Visiting a Luau is right at the top of most people’s must-do lists when visiting Hawaii. And it’s easy to see why. Evocative images of exotic hula dancers, tropical cocktails, and lavish feasts, in a stunning oceanside setting. What is not to like? There are however a large number of Luaus available to visitors of Maui and choosing the right one can be challenging. Visitor reviews can only help so much as most tourists only visit one luau and have little to compare them to. We have visited all of them, and as such, can accurately compare each Luau and compare them with each in a more reasoned manner.
With this in mind, we bring you our thoughts on The Old Lahaina Laua, one of the oldest and most revered Luaus on the Island. But with new and high-end premium Luau’s popping up all the time does the Old Lahaina Luau still cut it? With all the Recent Price hikes, is it still good value and what exactly can you expect for your money at this premium Luau presentation that focuses primarily on Authenticity over commercial trappings of the Hotel Luaus? Find out everything you need to know here in our Old Lahaina Luau Review.
- Event: Oceanside Luau Feast and Show
- Location: Lahaina, West Maui – Oceanfront
- Cost: $220 – Adult – $134 Child (3-12yrs)
- Drinks: Open Bar
- Included: Flower Leu
- Best for: Most Authentic Luau in Maui
- Premium Options: None
Old Lahaina Luau Review
Is It Worth Attending a Luau
For us, no trip to Hawaii is complete without a trip to a Luau. Yes, we know they are incredibly touristy and have more to do with commercialization than tradition, but they are just fun and part of the more modern Hawaiian traditions.
Prices have really shot up since the pandemic and they now really represent a huge outlay and a significant chink in your trip budget. But they still offer one of the best ways to spend an evening in Maui. Dinner, a show, an open bar, and exposure to some Hawaiian culture, even if it is a little caricatured.
The fact that these events are now so expensive, means there is even less room for error in finding the best Laua on the island. So we have put together some detailed reviews of the island’s best Luaus, and top of that bunch is the legendary Old Lahaina Luau…
What is the Old Lahaina Luau
The Old Lahaina Luau is one of the oldest Luau operating in Maui. Its focus is on authenticity and a welcoming friendly vibe. The Luau does not strive to emulate or match its rivals and instead treads its own path, daring to be different with the aim that Authentic is better.
You get everything you expect with a Laua on Maui, a fantastic feast, bottomless drinks, stunning grounds, Hawaiian activities, and a vibrant and exciting show. But they do most things a little differently and the result is a very special Luau we think most people should strongly consider.
History of the Old Lahaina Luau
The Old Lahaina Luau has been running in one shape or form since 1986 and has always focused on a culturally sensitive approach and has tried to avoid the tacky trappings of most Hawaiian Luau Presentations.
The Luau was situated on the oceanfront at 505 Front Street, which is now the location of the Feast at Lele (Sister Luau). It received critical acclaim and many repeat visitor and its success saw it move to larger grounds on the other side of Lahaina.
Is the Old Lahaina Luau the Best Luau on Maui?
The word best comes with lots of judgment and opinion and other is never really a definitive answer to what the “best” anything is. But as far as Luau’s on Maui, it really is hard to make a case for any rival luau being better. Some may do certain things better, but as an overall package, none of them can beat the Old Lahaina Luau.
This does not mean the others are poor (some of them are), or that they offer bad experiences, it’s just the Old Lahaina Luau is just so good it’s hard to compete. The setting, excellent drinks, fantastic food, wonderful hosts, and intricate and spectacular show, all just add up to the most complete package.
We love the authenticity of the Luau. The efforts the team goes to, in order to stay as authentic and real to the Hawaiian Culture are really admirable, They even do things, and omit things that are detrimental to their success, simply as the alternative would not be authentic.
We need some Full-Disclosure here. We are not in any way affiliated* with the Old Lahaina Luau and have full editorial control over this article, and all the other Luau Reviews (and every other single article and review on our site, we are 100% independent). We thought that important to get across early as, well we kind of love the Old Lahaina Luau, and maybe our opinion could be considered “hard-sell”, but really we just have experienced so many Luaus on multiple Hawaiian Islands and not really any of them compete (Ok maybe the PCC on Oahu). If we sound overly enthusiastic about the Luau it really is just our honest opinion!
*We may receive some small commissions if you book through some of our affiliate links, but this would be the case for any of the Rival Luaus. We have no particular incentive to encourage you to book the Old Lahaina Luau, other than giving you the best possible advice as we see it.
What Makes The Old Lahaina Luau Different?
The big thing that makes the Old Lahaina Luau different is Authenticity. They really strive in every way to make things as authentic as possible. The grounds, the Cultural activities, the feast, the Imu Oven, and even the show are all as authentic as possible. The reality is they are still a long way from an authentic Luau of the Hawaiian Chief Era, things have changed so completely since then that an attempt to be 100% authentic would be pretty intolerable for our western tastes (you can forget the open bar Mai Tais!), but the Old Lahaina Luau still applies a lot of cultural sensitivity to its presentation, while still accommodating western tastes.
The big ticket difference from almost every Luau we have attended is the omission of Fire Knife Dancers, why…because they are Samoan.
No Fire Knife Dancers
Tourists in Hawaii, us included, love the Fire Knife Dance. As darkness falls there is little more impressive than watching a tattooed warrior spinning and twirling their Fire Knife Staff is mesmerizing and intoxicating. But this is a Samoan tradition. So it has no place in an authentic Hawaiian Luau. Of course, the Old Lahaina Luau could just grin and bear it and allow a little inaccuracy in for the benefit of the guests, but no, and we admire their resistance, to keep things real.
The same applies to the Show in general. The dance is all Hawaiian and doe not introduce other Polynesian dancers as most other luaus do. There is no Mauri “Haka” or Fijian “Meke” here, it’s pure Hawaiin.
The show is also vastly different from the other Luaus on the island in that it is a real show, with a story, telling the myths and legends of how the islands were inhabited. More on this later.
The Old Lahaina Luau has a real Imu oven, in which they roast the Puaʻa Kālua underground and offer you the chance to witness the unearthing. The grounds in general are really fantastic. More than any other they feel self-contained. Most other Luaus are situated on busy ocean paths, so there are always people wandering past, but the Old Lahaina feels far more secluded. It feels like it’s just the Luau with no outsiders looking in.
The grounds are beautifully manicured too, with lush tropical plants, and a natural stage with a stunning ocean backdrop, The seating is also very unique with the tables surrounding the stage and the whole show interacting with the crowd as the performers move through and around the guests. There is also the option of traditional seating which we look at more later.
Overall the whole feel of the Luau is more real, warm, and friendly. We really feel the workers appreciate the adherence and sensitivity to the culture and enjoy introducing the guests to this. They have real pride in the presentation and this really comes across in all elements.
What is included with The Old Lahaina Luau
- Flower Lei on Arrival
- 5 Course traditional Luau Dinner
- Open Bar
- Cultural Activities
- IMU Presentation
- After Dinner Show
- Makena “Gift”
- Lots of Aloha!
The Old Lahaina Luau really pulls out all the stops. It’s an all-inclusive affair and the lack of upgrades and options means everyone is getting the whole package. The flower Lei’s are stunning, and the Cultural Activities fun, engaging, and a little educational.
We think this is the best Laua on Maui, and so do a lot of people. This is no “best-kept secret” it is common knowledge. That means, it is VERY popular. This event is a sell-out every night and can be sold out MONTHS in advance. We highly recommend booking your table today. And if you have left it too late consider the Waiting-List as tables do open up.
There are just two booking options with the Old Lahaina. The Traditional Seating and the Table and Chairs Seating. There is no price difference and other than where you sit there is no difference in service. Both options get a Flower Lei on arrival and a full open bar.
The traditional seats are low-level tables, around knee height, with the diners seated on cushions on the floor. Thus how Hawaiian Royalty used to dine and it’s a funs and different way of experiencing the feast. The Traditional seating is also nearest to the stage for when the show starts.
Currently, you can only book traditional seating for groups of 4 so bear that in mind.
Tables and Chairs
The Standard Table and Chairs options are pretty much as you would expect. The tables are slightly raised above the traditional seating so you still get a fantastic view of the stage.
All tables are 8 to a table so if you are a smaller group or couple you will be seated with other guests. But that is all part of the Luau and we love making new friends. The Open Bar certainly helps assist with this.
Really both options are great and the fact there is no difference in price makes it a tricky choice…
Traditional Seating or Tables and Chairs?
We love the fact that there is no price difference between the two different seating options. The Traditional Seating gets you right at the front of the show, however, there is a price to pay for this, it is just not monetary.
We love the traditional seating, but it can be very uncomfortable. We are fairly young, flexible, and have no real health issues, yet we still found sitting, essentially on the ground, for such a long period pretty hard work. There were a lot of position changes, creaky backs, and general numbness and discomfort. This was not helped by the soaring temperatures of the Hawaiian evening.
For anyone with a bad back, joint issues, or general inflexibility, the Traditional seating options are a really poor idea. As this type of seating was traditional in Hawaii, the ancestors we just used to sitting like this, but in our western culture we have grown accustomed to chairs, and sitting on the floor is no longer very common. This really can make for an uncomfortable evening.
If you are in two minds, we say go for the table and chairs. You still get a great view, you will be nice and comfortable and overall just enjoy t more. If you are a sprightly young thing or used to sitting on the floor for long periods of time, then go for the Traditional, we tend to, even though we find it a bit uncomfy, just as we love the experience.
The experience starts as you arrive at the purpose-built Luau grounds on the Outskirts of Lahaina. There is parking available, but with the open bar, we do not drive in! Upon arrival, you will be greeted with a flower lei, offered a welcome drink, and taken to your seats.
We love the grounds, not just because they are so beautifully planted with lush tropical foliage, but because they are really isolated. Like most Luau’s the Old Lahaina Luau is oceanfront, but unlike most, there is no real public access along the front. While it is open to the public, the is just no reason for anyone to want to walk along this piece of oceanfront. It doesn’t go anywhere and is in a really de-populated part of the town. There is just no one down there and as such the Laua has this little corner of paradise to itself!
Along the front, there are various crafts and activities you can partake in or purchase one of the hand-crafted keepsakes. On the cultural activities front, there is far more going on at here than at any other Luau. They want to help promote the Hawaiian culture and readily showcase as much as they can.
After exploring the grounds and taking in the culture, you will be invited to witness the IMU* ceremony. At most Luaus the IMU pig is simply brought out, and presented to the crowd, raising serious questions as to whether it was cooked in a real Imu at all. There is no doubt here as you will be able to witness the unearthing of the pig as the chefs peel off the taro leaves and dig out the pig from under the baking soil.
The Pig is then taken off and prepared for dinner.
The Dinner is currently a Table Service meal. In the past when we visited, the Feast was served Buffet Style, but Covid restrictions have seen the Luau change to a Table Service model. The food is largely the same only it’s pre-plated for you. You might not get quite as much as before, but the portions are huge and most people leave stuffed, especially if you try everything!
We are unsure if the Laua will stick with this model permanently or revert back to a Buffet as Covid fades into a memory.
After dinner, the Show kicks off. We really like the separation of Dinner and the Show, as at some Luau’s they are mixed together with the show happening between courses. This detracts from either the food or the Show as you only have so much attention. Here you get your feast, and then can sit back and really appreciate the show.
While all this is happening, two other things are going on. The Open bar is pumping out the drinks and the sun is dipping down into the pacific ocean and delivering one of Maui’s stunning sunsets.
After the Show, you receive your gift and can leave the grounds. Be warned, it gets a little hectic in the carpark, so we find it best not to rush and just head out after the initial rush, or just wander into Lahaina for a last drink, a 5-minute stroll.
Let’s look a bit closer at the Meal, Show, and Bar offerings.
The feast is a five-course menu and is served on individual plates with some items served Family Style. It’s all high quality and really delicious but it is more home-style than some of the more gastronomic Luaus, but honestly it’s not a huge gap.
Kalo and Sweet Potato Chips
Taro and sweet potato thinly sliced and perfectly fried
Fresh Pineapple Chunks
Garnished with Black Hawaiian Sea Salt
Grated taro and chickpeas mixed with olive oil
Pudding made with coconut milk, cornstarch, and sugar
Pudding made of steamed and grated Kalo and coconut milk
The first course is less of a course and more of a selection of nibbles. This is handy as there is quite a long period between the gates opening and the meal getting started properly. So having some stuff to snack on is great.
The Haupia and Kulolo are certainly an acquired taste but you should at least give them a try, a bit like blancmange but made with coconut, these are usually served as dessert, but these are less sweet than other versions.
Local Grown Green Salad
Served with our house-made dressing
Freshly baked breads from our bakery
Old Lahaina Lu’au original honey-guava butter
This is listed as a separate Course but we found it was served at the same time as the First Course. The salad is actually early nice and the dressing zingy, the bread tends to be Taro rolls which are quite sweet, but super fresh and still warm.
Puaʻa Kālua – Imu Roasted Pork
Pork roasted in our beachside “Imu” – the Hawaiian underground oven
Laulau – Lūʻau Leaf Wrapped Pork
Succulent bundles of pork wrapped in taro leaf and cooked until tender.
Time-consuming to make and worth every bite
Poke ‘Ahi – Tuna
Raw Ahi (yellowfin tuna) with green onions, Limu (seaweed), and Maui onions
Local tomatoes, Maui onions, and salted salmon – Lomilomi or “massaged” together with aloha
Made by steaming and mashing taro – a potato-like root
The Hawaiian course is served family style and offers the chance to try all the authentic Luau foods that Hawaii is famous for. Here you get the Pua’a Kalua, the Pork roasted in the underground Imu. Salty, lightly Smokey, tender and so delicious!
The LauLau does not look like much but the slow steaming makes the pork really tender. Ahi Poke is one of our favorite things to eat in the world and this version is very authentic and basically the recipe we most try to emulate! If you have not got around to trying Poke (just head to Safeway) then this is your opportunity. Yes, it’s raw, but it SOO good.
LomiLomi Salmon is another must-try Luau food and we rarely get this anywhere other than Luaus. It’s not quite as delicious as the Poke, but still a favorite.
The Poi here is disgusting, but it’s disgusting anywhere. If you have always secretly wanted to eat purple wallpaper paste, today is your lucky day! Again, you have to try it, just so you can say it’s awful
Pipi Kōʻala – Grilled Beef Steak
Grilled Flat Iron Steak with mushrooms & truffle oil
I’a – Maui Style Fish
Chef’s special preparation with fresh seasonal ingredients
Moa – Island Style Chicken
Grilled Barbecue Chicken Breast topped with a Mango Barbecue Glaze
Stir Fry Vegetables
A seasonal variety of fresh stir fry veggies
Sweet Potato Mash
Seasonal local sweet potato with coconut milk
The main course veers away from the traditional a little and more towards catering to western tastes. This course will be individually plated for each guest. You get a scoop of purple sweet potato mash, some veggies which come more oven roasted than Stir-Fried, and then 3 meat dishes. The meats all have a large-scale catering feel about them.
The Steak is not the best steak, it’s flat iron and cooked slowly, don’t expect a nice seared steak. But as a dish, it’s still pretty nice and the truffle oil really lifts it. The Fish will change based on the season but is often Mahi Mahi, and tends to be oven roasted in a variety of flavors. The Chicken, again, has a mass catering feel about it, cooked in a large tray, covered in sauce. The sauce is pretty amazing though!
Overall this is the most disappointing course. It doe not feel that authentic and goes towards appeasing western tastes and just filling people up. These courses were always available on the Buffet but you could avoid them by loading your plate with the more authentic foods.
It’s still an enjoyable course, we just prefer the more traditional foods. So really we hope they ever to the buffet at some point in the future.
Mango Coconut Chocolate Bombe & Macadamia Coconut Crunch with Mango Anglaise
Coffee & tea service
Ok, the dessert is a bit of an oddity. Everything the Luau does is an attempt to be as authentic as possible. However, for the dessert course, they let that go. Apart from some ingredients, there is nothing remotely authentic about this dessert. Other Luaus do this course far more authentically serving Haupia or Lilikoi Tarts.
Oddly enough, they are all pretty awful, we never enjoy Luau Desserts. But the Coconut Chocolate Bombe served here is stunning! It’s one of the best desserts we have had on the island, and far surpasses anything remotely traditional.
The Hawaiians were just not really dessert people it seems.
The Luau is happy to accommodate vegetarian, Vegan, and Gluten Free diners, but requires over 24 hours notice. All servers are very clear on asking guests about allergens before dining and will provide guidance if this is the case.
Fussy eaters may struggle a little. This is a traditional feast and there is little contrition made for western diets. The main course is fairly familiar to most people, but the starter and Hawaiian course may prove challenging to those unfamiliar with experimenting with their diet.
Anyone who likes to try new things will have no issue, it’s not a fussy menu, and loads of flavors and textures will be familiar, it’s just not burger and fries.
For us, the show is where the Luau really shines. This is far more a Full production show than any other on the island. It tells the story of the arrival of the islands and their myths and legends as the kings and their gods took over paradise.
The story follows along with the development of the Hula dance and starts off with the voyages setting out from Polynesia, following the golden plover as they made their way across the ocean. It moves on to tales of Gods and Kings, as hula was used in ancient times to tell the stories of the past and this tradition is kept alive.
Hula evolved greatly over time right up until the tourist invasion of the last 50 or so years, and the story ends with modern-day hula and how the dance is enjoyed on the islands today.
The show is so much more engaging than most, which simply put the performers on stage and shows you the various dances, often including non-Hawaiian dance. Here the story develops and the music and chanting are vivid and visceral.
As the Seating arrangement circles the stage the show is not confined to the small state area and takes place in and around the crow as well. Performers rush through the aisles chanting and shrieking as they go. It’s very immersive and involving.
The Stage lighting is very vivid and as the sun dips the colors of the costumes and set really pop. The movement and choreography are frankly mesmerizing and the whole show is just a few notches above anything else we have experienced on the island.
On our first visit our server, who was also a performer, was very humble about the show, telling us not to expect too much, and that it’s not like Cirque Du Soleil. And while it might not be that level, it is still so much better than the humble performer et on. It’s vibrant dynamic, even visceral at times, with the intense shrieks and hollas coming from all around.
We don’t want t spoil too much about the show, it’s one to relax into, with your bellies full, and just enjoy the spectacle.
What Drinks are included at the Old Lahaina Luau
Like most Maui Luaus the Old Lahaina Luau offers an open bar. The bar is a walk-up affair and we find the queues to be really short and the service super fast. Unfortunately, this is largely because the drinks are mainly pre-mixed.
This is great as the drinks flow out of the bar really fast, but not so good in terms of quality. The Mai Tais were good, and we worked through the rest of the menu, with varying success, there are a lot of syrups and vivid colors used. These remind us of 70-80’s style cocktails, rather than the modern hand-crafted drinks we seek out now. Honestly, it kind of fits in with the vibe and it’s not like they are bad, we certainly had no issues getting through a good selection, better than many we have received in restaurants at $15 a pop, it’s just an area we think could be improved upon.
Beer is provided by Maui Brewing Company, which is more than fine with us. and the wine was of decent quality, from Josh Cellars, and had a good selection, 2 Whites, two Reds, and a Rose, but no bubbles, unfortunately. There is also a good range of spirits, all premium brands, and the accompanying mixers.
Overall Is The Old Lahaina Luau Worth it?
Covid has seen a huge lift in the prices of Luau’s and The Old Lahaina is no exception here. The recent price hike has seen it bust right through the $200 barrier, and that is a big chink of cash, especially for a family.
However, it’s still a long way from being the most expensive Luau on the island, that honor goes to Feast at Mokapu over in south Maui, and infact most South Maui Luau’s top Old Lahaina in price, making it seem pretty good value, when you consider, in our opinion, it is easily the best Luau on the island.
Also while the price has raised significantly, so has everything else. A 3-course meal, with 4-5 drinks in a higher-end West Maui restaurant is easily going to top 140-160 pp, maybe more, and with the Old Lahaina Luau, you are getting the best show on the island, one of the finest settings, a flower lei, and a whole lot more thrown in.
If you are planning on attending a Luau, even the most bargain basement Luaus are still a big outlay and the difference between a cheap Luau and the best on the island is pretty small really, and definitely worth the extra.
We can’t really imagine coming to Maui and not attending a Laua, and if you are going to Visit a Luau, it might as well be the best.
Why would you not Choose Old Lahaina Luau?
We honestly can’t think of many reasons why you would not choose Old Lahaina but there is a few possible reasons you may choose to go elsewhere. Over 2 million people visit Maui every year and they can’t all visit the Old Lahaina Luau
No – Luau
You may have just chosen not to do a Luau at all, we get this, you don’t have to visit a luau to get the real Hawaii experience, we like to, but we know everyone is different. Maybe the menu is not appealing to you, maybe you don’t care for shows, maybe it is all just too commercial, not cool enough, you prefer more natural sights, or maybe the huge outlay could be spent better for you. There are a ton of reasons why a Luau isn’t right for your trip, and we don’t want to sway you too hard.
There are hundreds of things to do on Maui, so if a Luau isn’t jumping right out at you as a MUST-DO the large outlay may well not be worth it.
Based in South Maui
Honestly, this is the biggest reason. And we 100% get it. This is a West Maui Luau and the trek over the Lahaina from Kehei or Waliea is a pain in the proverbial. However good Old Lahaina Luau is, a 45-1hr drive over to Lahania from South Maui is a tough ask, especially when there are great Luaus on your doorstep.
We almost always stay part of our trip ver in West Maui so it has never been a decision for us, but it really is a tough ask, especially when you consider you will need a designated driver or head over in a taxi, vastly reducing and cost advantage over visiting one of South Maui’s more expensive Luaus.
While we get it, the Old Lahaina Luau is very costly, we don’t think it’s that much more than the competition that it does justify that extra cost. However, if the budget just doesn’t stretch that far there are several cheaper options that still give a good Luau Experience.
Fire Knife Dancer
W do here people say they just really want to see the Fire Knife Dancers and skip Old Lahaina for that reason? We would rather have the incredible and authentic experience the Old Lahaina Luau offers any day over Fire Knife Dancers, but if these are just something you want to see and YouTube is not scratching the itch, then maybe this is not the one for you.
Repeat visitors to Maui often skip Luau’s as they have already done several. We fall into this category but keep going, but mainly due to keeping our site updated, and currently, we might well not bother every trip otherwise (we certainly would not d 2-3 as we do now).
Also, you may have already done the Old Lahaina Luau and want to try out somewhere different! We think the Feast at Lele is a great choice in that case as it really offers a different Luau experience and the food is A+!
We warned you at the beginning of the article that the Old Lahaina Luau is a sell-out every night, that it can be booked out months in advance, and you may have gotten to this article too late. It may be gone for the dates you want to visit. I so you have a couple of options, either join the waitlist, just keep checking for cancellations, or both.
Overall, if you want to visit a Luau, if you can justify the outlay, are in west Maui, or are willing to travel, you prefer authenticity and quality over a fire knife dancer, and want to get the best experience possible, the Old Lahaina is the number one choice.
Feast at Lele – $193 pp – West Maui
This is the Sister Luau to the Old Lahaina and operates out of the original Luau grounds at 505 Front Street, which has had a recent redevelopment. It’s a very different Luau and focuses on the gastronomy of Polynesia. Here you get an in-depth look at several Polynesian cultures and their foods and dances. It’s a really great evening and a fantastic feast. You also get fire dancers!
Royal Lahaina Luau – Myths of Maui – $160 – West Maui
This is West Maui’s most budget Luau. The location is less picturesque, the food a little cheaper, the drinks less premium, and the show a little less polished. But it’s still a great night out and can save a family hundreds of $dollars!
Te Au Moana Luau – $240 pp – South Maui
This is our favorite alternative in South Maui. The Te Au Moana has a lot in coming with the Feast at Mokapu, including Tahiti production shows. It’s ocean-side and has the ocean as a backdrop. The meal is currently served as a 3-course table service meal, although it is served Family Style. This used to be a Buffet and remains to be seen if they return to this or stay in a table service format.
The Luau is a little cheaper and has a few extras such as a flower lei. But it’s a big luau with a lot of people attending and not quite as picturesque. It’s a good choice if you just can’t run to the Feast at Mokapu.
Feast at Mokapu – $280 pp – South Maui
This is Maui’s most expensive Luau, and possibly the world! It is very prestigious, very luxurious, and sits on absolutely stunning grounds. It is the only one to really give Old Lahaina Luau a run for its money, but it still falls short in a few ways. However it’s still a great night out and if you are looking for a South Maui luau it is hard to beat, it just comes at a cost!
Have your Say
Have you been to the Old Lahaina Luau? How did you find it? Was it good value? Did you like the feast? How was the show? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments, we would love to hear about your experience. Got any questions, again just fire away in the comments.