Essential Hawaii or Tourist Trap?
Somewhere along the way the coolest Hawaiian event ever - a big spread featuring a whole pig roasted in the ground, cultural dancing to honor the past and tasty tropical drinks - has mutated into long buffet lines and a fat guy yelling "ALOOOO-HA" while the hula girls dance with as much joy as if they were chained to Jabba the Hutt.
You'll find luau's like this all across the island and don't think just because you spent a fortune at your hotels luau that it's not in this category because some of the worst offenders are shows at the biggest resorts.
Local Wally to the rescue! There are basically three, just three, luau's that stand out as the best. You can expect food good enough to satisfy your foodie friends, a show that's authentic and fun without being cheesy, and an experience that's actually worth the high price of admission. There are certainly other luau's that are good enough but none exceed the experience you'll get at one of these top Maui luau's.
Maui's Best Luau's
Old Lahaina Luau
1251 Front St, Lahaina, Maui, HI 96761 | (808) 667-1998
Price: $105 adult, $75 child
considered by most to be the best luau on maui
This is the luau that all others are compared with. Everything here is done to perfection, starting with the flower lei greeting - no cheapo shell necklace here. The unlimited Mai Tai's are actually pretty good and the pre-show demonstrations of Hawaiian crafts are done by people who look like they enjoy doing it.
Dinner kicks off with the imu ceremony where they unearth a whole pig and then it's time to sample everything that Hawaii has to offer, from ahi poke to steamed pork wrapped in banana leaves to poi. There's also Mahi Mahi, Pulehu Steak, Island Chicken, fried rice and lots of other side dishes. Best yet, unlike a lot of luau's where you get comparisons to Hometown Buffet, the food at Old Lahaina Luau is expertly prepared, authentic, and delicious. Open bar means order anything you want - it's all included.
The show takes you through the history of the islands and it's done with integrity and authenticity - meaning no fire dancing. The entire setting looks a bit like a Hawaiian village and don't be surprised if you get swept away in the romance and intimacy of the evening. Reserve your seats early as these shows sell out and consider upgrading to the seating right in front where you'll sit on mats Hawaiian style for the best view in the house.
The Feast at Lele
505 Front St, Lahaina, HI 96761 | (808) 667-5353
Price: $125 Adults, $94 child
upscale luau with no buffet table
Brought to you by the same people who run the Old Lahaina Luau, The Feast as Lele is an upscale luau with reserved tables and no buffet line. This shouldn't be you first and only luau but those looking for a romantic evening with no-compromise food need look no further. Dancing and culture from Hawaii, New Zealand, Tahiti and Samoa are featured and paired with their featured foods, from traditional Hawaiian pork and poi to steak, scallops and squid, all cooked with their island influence. It's truly a feast so come hungry, very hungry. Unlimited cocktails and optional wine pairing as well.
The Feast as Lele also features Samoan fire dancing and the stage with the ocean view setting makes for a stunning backdrop. If you are here with rug rats in tow, this probably isn't the best luau for you. But those looking for a romantic evening where the quality of the food is as important as the show then The Feast at Lele is a perfect choice.
Royal Lahaina Luau
2780 Kekaa Dr, Lahaina, HI 96761 | (808) 661-3611
Price: $85 adult, $35 child
Family and budget friendly alternative
The first and longest running luau on Ka'anapali, The Royal Lahaina Luau is the first choice for those on a budget or with a family in tow. It won't compare to The Old Lahaina Luau in overall quality but has an honesty and sincerity that's lacking in most hotel luau's. The music and show are first class and the fire dancing is sure to delight, especially if you have kids who are less interested in history and more about having a good time.
The food is above average and features all the Hawaiian staples you wanted to try, from Kalua Pork to Shoyu Chicken to Teriyaki Beef, and parents will appreciate that there's a kids menu with chicken nuggets, hot dogs and mac n cheese to keep the little ones happy. OK, it's not authentic but you need to pick your battles, right? Overall it's a good experience and if The Royal Lahaina Luau isn't the best luau on Maui it's certainly the best value and one that doesn't leave you with tourist trap regret.