What’s the Best Luau for Me?
Planning a trip to the Hawaiian Islands seems like an endless string of decisions to be made. What airline do I use, which hotel is best for kids, what adventures should I go on, do I have time for a visit to Pearl Harbor? These are just some of the questions that should be considered before setting off on your big trip, but there’s one more we think you should throw in: “which luau is best for me?”
If you’ve never been to a luau, the question can be a tricky one to answer. How are you supposed to know if you don’t know what you’re basing the decision on? That’s where we come in! Booking the activities for your Hawaiian vacation shouldn’t be stressful, so we’ve broken down what you need to consider when you’re choosing your luau. At the end of each section, we’ll give our recommendation, which may help you narrow down your choices.
What’s on the Menu?
You’ll quickly find that most luaus offer similar foods, typically including poi, poke, lomi lomi salmon, kalua pork, lots of fruits and vegetables, and likely some version of teriyaki chicken. It’s all delicious, but not particularly helpful when deciding which luau to choose.
That is, unless you’re into “farm-to-table” dining. For that, Diamond Head Luau stands out as being the island’s only farm-to-table luau. What is “farm-to-table,” you ask? Everything on the menu at Diamond Head Luau is freshly grown locally and delivered straight to the luau. Nothing is shipped in, so everything is as fresh as can be. Using only fresh, local ingredients really elevates the flavor, which jumps Diamond Head Luau ahead of the others.
Recommendation: Diamond Head Luau
What About Booze?
Even if you’re not a big drinker, the tropical setting and social nature of the luau may have you wanting a refreshing grown-up beverage. If this is important to you, you can scratch the Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center off your list. It is the only dry luau in the islands. Of course, for some people, the lack of alcohol is a plus.
Generally, adult luau admission includes a drink ticket or two. Anything after that is pay-as-you-go.
Are There Activities for Kids?
If you’re bringing kids, you want them to be entertained and feel like a part of the festivities. Feeding them unfamiliar food only goes so far. Luckily, virtually all luaus offer family-friendly activities that the keiki (kids) will love to participate in.
Most luaus feature hula lessons and lei-making, but Chief’s takes it further. Here, the little darlings can learn how to weave headbands from palm fronds, get a Polynesian-inspired (temporary) tattoo, learn how to make fire (responsibly), and even be shown how to throw a spear!
Recommendation: Chief’s Luau at Wet ‘n’ Wild
Convenient to My Hotel?
Most luaus are some distance from the main tourist area of Waikiki, and generally they offer an optional transportation add-on. Since most luaus offer plenty of tropical cocktail options (see above), we highly recommend leaving the driving to the experts.
Two exceptions are Rock-a-Hula and the Diamond Head Luau, both of which are conveniently located within walking distance of the major hotels. Each has its own unique charms.
Recommendation: (tie) Rock-A-Hula and Diamond Head Luau
Who Has the Best Extras?
When you sign up for a luau, you can expect entertainment, tasty food, and a great atmosphere. Some luaus offer something extra, throwing in access to activities to enjoy before the festivities begin.
For example, Diamond Head Luau comes with admission to the Waikiki Aquarium, Ka Moana offers entry to Sea Life Park, and the Polynesian Cultural Center Luau includes access to the Island Villages which introduces you to the unique cultures of the Polynesian Triangle. Adults and children alike enjoy learning about different elements of Polynesian culture, some of which find their way into luau traditions.
Recommendation: Polynesian Cultural Center Luau
What Kind of Entertainment Do I Want?
All luaus culminate in a performance that captures the spirit of Hawaii through stories, song, and dance. Fire-knife and hula dancing are staples of most luaus, but there is one that stands out as having a different kind of show: Rock-A-Hula.
Rock-A-Hula adds to the customary hula and fire knife dances with rock and roll performances featuring Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson tribute artists.
Every luau offers something distinctive that makes it “the best” for someone. Hopefully, this list will help you decide what’s most important to you so you can choose your own personal “best.”