Luaus on Kauai have come a long way since
the days of watery mai tais and tasteless dishes. Now sophisticated
productions, luaus compete for visitors while each claims to be the
islands best. Luaus typically feature buffets that include staples
such as lomi lomi salmon, teriyaki beef, kalua pork, haupia
(coconut pudding) and the obligatory sampling of pasty, purple poi.
Some luaus have more upscale menus.
Yet, the more
things change, the more they stay the same -- and rightly so. At
most luaus on Kauai, the kalua pig is still steamed in the
underground imu pit where it cooks all day, as tradition dictates,
and is removed with great fanfare and ceremony.
Heres a look at
Kauais seven luaus, in alphabetical order according to
Halau Na Punua O Kauai continues the Punua familys 40-year
tradition of Kauai luau performances with Kauais Best Luau at the
Aloha Beach Resort, in Kapaa at Wailua Bay. Also known as Rohotu
Tahitian Dance Co., the Punua family troupe has won many awards
throughout Hawaii as well as in Tahiti.
Dining at the
luau, which debuted in August 2004, consists of the expected buffet
with typical luau fare and open bar. The show includes lively
Tahitian drumming, Hawaiian chanting, pahu drum dances and a Samoan
fire dancer along with more traditional Polynesian
The luau is held
outdoors at the Aloha each Tuesday. Seating starts at 5:15 p.m. and
the show ends at about 8 p.m. Tickets cost $65 for adults, $62 for
seniors, $40 for guests ages 13 to 19, $30 for children ages 6 to
12 and free for kids under 5. Premier seating next to the stage
costs $5 extra per person. For more information, visit www.luau-hawaii.com/best or call (877)
Kauai at Waipouli Beach
This luau at
Marriotts Courtyard Kauai at Waipouli Beach, the former Kauai
Coconut Beach Resort, features slick choreography; new costumes,
from traditional Hawaiian to modern-day hula attire; conch-shell
blowers; chanters; and a fire knife dance. Entitled Hiva Pasefica
-- Dances of the Pacific, the show traces early Polynesian
explorers journeys from Tahiti to Hawaii.
Diners watch the
pig unearthed from the imu, after which restaurant staff shred the
meat in plain view. The meal consists of a buffet with traditional
fare. Vegetarian meals are available with advance notice. Theres
also an open bar.
Kauais luau is held daily, except Mondays. Tickets are $65 for
adults, $59 for seniors, $42 for teens, $32 for children ages 3 to
12 and free for children under 3. Premier, cushioned seats near the
stage cost $10 extra.
Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa
beautiful, oceanfront setting, the Grand Hyatts Drums of Paradise
luau is a cut above some other shows. It attracts big crowds, which
means that getting the best seats may require getting in line up to
one hour before the doors open. Another drawback: On rainy days,
the show is moved indoors to a nondescript banquet room rather than
being canceled, and the ambience suffers.
On the plus side,
the luau entertainment is imaginative, tracing a mans journey
across Polynesia, which begins as a search for his one true love
and evolves into an education about himself and different
Kaleo Club International and led by Doric Yaris (born and raised on
Kauai), the show is one of the islands largest, featuring 25
dancers and musicians.
welcomed with a shell lei greeting, and Hawaiian craft vendors sell
their wares in a market adjacent to the luau.
mostly of traditional luau fare but is prepared and presented with
flair and panache. Drums of Paradise is held on Sundays and
Thursdays. In the summer, a Tuesday luau is offered, as well.
Prices are $75 for adults, $65 for guests ages 13 to 21, $37.50 for
children ages 6 to 12 and free for kids 5 and under. For more
information or reservations, visit www.drumsofparadise.com or call (808)
Kilohana at Gaylords
Reflections of Paradise, takes place in and behind the carriage
house of a 70-year-old sugarcane plantation estate. Before dinner,
guests stroll the half-acre lawn behind the carriage house while
sipping alcoholic or nonalcoholic punch, watching demonstrations of
-- or trying their hand at -- Tahitian drumming, ipu (hollowed-out
gourd) chanting, hat- and basket-weaving and poi ball
Estate tours in
Clydesdale-pulled wagons include brief history lessons about the
years when sugar was king in the Islands. The buffet is top-notch
cuisine that includes local delights not usually found at other
luaus, such as Hawaiian sweetbread, chicken long rice and kalua
pork with cabbage.
250, this luau, held Tuesdays and Thursdays, has a more intimate
feel than some. Tickets are $65 for adults, $61 for seniors and
guests ages 13 to 18 and $35 for children ages 4 to 12. Kids age 3
and under are admitted free. Visit www.luaukilohana.com or call (808)
stunning sunsets over Hanalei Bay and the Bali Hai mountains,
Princeville Resorts Paina O Hanalei luau offers Kauais most
sensational luau setting. Held outdoors under a roomy tent adjacent
to the swimming pool and seating about 250, this is also one of the
more intimate luaus.
the gourmet buffet, guests are treated to the contemporary Hawaiian
music of the Papaa Bay Boys, a popular island band. After-dinner
entertainment is headlined by Mi Nei Oliver, who has won more than
22 awards in Tahitian dance, and includes a review of all
The luau is held
Mondays and Thursdays. Tickets are $75 for adults, $70 for seniors
and teens, $40 for children ages 5 to 12 and free for kids under 4.
For more, call (800) 826-4400 or go to www.princevillehotelhawaii.com.
lovely oceanfront location, guests of the Sheraton Kauais Surf to
Sunset luau, which debuted last June, are treated to wonderful
sunsets before the entertainment begins.
Hosted by the
loquacious Dickie Chang, a local TV personality, the show features
hula by Kapu Kinimaka-Alquiza and her dancers, as they enact how
Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, came down from her mountain.
They also illustrate the evolution of hula, from its ancient
origins to modifications later enacted by Christian
The luau buffet
is mostly traditional and includes a delicious mango barbecue
chicken, but the kalua pig is prepared in the kitchen rather than
in an imu pit.
Surf to Sunset is
held Mondays and Fridays. Tickets for the buffet and show are
priced at $68 for adults, $34 for children 6 to 12 and free for
kids under 6. Golden Circle seating fronting the stage, with waiter
service for dinner, is also available at $80 for adults and $40 for
children. For more, call (808) 742-1661 or visit www.sheraton-kauai.com.
grounds of this 30-acre, family-owned garden before its aptly named
Garden Luau begins is a sublime experience. Guests view lagoons,
trees and shrubs while peacocks and peahens strut about.
Buffet fare and
cocktail service are traditional. Entertainment follows dinner, in
an amphitheater featuring a floating stage in the middle of a
lagoon with a volcano backdrop. One of the grandest shows on the
island, with 25 entertainers, the performance highlights not only
the dances of Hawaii and Polynesia but those of local ethnic groups
such as the Chinese, Japanese and Filipinos.
As many as 15
members of the local Smith clan work each evening, doing everything
from pulling the pig from the imu to performing.
The Garden Luau
is held Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, priced at $65 for adults,
$30 for kids ages 7 to 13 and $19 for children ages 3 to 6.
Show-only tickets are also available at $15 for adults and $7.50
for kids 3 to 12. For more, call (808) 821-6895 or visit www.smithskauai.com/luau.html.
the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].