Luaus: More Than Just a Bowl of Poi

A trip to Oahu isn't the same without a taste of kalua pig and some Hawaiian cultural entertainment.

If you’ve never traveled to Oahu before (or perhaps you’ve come for a destination wedding), a luau is among the attractions you’ll want to attend. Luaus can range from formal, sit-down affairs to casual, somewhat kitschy buffets. What they have in common are traditional costumes, entertainment and plenty of dishes and drinks to savor. Most begin seating around 5 p.m. Several Oahu options are available which showcase this classic Hawaiian feast/party/show. Here are a few to consider.

Royal Hawaiian Luau

For those who want to remain in town, the newly renovated and reopened Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort—also known as “The Pink Palace of the Pacific”—has made some recent changes to its 2009 luau line up. The event is now a sit-down meal as opposed to a buffet, and the show (complete with a fireknife dancer) focuses on the history of Waikiki as opposed to all of the islands. Beginning May 11, 2009, the luau—named “Aha ‘Āina, A Royal Celebration”—will be held every Monday night at the Royal Hawaiian’s Ocean Lawn, set against the scenic backdrop of Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach. Reservations should be made at least one month in advance. [Read more about the Royal Hawaiian in Best Oahu Hotels.]

2259 Kalakaua Ave. Tel. 808-921-4600. Tickets: $175 per adult plus tax (includes gratuities), $75 plus tax per child ages 5 to 12, free for children under 5 for each paying adult. Hours: Held every Monday from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Royal Hawaiian guests receive discounted rates.

Germaine’s Luau

Germaine’s Luau is a “backyard-style” luau located on a private beach on Oahu’s west shore. With transportation included from most major hotels in Waikiki, Germaine’s has all the “shells and whistles” one might expect: the ever popular Mai Tai and Blue Hawaii drinks, fireknife dance, Polynesian review, male audience members swiveling their hips as they learn (and attempt) their best Tahitian “Ami” and a Hawaiian buffet. 91-119 Olai St. Tel. 808- Kapolei. Tel. 800-367-5655. Tickets: $72 for adults, $62 for teens 14 to 20, $52 for children 6 to 13, free for children 5 and under; transportation is included in ticket. 

Paradise Cove

A one-hour drive to the leeward coast, Paradise Cove offers a luau on the grounds of the breathtaking Ko’Olina Resort. Offering several luau packages and transportation from Waikiki, Paradise Cove is another great option for those who want to delight in the traditions of Hawaii—from learning the net-fishing techniques (Hukilau on the Beach) to sampling the menu of dishes, both local and beyond, at the buffet. Guests can also compete in games or opt for a more casual stroll through the Hawaiian village.

92-1089 Alii Nui Drive, Kapoleio. Tel. 800-775-2683. Tickets: packages start at $80 for adults, $70 for youth 13 to 18, $60 for children 12 and under. Performance hours: 5 to 9 p.m.

Polynesian Cultural Center

For those who are planning to visit the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) and attend a luau, you can do both in one location on Oahu’s North Shore. The Ali’i Luau offers visitors a rich experience in the traditions of a Hawaiian luau within a unique environment showcasing Polynesian heritage. From the imu ceremony, where an underground pit oven is exposed to showcase the kalua pig, to the royal court and history around this ancient feast, this luau is quite an experience. There are luau and/or admission packages available on the PCC Web site. (Note: PCC is a family attraction, so no alcoholic beverages are permitted or served on the grounds.)

55-370 Kamehameha Highway, Laie. Tel. 800-367-7060 (U.S. mainland), 808-293-3333 (on Oahu). Online ticket pricing for the Ali’i Luau Buffet is $88 for adults (16 and older); $64 for children ages 5 to 15. The luau starts at 5 p.m. The PCC is closed on Sundays. The Ali’i Luau tends to sell out quickly during peak seasons (June through August and December through Januaury), so book in well in advance.

Destinations: Hawaii, Honolulu, Oahu

Themes: Beach Vacations

Activities: Arts and Entertainment