Mark Loproto
Posted on April 23, 2019

What’s the Best Luau Near Me?

What’s the Best Luau Near Me?

by Mark L., April 23, 2019

Hula dancers perform onstage at a luau.
Every luau offers something that makes it “the best”

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, and do I have time for a visit to Pearl Harbor? These are just a few questions that should be considered before setting off on your big trip, but there’s one more we think you should throw in.

The question is: “What’s the best luau near my hotel?”

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?

Multiple plates of food served from food venders at the Diamond Head luau.
You’ll find many new twists on traditional flavors at Diamond Head Luau.

You’ll quickly find that most luaus offer similar foods: poi, poke, lomi lomi salmon, kalua pork, lots of fruits and vegetables, and some version of teriyaki chicken. Mostly served buffet style, with a few luaus offering table service. It’s all delicious, but similar menus and quality, so that’s not particularly helpful when deciding which luau to choose.

That is unless you’re looking for a unique dining experience. If that’s the case, Diamond Head Luau is the only luau that strays from the pack. Instead of a typical luau, dinner is served food festival style. “What is food festival style,” you ask?

Diamond Head Luau brings together an assortment of local restaurants and food vendors, each offering a signature dish. They set up tents on the lawn and guests can try each local dish. It’s a fresh take on traditional Hawaiian foods with locally grown ingredients. Overall, the unique dining concept, fun atmosphere, and elevated flavors set Diamond Head apart from the rest.

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 Polynesian Cultural Center off your list. It is the only dry luau on the islands. Of course, for some people, the lack of alcohol is a plus.

As for the rest, adult admission to any luau usually includes a drink ticket or two, and possibly a welcome Mai tai. However, there is almost always an upgrade fee for premium liquors and fancy tropical drinks served in souvenir glasses or fresh pineapples.

Recommendation: Anywhere but the Polynesian Cultural Center

Are There Activities for Kids?

Kids love the crafting activities offered at just about every luau
A family learns a traditional Polynesian game at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

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 a bit 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 maybe they’ll even learn how to throw a spear!

Recommendation: Chief’s Luau at Wet ‘n’ Wild

What’s Near 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 in Waikiki. Both luaus are within walking distance of the major hotels. They are very different, and each has its unique charms.

Recommendation:  Rock-A-Hula or Diamond Head Luau

Who Has the Best Extras?

A "class" gathers for a cultural demonstration at the Polynesian Cultural Center.
Each island village of the Polynesian Cultural Center  offers a different demonstration or activity

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 with the VIP packages, but the Polynesian Cultural Center Luau includes access to the Island Villages which introduces you to the unique cultures of the Polynesian Triangle.

Each Island village has exhibits, demonstration, and cultural activities. There is a lot to see and do at the PCC. Fortunately, luau admission includes a three-day pass, so you don’t have to fit it all in one day. 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. You’ll find a thrilling fire-knife performance and Polynesian dancing at every luau, and the performances are fantastic at every luau. If you are looking for a traditional ‘journey through Polynesia’ type of show, you really can’t go wrong with whichever one you choose.

However, there is one that stands out as having a very different kind of show: Rock-A-Hula. Rock-A-Hula combines the customary hula and fire knife dances with rock and roll performances featuring Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson tribute artists. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience.

Recommendation: Rock-A-Hula

The Bottom Line

Every luau offers something distinctive that makes it “the best” for someone. Don’t take Google’s word for it. Hopefully, this list will help you decide what’s most important to you so you can choose your own personal “best.”

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