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Should You Go to a Luau in Hawaii?

Fireknife solo at Luau Kalamaku (Lihue, Kauai)
When planning a trip to Hawaii, the first thing you get to is probably the big stuff – which island to visit, when to go, where to stay. And then inevitably, comes the age old question… What to do?

You’ll have tons of choices for activities to fill your days and nights, and one that seems to come up on just about everyone’s list is to attend a luau. But is it for everyone? You decide. Here are a few reasons why you should (or shouldn’t) visit a luau in the islands.

First of all, what are your expectations?

If you’re looking for a true experience of Hawaiian culture, most luaus will give you a taste, but the authenticity is often up for grabs. A luau is designed to provide a Hawaiian-style feast, entertainment, culture, a couple of mai tais, and probably a few photo ops with cast members. With so much packed into such a limited time period, the focus often skews towards entertainment value and it’s quite possible that you may not truly feel like you’ve experienced a Hawaiian luau in the traditional sense.

>> An alternative could be to look for classes and workshops on parts of Hawaiian culture that you are interested in – hula, crafts, cooking, or language.

If you’re looking for a taste of Hawaiian cuisine, you will likely sample traditional Hawaiian foods at the luau, but keep in mind that they may be tailored to suit the tastes of a wider audience. It may not necessarily be the type of food that ancient (or modern day) Hawaiians eat. While luau food has come a long way, in general if you are only going for the food, you may be better off sampling it where the locals eat.

>> An alternative could be to seek out a place where locals go for Hawaiian food, like Ono Hawaiian Foods in Kapahulu. (And if you’re a real foodie, keep in mind, you may want to save your money for a fine dining experience at one of the islands restaurants specializing in Hawaii Regional Cuisine.)

If you’re looking for entertainment, this is one area where you will likely get the most value out of a luau. It’s difficult to be disappointed when you’ve got lovely hula dancers swaying their hips, fire knife dancers, and other luau cast members to entertain you. Often, the stories told will be legends of old Hawaii, and audience participation features heavily in the evening as well.

Bottom line:

If you’re looking for all of the above, a luau is a great choice for a way to get a taste of traditional Hawaiian food, culture, and to be thoroughly entertained – all at the same time. If you don’t mind a little kitsch and a lot of matching aloha shirts, even better. So grab a mai tai and your stretchy pants and prepare to enjoy!

>> Decided that luaus are just your style? Check out more information on Luaus in Hawaii , including lists by island.
>> Not for you? Check out our list of Things to Do in Hawaii for many, many other options.