Going to a luau is a must-do on any trip to Hawaii. However, it can be quite difficult to find one that has preserved traditional Hawaiian culture. To help you out, here are four spectacular luaus on Oahu.
While there are many shows on Oahu that market themselves as luaus, they are far from the traditional Hawaiian luaus. If you’re looking for a luau experience that’s convenient rather than authentic, there are many options. As a matter of fact, most of the major hotels on Oahu offer some sort of luau. But if you’re looking for a luau that truly showcases the beauty of Hawaiian culture, the ones below are your best options.
What Is the History of Luaus?
In ancient Hawaii, men and women traditionally ate their meals separately. Furthermore, women and people of lower social classes were forbidden to eat certain foods that were considered to be delicacies. However, in 1819, King Kamehameha II of the Kingdom of Hawaii abolished these rules. In celebration of this declaration, King Kamehameha II planned a huge feast with both men and women: a luau.
What Foods Are Traditionally Found at Luaus?
If there is one food that must be present at a luau, it’s kalua pig. Traditionally, an entire pig is cooked in a whole in the ground known as an imu. This process, which uses hot stones and takes several hours, is completely worth effort in order to achieve the tender, smoky result.
Poi is a thick, liquid purple substance made from pounded taro root. While today you’re not likely to find the liquid form of poi at the luaus on Oahu, most will have purple bread rolls, which are made from poi.
Lomi Lomi Salmon
Lomi lomi salmon is another dish typically found at luaus. It’s basically a mixture of diced, raw salmon with diced tomatoes and onions.
The ancient Hawaiians obviously lived on islands. Therefore, fresh fish made up a large part of their diets. At a luau, you may find fresh fish in poke-form, steamed, poached, or braised.
Lau Lau is a dish that, while it was traditionally eaten by the ancient Hawaiians at their luaus, there’s a good chance you won’t find it at the luaus on Oahu today. This dish is comprised of fish or pork wrapped in ti leaves and then steamed. This cooking process means that the protein inside of the leaves ends up extra tender!
Haupia is a creamy coconut dessert that has been enjoyed by Native Hawaiians for centuries. You’re bound to find some variation of this sweet treat at the end of every luau experience.
Interested in the other must-try foods in Hawaii? Here’s our Hawaii food bucket list!
What Are the Most Authentic Luaus on Oahu?
Location: Ko Olina
Food: Traditional Hawaiian dishes and local favorites
Price: $102 per adult, $90 for youth 13-20, $80 for children 12 and under (There are also several luau upgrade packages.)
What Makes It Different? Paradise Cove Luau has been awarded the title of “Hawaii’s Best Luau” from 2014 to 2019 by the Honolulu Star Advertiser. It also showcases a few different Hawaiian ceremonies.
Located on a hidden oceanfront lagoon in Ko Olina, the location of the Paradise Cove Luau is already a winner. As the luau begins, you’ll be given a Mai Tai and access to the Hawaiian Village, where you can make a lei (traditional flower necklace), get a temporary Polynesian tattoo, and learn cultural Hawaiian games such as spear throwing.
The Paradise Cove Luau incorporates quite a few more authentic Hawaiian traditions into its experience. There is the nightly Hukilau, a ceremony during which the fish nets are pulled from the ocean while Hawaiian chants are being said and conch shells are being blown. And, of course, there is the Imu Ceremony, which is the removal of the kalua pig from its traditional underground oven known as an imu. (That’s how you know it’s the good, authentic stuff – when they pull it out of an imu.)
Then of course, it’s time to eat! Experience the traditional items of kalua pork, fresh fish, lomi lomi salmon, and poi. There are also local favorites like macaroni salad and island-style baked chicken. While eating, enjoy the Paradise Cove Extravaganza Show, which showcases the songs and dances of Hawaii and all of Polynesia.
Food: Traditional Hawaiian dishes and local favorites
Price: $88 per adult, $78 per junior 13-20, $68 for children 4-12, free for children 3 and under (There are also two luau upgrade packages.)
What Makes It Different? Germaine’s Luau was once named “America’s Best Luau.” It is also the oldest luau on this list.
Established in 1976, Germaine’s Luau is the oldest luau on this list – and one of the oldest luaus on Oahu! 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. And let’s not forget the entertainment – from both Hawaii and beyond! Complete with an oceanfront setting, Germaine’s Luau is definitely a solid option for an authentic luau on Oahu.
Food: Traditional Hawaiian dishes and modernized local favorites, farm-to-table
Price: $159 per adult, $139 for youth 13-17, $89 for children 4-12, free for children 3 and under (There is also a VIP upgrade for an additional $30.)
What Makes It Different? Diamond Head Luau is the only farm-to-table luau on Oahu. It is also the only Waikiki-based luau on this list.
If you’re looking for the best luau in Honolulu or Waikiki, Diamond Head luau is the one I would recommend. In addition to its prime location at the Waikiki Aquarium, the Diamond Head Luau is also the only farm-to-table luau on Oahu. Enjoy authentic Hawaiian foods, such as fresh poke, kalua pork, huli huli chicken, and poi, which have been created from ingredients that have been sourced from local farms! You’ll also get two premium drink tickets and a Mai Tai cocktail greeting.
As for the entertainment portion of this Oahu luau, the Diamond Head Luau showcases traditional hula and fire dances.
Book Here: Diamond Head Luau
Location: Ko Olina
Food: Traditional Hawaiian dishes and modernized local favorites, emphasis on locally-sourced foods, special keiki (children’s) menu
Price: $139 for adults, $89 for children 3-9, free for children 2 and under (There is also a VIP upgrade for an additional $40 per adult and $20 per child.)
What Makes It Different? The Ka Waa Luau provides traditional Hawaiian pre-luau activities, such as kapa printing, temporary kakau tattoos, and taro pounding. This Oahu luau also offers ASL interpretation by request.
Despite the fact that the Ka Waa Luau is run by Disney’s Aulani rather than by a local group, I have to give Disney credit for ingraining aspects of traditional Hawaiian culture into every aspect of the Ka Waa luau. Before the luau even officially begins, there are quite a few traditional activities, such as kapa printing, temporary kakau tattoos, and taro pounding. The luau then officially begins with a traditional Hawaiian oli (chant).
As for the food, the Ka Waa Luau has found a way to fuse traditional Hawaiian, local favorites, and a modern flair through the use of locally grown ingredients. In addition to the mandatory kalua pig, there is also ahi poke, fresh fish with macadamia nut sauce, and steamed bao buns. For many children, this might be too adventurous for their palettes, so the kids’ menu includes chicken tenderloin, mac and cheese, and Mickey pasta with tomato sauce and meatballs. To top off this Oahu luau experience, the Ka Waa luau has a luau production show, which, while not necessarily traditional, tells a tale from Hawaiian history.
BONUS: Local Luau
Locals all over Hawaii still do luaus in their backyard even today! If you happen to know a Hawaii local and they are having a celebratory luau, ask if you can be invited! Or better yet, ask if you can help out! That way, you’ll not only be able to enjoy a luau, but you’ll be able to experience all of the preparation a lavish feast like this requires!
Enjoying one of the luaus on Oahu is just one of my recommendations in my post of 100 things to do on Oahu. Why not read the rest?
Have you ever been to one of these luaus on Oahu? Or perhaps you experienced a different Oahu luau? Either way, tell me about your experience in the comments!
Thinking about experiencing one of these luaus during your trip to Oahu? Or maybe just dreaming about a future trip to the islands? Pin this post for later!