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The Best Luau in Ko Olina: 4 Great Evening Experiences

Are you looking for the best luau in Ko Olina? This article (from a local!) covers all of the greatest luau options in town!

cast of luau dressed in traditional Polynesian dress, complete with grass skirts and headwear. When looking for a great luau in Ko Olina, Hawaii, you've got a lot of options.

I grew up going to Ko Olina many times a week, sometimes even multiple times a day. And even though it’s been a couple of decades, I’ll still hear the pounding of the ‘ipu (traditional Hawaiian gourd drums) nearby nearly every evening I visit. That’s one of the many Ko Olina luau taking place.

Along with Hawaiian food, Hawaiian festivals, and Hawaiian historic sites, luau are one of the most accessible ways to get a taste of Native Hawaiian culture. Between the food, the entertainment, the traditions, and even the sporadic use of the Hawaiian language, there’s a lot going on at this Hawaiian feast.

While there are great luau all over Oahu, the West Side tourist hub of Ko Olina has quite a few to choose from. As a matter of fact, I’d go so far as to say that experiencing a luau is one of the best things to do in Ko Olina! The hardest part may be just picking which luau in Ko Olina is best for you, so we’ve listed out all of the best options – alongside pros and cons lists – to help you decide.

three women in modern hula wear, comprised of a white top, blue leaf-patterned skirt, shell lei, and a flower haku (crown). One of the highlights of Ko Olina luau are the hula dancers, who put on a beautiful demonstration of Hawaiian culture.

What Is a Luau?

A luau (traditionally written lūʻau; “luau” is both singular and plural) is an ancient Hawaiian feast of sorts. It got its start in ancient Hawaii when King Kamehameha II abolished the rule that segregated men and women during meals. To celebrate, he hosted the first-ever luau – with everyone welcome.

Today, luau are known for their traditional Hawaiian food spreads with a big ol’ kalua pig as the star of the show (though, I’ll be honest, the whole pig is pretty rare to find nowadays). They also have entertainment, including hula dancing and fire dancing, and each luau tends to put their own spin on things.

The Best Luau in Ko Olina

For such a small area, you really have a good number of luau to pick from in Ko Olina.

A fire dancer eating part of the flame. Most (if not all) Ko Olina luau have a fire dancer as part of the entertainment.

1. Paradise Cove Luau

Set on a hidden, private lagoon, the Paradise Cove Luau is a local institution. It’s been around for quite literally as long as I can remember. And it’s been voted as the best luau on Oahu year after year.

Other than its reputation, the main thing that sets the Paradise Cove Luau apart from the crowd is its use of a traditional Hawaiian underground oven, also known as an ‘imu. Part of the feast includes watching the performers unearth the kalua pig from the ‘imu. While this is a traditional aspect of luau, it’s rarely incorporated into modern-day feasts, especially those catered to visitors.

But the food, of course, doesn’t just stop with the kalua pig. You’ll also get to enjoy a mix of traditional and local foods, like lomi lomi salmon, taro rolls, and beer-battered island fish. And as you eat away, a show of hula dancing, fire dancing, and a gorgeous sunset will be sure to keep you entertained.

Paradise Cove Luau is set on a hidden little lagoon -- one that's particularly great for snorkeling during the day!

Is the Paradise Cove Luau Closing?

As of 2024, the future of Paradise Cove Luau is uncertain. The company had a lease with the owners of Ko Olina (Jeff Stone of The Resort Group, I believe) that lasted until the end of 2023. Now, there are talks that the area will be redeveloped into “an authentic Hawaiian community gathering place” called the Cove at Ko Olina. While it’s unclear what that actually means, most locals are taking it as “another shopping area” and aren’t happy with the change. It’s a cultural institution that’s been around for decades, after all.

It seems that the Paradise Cove Luau continues to be open only because of permitting issues and delays. (Those usually take a long while in Hawaii.) While I wouldn’t recommend waiting until the day of to buy your luau tickets, I wouldn’t buy them many months in advance either. We’ll just have to see what comes of this beloved luau.

New Update (June 28, 2024): In late June 2024, the Paradise Cove Luau laid off many veteran performers and workers with no real notice or explanation. Locals are understandably upset, while visitors are now likely to get a less polished luau experience.

Pros
• Local institution
• On a little hidden lagoon
• More culturally authentic than many other luau on Oahu
• Has ‘imu ceremony (when the whole cooked pig is unearthed from the ground)
• Round trip transportation from some Waikiki hotels
• Open daily

Cons
• May be closing
• Has recently laid-off many veteran performers and workers. Not only is this not a great look, business-wise, but the luau experience likely isn’t as great as before
• Very large scale (easily several hundred guests)

The Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, puts on one of the best luau in Ko Olina, complete with interactive pre-show activities, delicious food, brief Disney character appearances, and a Broadway-esque show.

2. Ka Wa‘a Luau at the Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

If you’ve got kids in your group, Disney’s Ka Wa‘a Luau is likely the best pick for you (and don’t worry – it’s absolutely incredible for adults too). I mean, just to start, it’s already at the stunning, kid-friendly Disney Aulani hotel, with a lei greeting and all.

The Ka Wa‘a Luau is particularly great at keeping everyone entertained. Depending on the type of ticket you get, you may have a full hour before any major luau festivities begin, but you won’t have to worry about your kiddos getting bored or restless. This luau has an array of interactive and traditional pre-show activities, like kapa printing, temporary kakau tattoos, and taro pounding (all of which are a blast, if I do say so myself). Plus, a few Disney characters, like Moana, Mickey, and Minnie, may make an appearance. You may even end up wanting more time before the luau.

a little girl dressed like Moana at the beach, complete with a giant conch and paddle. If your little ones want to dress up as Moana (or another Disney character) for the Ka Waa Luau in Ko Olina, they sure can!

Of course, the kid-friendliness extends to the food as well. Children get a nice, personalized bento box filled with island-esque, Disney-inspired bites, like a starter fruit cup with a Mickey-shaped marshmallow and chicken tenders with pineapple BBQ sauce. Adults will have to brave the crowds a bit, as they’ll get a buffet-style dinner with island-inspired dishes like fresh fish with yuzu macadamia nut sauce and alaea salt-crusted prime rib.

On top of all that, I’d venture to say that the Ka Wa‘a Luau may actually have the best entertainment of all of the Ko Olina luau. The show is almost Broadway-esque in nature, with storytellers, hula dancers, fire dancers, and actors weaving together a Hawaiian legend about the West Side of Oahu. It’s Disney entertainment magic at its finest.

Pros
• Particularly kid-friendly
• Oceanfront location
• Combo of traditional Hawaiian dishes, local classic, and Disney twists
• Alcohol is included in the ticket price
• Lots of traditional activities that are both engaging and educational
• Broadway-esque-style performances that tell an engaging story from the islands
• Brief Disney character appearances
• Smaller scale

Cons
• Not the most authentic luau around (but it’s still a wonderful experience with lots of Hawaiian culture interspersed throughout!)

flaming tiki torches and palm trees are two of the most iconic visuals associated with Hawaii luau

3. Marriott’s Fia Fia Luau

The Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club puts on a the Fia Fia luau, which doesn’t just focus on Hawaii. It covers quite a few Polynesian Island cultures, including Fiji, Tahiti, and Aotearoa (New Zealand). Like the other Ko Olina luau, Marriott’s Fia Fia luau has a mix of traditional Hawaiian and local bites. There’s also a dedicated children’s buffet with a bunch of kid-friendly classics like mac and cheese and PB and J.

That said, it’s the charismatic MC – who used to be the tree climber, though I think he retired from that particular gig – who’s the star of the show. He keeps the energy up, the jokes flowing, and the show going.

Pros
• The MC. He’s the star of the show.
• The tree climber is pretty dang cool too.
• Oceanfront location
• Covers multiple Polynesian Island cultures
• Smaller scale
• This is just a rumor, but I’ve heard that many members of the Fia Fia cast were once part of the famed [and pricey] Polynesian Cultural Center luau on the North Shore.

Cons
• Only available on Tuesdays
• The location and set-up of Marriott’s Fia Fia luau is a little odd, in that anyone walking by can see the luau entertainment. (I’ve stopped and watched a large portion of the luau many times.) Since people can watch the performances for free, it can feel like you’re paying a large amount of money for the food and a seat.

trio of luau performers in front of the ocean. The men are wearing ti leaf haku, and the woman has a large yellow hibiscus in her ear.

4. BONUS: Germaine’s Luau

With the potential closure of the Paradise Cove Luau, it’s important to me to have a local luau choice (read: not hotel-run) for Ko Olina visitors. And while Germaine’s Luau isn’t in Ko Olina, it’s pretty darn close.

Opened in 1976, Germaine’s Luau has been showcasing Hawaiian culture for decades. It’s just ten minutes away from Ko Olina in the under-the-radar area of Kalaeloa (or Barbers Point), and it has all the luau fixings. Enjoy traditional Hawaiian foods, such as kalua pig, poi, and lomi lomi salmon, alongside some local favorites, including chicken long rice, macaroni salad, and teriyaki beef.

On top of all that, the entertainment is top-notch. In addition to the hula dancers and fire dancers, it’s well-known that the singers and chanters at Germaine’s Luau can’t be beat.

Pros
• Oceanfront location
• Offers traditional Hawaiian and local food options
• Entertainment is top-notch (especially the singers)
• Open five days a week

Cons
• Not in Ko Olina
• Alcohol upgrade is pretty pricey

And there you have it! All of the best luau in Ko Olina! We hope this guide has helped you decide which on the best luau for you.

Read More About the Best of Ko Olina

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Ko Olina, Oahu, Hawaii is a beautiful tourist hub set on four picturesque lagoons -- and it's jam-packed with different luau to choose from. From Disney's Ka Wa'a Luau at the Aulani to the famous Paradise Cove Luau, you're sure to have an incredible evening luau experience on your Hawaii vacation. #hawaii #koolina #luau

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