in the area. The menu features a variety of traditional Hawaiian foods, and roasted sucking pig and roast beef carving stations. There’s even a make-your-own-sundaestation as well as a dessert bar.

After dinner, guests move inside the Royal Hawaiian Theatre for the lively Rock-a-hula show. Starring two exceptional tribute artists paying homage to Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. The show also features many talented local performers and musicians. You’ll enjoy Hawaiian music, and Polynesian dancing, including a thrilling fire-knife performance at the end.  Rock-a-hula is a truly unique and eclectic extravaganza. It’s easy to see why it has become the biggest and most popular show in Hawaii.         

Is it a bit touristy? Sure, but will you still have a great night and feel like your time/money was well spent? Yes, especially if you love live music and just want an easy, fun night out without having to leave Waikiki.  

Pros: Convenient location and schedule, rainproof, low-price, high-quality buffet, fun vibe, and Las Vegas-caliber entertainment.  

Cons: Lacking in cultural activities, touristy.

Bottom line: Cheesy, but easy; overall most bang for your buck.   

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