I think for most people on their first trip to Hawaii, a luau (a type of Hawaiian feast) is usually a must do. Although they’re generally quite expensive ($90 USD and up), I was lucky to snag a deal. Our hotel package included a 2 for 1 offer that if we purchased one luau ticket, the second one was free. We had the choice of three luaus to choose from, Drums of the Pacific at the Hyatt Regency, the Kaanapali Sunset Maui Luau at the Sheraton, and the Te Au Moana Luau at the Wailea Beach Marriott. We opted for the one at the Hyatt, which cost $100.
A note about luaus-most offer various seating options, all at different price levels (there is pricing for adults, 21 and older; teens, 13-20; children, 6-12; and infants, 5 and under). Preferred seating is at center tables, second row from the stage. There is also VIP seating, although the Hyatt Regency website says that this option can only be booked through the Hyatt Activities desk, which leads me to believe that it’s just for Hyatt guests. In all honesty, I wouldn’t pay extra for “preferred” seating since I feel the luau is already expensive enough. Check-in starts at 4:00 PM (seating at 5:00 PM), so depending on when you want to start queueing up, you might get a seat closer to the stage. D and I got there about 4:45 PM and already the line for general admission was quite long. Upon being admitted you are given a shell lei and a mai tai (fruit juice is the non-alcoholic beverage). Although the setting of the luau is quite beautiful (right against the beach), tables and chairs were the cheap plastic kind. I was a little surprised that there weren’t nicer furnishings.
Once everyone was seated, the luau began with a torch lighting ceremony and then came the part that gets everyone excited about at a luau, the imu ceremony, which is the unveiling of the main dish, Kalua pua’a (pig). Although we were seated towards the back, we were in the center aisle, which is the one the unearthers walked by when carting the Kalua pua’a out.
Groups from table sections go up one at a time to the buffet area (there is a person directing this). Although the food selections were quite extensive, I was overall disappointed, mainly by both the quality and the lukewarm temperatures of the food. I know it’s hard for buffet foods to retain their heat level, but as someone who likes her food piping hot, it was a bit of a qualm for me. Food selections included Huli-Huli chicken (Hawaiian barbecued style), stir fried vegetables, mahi-mahi accompanied with pineapple salsa, green salad, Maui onions, noodles, Polynesian rice (which featured diced chicken and vegetables), fresh fruit (papaya, watermelon and pineapple), rolls, and of course the Kalua pork. Alcohol is unlimited and special cocktails in addition to mai tais were Blue Hawaiis and Sun Burns. Beer, wine, and other mixed drinks were also available. Dessert was better and included pineapple upside down cake, coconut pudding, bread pudding, and chocolate macadamia nut pie (my favorite was the coconut pudding). Coffee and tea were also served; however, we found it odd that Seattle’s Best Coffee was served rather than something grown on the islands.
The luau definitely improved with the evening’s entertainment. The show featured traditional style dancing including a segment where guests could come on stage and learn how to do the hula dance. Another feature was an island fashion show that showcased exotic pareaus (sarongs) being worn in various styles. Other dances and music from the Polynesian islands were also performed. My and D’s favorite part though was the fire knife dancer. He was absolutely incredible and I will never forget his mind boggling performance.
Although it did start to rain lightly towards the end of the evening, ponchos are provided for all of the guests and both D and I donned one so we didn’t have to miss any of the entertainment.
In addition to the disappointing food, my other negative criticism was that even though the brochures and other tourist literature listed the luau as lasting from 5-8 PM, it ended at 7:15. I have no idea if this was due to the rain, but if the luau was indeed cut short, I felt a bit ripped off over this.
Is a luau worth attending? In short, if you’ve never been to Hawaii before, yes. But I would definitely do your research, find out which one is the most recommended, and go with an open mind that it’s an incredibly touristy thing and not really authentic.
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