For many visitors to Hawaii visiting a Luau is one of the top activities they wish to experience while on the Islands. The Traditional Hawaiian Feast and After Dinner show is steeped in Hawaiian Tradition. While these shows have taken on a much more “Cliched” and touristy feel they are still right up on most people’s lists. We still always attend a Luau during any visit. It’s just not Hawaii unless you experience a Luau. Like anything popular, there are always a large number of options as competition grows. Not All Luaus in Oahu are Equal so we endeavor to show you the Best Luaus in Oahu in our complete guide.
With so many on offer, they all try and have their own unique selling point so they stand out from the crowd so the best Luau on Oahu for one may not be for another so we do our best to point out the pros and cons of each.
What exactly is a Luau? What to Expect.
A luau is any Hawaiian Party really but the tourist industry has spawned a more specific expectation of what a Commercial Luau should be. It often has little to no connection with how Hawaiians would celebrate. However, it is still steeped in tradition and filled with many traditional foods and activities.
A Typical Luau will start with you registering and being presented with a lei (Traditional Hawaiin Garland worn around the neck). Some offer flower leis others only a Shell Lei. Almost all VIP options have Flower Leis. The lei is an important part of the greeting ritual and we always feel just a tough short-changed if we don’t get a real flower lei.
Then you are often offered a welcome drink. Typically a Mai Tai. You are then free to explore the Luau Grounds. There are many different activities going on, all traditional Hawaiian or Polynesian in nature such as Lei Making, Poi Pounding or. There is no need to get involved but it helps get you in the spirit. There may also be Hawaiian Games to play to keep you and the kids entertained. Some even go as far as Net Fishing demonstrations and traditional canoeing.
At some point, you will be invited to share the Imu Ceremony. All will be explained but you are watching your dinner being unearthed. An IMU is a large underground oven and inside for most of the day, there has been a whole pig slowly roasting. The IMU Ceremony is where the Staff unearth it ready for its final prep to be served. It’s a very important part of the feast and a must-attend. Don’t be too off-put, it doesn’t always look that appetizing on unearthing but we can assure you the finished kalua pork is delightful.
You will then take your seats for the feast. Where tables will take turns to visit the buffet and help themselves to the fare. This is a great way of doing it as you can try small amounts of as much as you like to sample. Remember you can always go back for more once everyone has had a turn.
Then near the end of the feast, or just after, the Show will start. This is a mix of hula and traditional dance that will tell the story of Hawaiian isle’s, how they were populated and the myths and legends the ancient Hawaiian people believed, a story of gods, demigods, and royalty. Expect loud vibrant dancing and music. Finally, near the end you are often invited/coerced to get up and dance yourselves, before the end of the evening where you head off into the night, hopefully, a little tipsy…or maybe that’s just us.
If that doesn’t sound like your kind of thing…maybe think twice about spending 1-200 per person attending one? We think a lot of negative reviews of Luaus come from people not really knowing what to expect. Remember your entry fee is for the whole event, show, wait staff, performers, and meal, etc… If you expect a $1-200 Meal you will be disappointed. If you embrace the whole event for what it is and take in the locale and the ambiance as well as the food, drink and then we think they (or some) are quite good value, for an entire evenings entertainment and Dining.
What Food is served at a Luau?
Most Luau’s offer a very similar Menu with varying degrees of quality. The food is intended to be traditional Hawaiin Luau Feast fare but it also caters to a more American palate, offering the chance to taste traditional food but often not requiring it to fill you up. We would always suggest sampling as much of the traditional fare as possible but understand some people can be fussy eaters, but they shouldn’t go hungry. Traditional food items include the following and are available at nearly every Luau:
Kalua pig (Kālua pork)
Cooked underground in an IMU the Kalua Pig is a traditional Hawaiian staple available all over the island. However, it is rarely cooked inside an IMU except for at Luaus. Reminiscent of Pulled Pork but saltier and less sweet. The underground cooking method adds a light smoke rather than the heavy smokehouse taste. Every Luau must have a Kalua pig…It’s not a Luau without.
With the look and texture of Wallpaper paste, only purple. It tastes worse than it looks. But you just must try it. Why? we had too and we want you to feel our pain. Apparently, it’s some god-awful root mashed up (the Root of the Taro Plant, which actually makes nice chips!). Pounding it in the arts and crafts displays beforehand is fun, and for those that have already been subjected to its nastiness, you can take some of the hate out on it!
Even better than Kalua pork is Poke. Marinated, cured seafood, preferably Tuna (Ahi). It’s like sushi but with bags of taste. It’s becoming more available outside Hawaii now. But it’s not the same without an untouched tub of poi next to it.
Meat, Often Chicken or beef, but traditionally pork, Steamed in leaves. It’s not always the tastiest dish but is a nice safe option for most. As really it’s just steamed meat!
Hawaiian sweet potato
Like regular Sweet potatoes only Purple. Because, Like Hawaii, Purple is just better.
A delicious Salted Salmon and tomato salad. It’s as fun to say as it is to eat!
Being in a tropical paradise you have to expect a pretty impressive tropical fruit platter for dessert, Most Luaus come up with the goods.
For More information on the Culinary Delights on the Hawaiian Islands Check out this post on what to Eat in Hawaii!
Is the VIP Experience worth it?
As with any “is it worth it questions” it’s always hard to answer. Typically an Upgraded experience offers a few different features. You may get extra drinks included, Better seating, Upgraded leis, and a first attack at the buffet.
Rarely is it worth it JUST to get extra drinks as the prices range from $20-80 that’s an expensive 1-2 drinks! The buffets are plentiful so you don’t need to be first. Online reviews often complain of Food running out but this is rare. As when it does happen people rush to bad-mouth the company, whereas happy full customers don’t bother. The Seating can be great as these are not HUGE elaborate shows like Cirque de Soliel. They are much more intimate affairs so getting close is a good advantage, however, basic seats can be really good too, Check out the seating charts and arrive early! Most people want a flower lei so this may even swing it. It can be an expensive way to get a few flowers though.
Overall, If only one or two of the benefits are important to you, the basic experience is probably fine. If 3, 4, or more are important it may well be worth the cash? But it really is a personal choice. We tend to think if you are reading about what you get and are already feeling disappointed with the basic, Upgrade. It’s an expensive Evening try and makes the best of it. We, on the whole, tend to only pay for the basic, but then we go to a lot of Luau’s, if this is likely to be your one and only the super VIP might well be worth the money!
Just about every Luau offers an Upgraded experience and often a super upgrade. They come up with all types of crazy names for them, so when we list prices we stick with VIP and Super VIP. It will be very obvious when booking which is which.
Who to Book With?
Currently, our old partner is no longer trading due to the effects of the pandemic. We are looking for a new partner but need time to assess and make sure they offer the best price and top service we expect. For the time being the best be is simply to go direct to the Luau and book tickets that way.
The Hawaii tourism really needs our support in this most challenging of time! Maybe haggling for a few $’s off is not a priority.
There are two main locations for luaus on Oahu. Honolulu and Kapolei. These are the two main Tourist locations so it’s unsurprising the competition is fierce. On top of these, there are three outliers, which we will deal with first. The Polynesian Cultural Centre in Laie, the Ka Moana Luau at the Sea Life Park, and the new Toa Luau at Waimea Valley.
Most of the Luau’s in Kapolei offer transportation from most Waikiki locations so you can easily utilize this if your intention is to fully appreciate the Mai Tais’ and cocktails. For anyone who likes a drink, it’s highly recommended or you are going to need a designated driver. Prices are quite reasonable at around $16-20 round trip, they will pick you up and bus you out and then bring you home. If you are staying in Kapolei We recommend just attending a Luau around your area as the Waikiki luaus are not as accommodating (they don’t need the numbers).
Visitors staying at the Turtle Bay Resort are advised to Visit the Luau at the Polynesian Centre as it’s really quite close and the hotel will lay on transportation for you, but also the Family themed Toa Luau is right on your doorstep too.
Map Of Oahu Luau’s
Enough talk, let’s get on to the individual Luau’s themselves.
Outliers – Luaus outside of the Main Tourist Areas:
- Polynesian Cultural Centre – Ha – Breath of Life – Laie
- Ka Moana Luau – Sea Life Park Hawaii
- Toa Luau – Waimea Valley
- Cost – $169.95 Adults – $135.96 Children (4-11) Super VIP + $73
- Drinks – No Alcohol Served!
- Perfect for – Experiencing Hawaiian Culture
- Rating – 9/10 – Possibly the Best Luau in Hawaii
The Polynesian Cultural Center offers probably the best Luau Show on the Island. The HA – Breath of Life Show is far more than the regular Hulu shows most Luau’s offer. This combined with a very high-quality Feast, Served Buffet Style and includes entry to the Centre itself. Simply visiting the Centre is an Oahu a Must do and a full day’s activity costing $69.95, to combine it with a great feast and incredible show makes the cost of this luau far more reasonable than it first appears. The one thing that may put you off slightly is the fact no alcohol is served or may be consumed on the grounds.
The Other thing going against the Breath of Life Luau is the Location. While for Guests of the Turtle Bay resort it’s very convenient, for everyone else it’s a bit of a trek. This is a good choice for those with a car though as the lack of alcohol averts the problem of needing a designated driver. The Centre does provide transport at a cost of $25 per person, with limited hotel pickup options from the tourist areas (or a more expensive Kerbside Pickup option). While that does add to the costs, it does solve the problem of getting there and back if you don’t have a car. And still, when you consider what is included in your ticket it’s still good value.
Alcoholic drinks are not allowed, but a large selection of Non-alcoholic drinks are available and included. Overall we think this is the Best Luau on the Island, probably the whole state! In terms of spectacle, grandness, and added extra’s it really does shine. The Show is phenomenal, the feast grand and authentic, and the cultural center and ground an absolute must-see. If you can get there and get over the fact you cannot drink it is a fantastic Event!
There is now the discounted Gateway Buffet Option. This is a reduced-price Option that offers a Buffet Dinner at the Gateway Dining Hall. This is not quite the same as the full Luau Buffet but offers similar foodstuffs. But the Gateway Buffet feels a little more Cantina than Luau Feast. You also get the most basic seating option and no lei on arrival. The Alii Luau Package offers Flower Lei, premium seating, and access to the real Luau Feast with authentic Imu Presentation and Luau Seating in the lush gardens of the Center.
The Super Ambassador is all the bells and whistles with two Lei Presentations, Nut and Flower, Exclusive VIP Tour of the Center, front row seats at the Show, and royalty treatment throughout your visit. It is eyewatering expensive but you really get the royal treatment,
Finally, this Luau is VERY popular and sells out really quickly sometimes months in advance, so get booking early!
Ka Moana Luau – Sea Life Park Hawaii
- Cost – $104 Adults – $89 Youths(13-17) – $77 Children(4-13) – VIP +$24 – Super VIP + $65
- Drinks – 1 Included
- Free Entry to Sea Life Park
- Perfect for – Great Family Luau
- Rating -8/10
The Ka Moana Lua is from the Same people that brought you the regular Diamond head Luau. This is a high-end Luau Experience with good food and a great show with excellent performers. It’s in the high-end price-wise, but far from expensive given the experience. Entry into Sea Life Park Hawaii is included in the price. This can make for a very entertaining day out visiting the park before spending an evening at the Luau. As the Park is located a fair way from Waikiki it can make getting there challenging. The chance to enjoy a couple (or more) Mai Tai’s is part of the joy of a Luau so Driving should be avoided unless you are not drinking. for $25 per person, Transportation is provided from Waikiki so everyone can enjoy the Drinks.
The Sea Life Park Entry can either be enjoyed on the day or up to seven days after so you can choose between a full day out or two great trips here one evening of fun and another exploring the fantastic park.
The Luau Feast is fairly typical with everything you expect but nothing to make it really stand out but it’s a good feast. The Show is again pretty standard. It’s a real Vibrant and loud production out in the open air with the ocean in the Background which shows some wonderful color as the sun dips down.
Overall it’s a really strong offering and when you include the Sea Park Entry then it really is good value too.
Toa Luau – Waimea Valley
- Cost – $115 Adults (13+) – $95 Children(5-12) – VIP +$25 – Super VIP + $60
- Drinks – 1 Included
- Free Entry to Waimea Valley
- Perfect for – low key Authentic Luau
- Rating – 8/10
Get a Glimpse of the Real Hawaii, the one that existed for Centuries before the British and Americans came to ruin the party. There is not much of this way of life left on the islands, especially the big four, And the Waimea Valley and the Toa Luau are a little slice of that culture hanging on in the midst of modernization.
The Waimea Valley is a lost world, feeling a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki. It is in fact almost as far from the city as you can get and still remain on the island right up on the north shore. The deep valley walls separate the alley from the real world giving the sense of stepping back in time. The Valley is now an auditorium and botanical gardens, devoted to growing the island’s stunning tropical plants in the traditional fashion. There is a Stunning Waterfall at the end of a 3/4 mile hike where you can take a dip in the tropical waters, or head down to the secluded beach for a dip in the ocean.
It is amongst this stunning tropical paradise that the Toa Luau is set. Admission to the ark is included so arrive early and enjoy the day before heading to the luau as the sun begins to dip. The Luau is a really small intimate affair, billed as family-style luau and far more reminiscent of the real Luau Partys that would have taken place around the islands in the past.
The pre Luau activities are far more engaging and interactive than any other Luaum and are far more than demonstrations but hands-on, take-part activities. Coconut Husking, Hot Rock Cooking, and of Course Poi Pounding. The Buffet feels very limited initially, however, the Crowd sizes are very small so a huge lavish buffet would be wasted, Instead, you get a smaller selection of fantastic food cooked with real love.
The Luau is the smallest and most intimate affair on the island and as such is never going to rival the likes of the Breath of Ha at the PCC. The show is very intimate with the performers crowding the small stage. Expect more crowd interaction and feeling more a part of everything.
The Silver package gets you back row seating and one alcoholic drink, With each level of VIP (Silver, Gold, and VIP) moving you forward a row and adding on an extra drink. With the Setting so intimate you get a good view of whatever level you get.
Overall it is really nice, remote, and personal family Luau, far from the big-budget shows and spectaculars found elsewhere and all the more charming for it. If you go with the expectations of the bigger feasts you will be disappointed, if you go expecting a less flashy, more homely feast in a secluded paradise, you will be over the moon.
Best Luaus in Honolulu and Waikiki
Diamond Head Luau – Waikiki
- Cost – $159 Adults – $139 Youths(13-17) – $89 Children(4-13) – VIP +$30
- Drinks – 2 Included + Welcome Mai Tai
- Perfect for – Money No Object.
- Rating – 9/10
Currently Closed Due to Covid
The Diamond Head Luau was always a premium Luau but now it’s transformed itself into a Gourmet Farm to Table ultra Premium Luau. With all ingredients sourced locally and of very high quality it is a true gourmet experience. While Luau food has always been typically fairly low-quality Buffet style food the Diamond Head Luau now bucks this trend offering a fantastic gourmet offering.
The Show remains the same and is one of the best on the Island. Vibrant and entertaining throughout with top-quality performers. The drinks included are of great quality and the location of the Luau is perfect for anyone in Waikiki. Located at the Waikiki Aquarium you are also free to have a look around the exhibits during Luau Hours. Really there isn’t much we don’t like about this top-of-the-shelf Luau…There is the Eye-watering Price of course! $159 for a Luau is an incredible amount to ask for. Sure it’s worth every penny with the Farm to Table feast that is really a unique experience. Still that $159 would buy a lot of good dinners in normal restaurants.
If you are after money no Object extravagant evening of fine dining and fantastic show in a very intimate environment then you really can’t do any better. The more budget-friendly version of this Luau is now hosted at the Sea Life Park Hawaii called the Ka Moana Luau and can be found above in the Outliers section of this page.
Hale Koa Luau – Waikiki
- Cost – $67.95 Adults – $25.95 Youths(11-17) – $15.95 Children(5-11)
- Drinks – Non-Included
- Perfect for – Budgets, Families
- Rating – 8/10
The Hale Koa Luau is put on by the Hotel of the same name and while it falls short of some other Luau’s on the Island it also massively undercuts them from a price perspective as well. It is far and away the Cheapest Luau in Waikiki. The Food is not the standard Buffet set up but instead a table service that may suit some but really it provides a more limited selection than most other Buffets. It’s not exactly the best food either. It’s perfectly edible but lacks the WOW people might be expecting.
Again the show isn’t as flamboyant as others and lacks a little traditionality with a more cabaret feel to it. But it’s still entertaining and gives you a good feel for the culture. While clearly not the finest Luau in town it will still leave you feeling you have had a great Hawaiin evening and won’t completely break the bank either.
Waikiki Starlight Luau – Waikiki
- Cost – $111 Adults – $67 Children(4-11) – VIP +$30 Super VIP + $50
- Drinks – 1 Mai Tai Punch
- Perfect for – People Staying at the Hilton.
- Rating – 7/10
The Starlight Luau at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort is another high-end Luau. Being a resort-based Luau you can expect very high-quality food, but lacking a little in authenticity as it is prepared in the Hotels modern kitchens. The show is excellent and its unique selling point is it is completely outdoors. Which is good when you are basking in the starlight, less great if it’s raining, when it will be moved indoors.
Overall it’s a very strong offering but there is little to make it stand out. The pricing is fairly reasonable but only includes a welcome drink. The Price upgrades to VIP quickly ramp the price upwards to the very steep mark and you could attend one of the higher-end Luaus such as the Diamond head which already includes 2 Premium Drinks.
- Cost – $187.43 Adults – $105.76 Children(5-12) – $20.94 Children (under 5) VIP + $21
- Drinks – 3 Included
- Perfect for –
- Rating – 6/10
The Royal Hawaiin Luau is a top rate affair but at an eye-watering $187.43 it’s hard to justify it over the more affordable options. The Diamond Head – farm to Table has it beaten in terms of gastronomy and has a better show in our opinion. There are lots of drinks included which is a plus point. but at this price, we struggle to not expect an open bar.
Don’t get us wrong we really like the royal Hawaiian it is a fantastic offering, but It is just too pricey for us. It’s geared more to hotel guests who don’t bother looking elsewhere.
- Cost – $FREE
- Drinks – None
- Perfect for – Budget
- Rating – 10/10
Ok, this is not a Luau. It’s a Hula show. No food is included no Drinks either but it’s FREE. And at that price point who can argue. Simply show up and enjoy a free hula show every Tuesday Thursday and Saturday evenings (6:30 – 7:00 pm). The show is pretty basic, don’t expect the elaborately choreographed spectaculars at some of the Luau shows but for a bit of free culture, it’s great. Perfect if the whole Luau thing just seems a bit too Cliched but you still want to experience some authentic Hula.
As it’s free it has to be a 10/10!
The Big Kahuna Luau – CLOSED
The Big Kahuna Luau was a popular event held up in the hills overlooking Waikiki but has now been closed down. We have left it here as many travel sites still allude to this Luau. Its popularity may mean it returns one day, but not for now.
Paradise Cove Luau – Kapolei
- Cost – $102 Adults – $90 Youths(13-20) – $80 Children(4-12) – VIP +$33 – Super VIP +$80
- Drinks – 1 Mai Tai Punch + $12 card that can be used towards drinks
- Perfect for – Luau in a Paradise setting
- Transportation available from Waikiki for $16 Roundtrip
- Rating – 9/10
The Name of the Luau may suggest this Luau is set in a beautiful cove, reminiscent of paradise, blue waters, soft sands, Turtles swimming in the bay while the sun slips below the waves. And as luck would have it that is pretty much what you get!
Paradise Cove is a truly wonderful location and ranks highly on any to-do list or beach guide. Turtles are almost guaranteed and the sunsets beautifully out to sea as the evening goes on. It’s a very special location for a Luau. And the Luau is a pretty good one at that.
It’s not quite up to the level of some of the ultra-premium offerings in Waikiki, but then the price is nowhere near that either. And with the location on offer, you really won’t care. Food is a decent standard and quite varied and it’s a good show with talented performers. But you can get better elsewhere. But not the location. We advise getting there early like lunch! and spending the day at the cove. Get public Transport out there and use the Laua to get back if traveling from Waikiki.
The Paradise Cove Luau regularly wins awards for Best Luau in Hawaii, but it’s not for the show or food, just the fantastic overall experience. It is similar to the Polynesian cultural center’s luau and feels very authentic. Like you are really part of the history of the islands.
Germaine’s Luau – Kapolei
- Cost – $108 Adults – $98 Youths(13-20) – $88 Children(4-12) VIP +$33 – Super VIP +$70
- Drinks – 1 Included
- Perfect for – Relaxed attitudes
- Transportation Included in Price
- Rating – 8/10
Germains Luau is what is called a Backyard Style Luau, What this means is it’s a more laid-back approach than many and meant to replicate more how real Hawaiians celebrate rather than the Royal feast of the traditional Luau. Really it’s not that different to the other offerings on the island but that’s not a bad thing really. The pricing is very competitive and is the second cheapest on the island. While the Backyard Style is this Luaus selling point really what stands out for us is the beachfront setting. It’s not quite Paradise cove but it’s a really Laid-back beautiful setting right on the beach.
Chiefs Luau – Kapolei
- Cost – $99 Adults – $88 Youths(13-20) – $77 Children(5-12) Vip +$30 – Super Vip +$75
- Drinks – 1 included
- Perfect for – Family Fun Day Out
- Transportation available from Waikiki for $16 Roundtrip
- Rating – 7/10
Situated at Wet And Wild Hawaii This is a great Luau to visit following a day enjoying the park. The Luau itself follows on the fun theme by not taking itself too seriously. It’s hosted by the Chief who keeps things fun and entertaining throughout. The Chief is often described as the best thing about the Luau. And that’s not meant in a derogatory way. The Chiefs Luau is a solid offering and competitively priced. It’s hard to recommend making the trip just for the Luau, it’s good but we would prefer Paradise cove anyway. But if the whole family are at Wet and Wild it makes sense to stay on and continue the fun.
KA WA‘A, a Luau at Aulani – A Disney Luau- Kapolei
- Cost – $139 Adults – $89 Children(3-9) VIP + $40
- Drinks – None
- Perfect for – Disney Guests
- Rating – 6 / 20
The Luau at Aulani is a pretty good offering. It’s provided by Disney so as you would expect everything is to a very high standard. However, there isn’t really a lot to make it stand out above the rivals. The Hotel has a nice Captive audience of guests staying at the Disney resort and as such, we feel this is mainly designed to take advantage of that. We feel you can do better by venturing away. for those looking for maximum convenience while staying in the Aulani, it’s hard to beat and really it is a pretty solid luau. It just doesn’t excite us enough considering the fairly substantial price!
Have Your Say
Have you been to a Luau in Oahu? Which did you go to? How did you rate it? Let us know in the comments below? Or if you have any questions or require a personal recommendation just leave us a comment. We are always happy to talk Luau.