After having spent two weeks rushing around visiting Oahu and the Big Island, I was spending my final week in Hawaii relaxing in a small rental home in Napili Bay, West Maui. I was due to go home in just a few days and as a spur of the moment decided there was no way I could return without having visited an authentic Hawaiian Luau. I did my research and decided to choose the Royal Lahaina Luau in Lahaina, Maui. It was the closest luau to where we were staying, and the reviews on TripAdvisor favoured this luau above others. The luau itself will set you back $82, and is $38 for children aged 6-11. There is the opportunity to buy a ticket just to the show without the meal and Imu ceremony and these tickets are priced at $37 and $17 for adults and children respectively.
The show is held right on Kaanapali Beach just in front of the Westin Kaanapali, so you have gorgeous views of the ocean as well as neighbouring islands in the distance.
Upon arriving, I had to queue for 10 minutes or so as I was slightly early, however whilst you wait they hand out free leis. I was disappointed to find that they were shell leis as opposed to the flower variety. There is an open bar all night which I was very happy to hear. I stuck to fresh pineapple juice for most of the night although I did try a Blue Hawaii cocktail which was to die for! Inside the bar area there were plenty of bizarre statues to provide me with posing opportunities.
The main focus for the early evening was on the authentic Imu ceremony. Imu is the name given to the underground oven where the food is cooked using a combination of hot coals, layers of leaves and mats or sacks to steam it. At a luau, Kalua pig is traditionally cooked in the Imu, and you could smell it cooking as soon as you got within metres of it.
The ceremony involves the cooks peeling back the sacks, leaves and coals to reveal the pig in all its glory, before placing it on a stretcher of sorts to take it off to the kitchen to be shredded.
Whilst the pig was being shredded and the evening’s meal prepared, there was just time to take in the gorgeous sunset before making our way over to the tables.
Whilst waiting for the dinner to be prepared there were lots of fun and games on stage to keep everyone entertained, including a session where you were taught how to hula dance.
Feeling too hungry and deciding I was far too cool to join in, I watched from afar and soaked up the atmosphere whilst sipping away at my cocktail. After what felt like hours of waiting with the aroma of the Kalua pig filling the air, we were finally told that it was time to eat. I was impressed with the huge amount of variety offered which included the shredded pig, chicken, turkey, freshly caught fish, poi, sweet potato and much more! There was also taro and guava bread available which tasted very… unique! For desert there were coconut cream cakes and chocolate cake as well as the Hawaiian desert haupia. The chocolate cake was so good that I sneaked five slices onto my plate!
Once our bellies were full and the sky was beginning to darken it was time to focus our attention on the main stage for the evenings performance. The performance featured traditional dancing, singing and drumming from Tahiti, Hawaii and Samoa.
The climax to the evening was the Samoan “fire-knife” dancing. The traditional fire-knife dance used to consist of a machete wrapped in a towel, set on fire and juggled with. Over time, the machete has been removed and instead they use aluminium poles instead for safety reasons. I prefer to watch things with an element of danger, so I was disappointed the knives weren’t real!
As the evening wrapped up there was a chance for everyone to have their photos taken with some of the male dancers which, of course, I jumped at the opportunity to do!
If you decide to go to Hawaii I do recommend visiting a luau at some point during your trip. Although quite expensive, especially if you are on a budget, it’s a great way to treat yourself and unwind whilst immersing yourself in the culture of Hawaii. There was an MC present throughout the evening who explained about the dances and what they symbolised for the hawaiian people. All in all, I learnt a lot about the culture of Hawaii and their legends. It was an evening well spent and definitely worth the money paid.