Visiting a Luau is often top of most people’s Must-Do Lists when visiting Hawaii, and we wholeheartedly agree. We love Luaus and have visited most of the numerous different Luaus on Maui, so we know what makes a great Luau.
The Te Au Moana Luau, situated at the Wailea Beach Resort in South Maui is one of the most popular Luaus in the South of the Island. In our Te Au Moana Luau Review, we take a deep dive into the Luau to show you what to expect, what the show is like, what the feast consists of, and what you can expect in terms of drinks. Most importantly we ask, Is the Te Au Moana Luau Worth Visiting, or if you might be better off at one of Maui’s other Luau Presentations?
- Event: Oceanside Luau Feast and Show
- Location: Wailea Beach Resort – Oceanfront
- Cost: $265 – Adult – $165 Child (6-12yrs)
- Drinks: Open Bar
- Included: Flower Lei
- Best for:
Is It Worth Attending a Luau
We think visiting a Luau really should be right up near the top of your must-do list. The mix of Hawaiian Culture, good food, flowing drinks, incredible locales, and entertaining shows is one of the best ways to spend an evening in Hawaii.
We still ensure we attend at least one Luau on every trip and still find them really rewarding and fun. There is no doubt the recent price hikes are making them less enticing, but almost everything has gone up dramatically in Hawaii and even a trip to the Supermarket is quite shocking. So it’s inevitable that Luaus were going to jump up in price.
Still, it’s a big outlay, especially for a family so you need to make sure you are getting the best Lusua experience for your family. Here we take a deep dive into the Te Au Moana Luau to see how this presentation stacks up.
What is the Te Au Moana Luau
The Te Au Moana is a premium Luau situated in the gorgeous Wailea Beach Resort along the Wailea Beach path offering stunning Oceanside vistas to accompany your Luau. The Luau consists of a premium Luau feast, served at your table, family style, a well-stocked open bar for you to enjoy for the entirety of the event, and a fantastic Luau Show, a presentation of fantastic Polynesian dance and Hula, on the Ocean Side stage with the stunning Maui Ocean and Sunset as the backdrop.
The Te Au Moana Luau is what we describe as a Hotel Luau. Some people see this as a negative and slur, as they can feel a little commercial and sterile, but in reality, these High-end Hotels have the facilities and budgets to put on really lavish easts and pay for elaborate and high-end shows. Overall we find the Te Au Moana Luau a really good event, it’s pricey, but then all Wailea Luau’s are, but it’s s solid event with a great location and a really good show.
Let’s dig a bit deeper.
Does the Luau have anything to do with Disney’s Moana?
No, sorry. We wish it did. Moana just means ocean, and “Te Au Moana”, means “by the ocean”, roughly translated as many Hawaiian words and phrases need to be. The Luau pre-dates the film and has no affiliation to Disney at all, but if you are visiting with young fans of the film you can always let them believe it does, just make sure they know Moana, Hei Hei, and Maui, will not be attending.
If you do want to do a Disney Luau, then there is the KA WA’A Luau at Aulani Resort over in Oahu!
What is Included at the Te Au Moana Luau
- Flower Lei on Arrival
- 3 Course traditional Luau Dinner
- Open Bar
- Cultural Activities
- IMU Presentation
- After Dinner Show
You can choose between Standard Seating and Premium Seating. The Premium seating is essentially the front row of tables surrounding the stage and the standard seating is the two rows of tables behind those.
With premium, you are guaranteed some great seats but the Stand is a little hit-and-miss. The good premium seats are nearly as good as the premium. We have sat just inches from people paying for the more costly Premium seats. But the less brilliant Standard are sat quite far back or well off to the side…or both!
Seats are assigned at booking, so if you book nice and early we suggest sticking with the Standard Seating, if you are booking last minute it might be worth grabbing these premium seats if you don’t want to be right at the back.
It is, however, a fairly small seating area and the worst seats in the house are still ok, but you just might get the feeling you are being a little short-changed.
The whole Luau takes around 3.5-4 hours and is run in the standard luau format. We are finding more and more Luaus are mixing courses in with the Show and overall we don’t really like this as it takes the focus away from either the show or the food. The classic former used here lets you enjoy both with maximum attention.
The Showgrounds open around 5 pm, depending on the season, and you arrive, receive your flower welcome lei and grab a welcome drink. You can then explore the grounds, and take in the stunning Ocean views, line up for a souvenir photo (not always available, but just ask a fellow tourist to take each others). There are normally some cultural activities to have a go at as well, Poi Pounding, Lei making, and arts and crafts.
The first course is served quite early on, but as this is essentially Bread/Taro rolls with some flavored butter it’s not much more than something to nibble on while waiting for the main feast.
The next point of interest is the Luau Pig Ceremony, we were a little disappointed that the pig kind of just arrived at the Luau. We like seeing the process of uncovering the Pig from the Imu, proving that the Pua’a Kalua was cooked traditionally underground. Here the roast carcass was just carried onto the stage and off to be shredded. They made a big deal of t and there is a pit you can go and look at, but there was no “gather round” moment.
Once the feast is ready it is served to your table family style. This used to be a Buffet arrangement, but covid has seen many Luaus revert to a table service format. Here it really is a case of you getting your own mini buffet per table, and there is plenty to go around. More on the menu below. We are not sure if this is permanent or will one day switch back to the Buffet Format, we hope so but a lot of people prefer the Table service format.
As the feast winds down and the sun starts to dip, the Tiki Lamps are lit in a ceremony, the Conch shell is blown and the Show begins. Tables are well spaced so anyone with their back to the show can spin around and fully appreciate the performance. And it is a really good performance, possibly no2 on the island! Again we look at this in more detail.
At the end of the show, the Fire Knife dancers take to the stage, there are some nice crowd interactions, and the Shows finale before it’s time to leave.
Overall it’s a fantastic evening, with good food, flowing drinks, a stunning setting, and a fabulous show.
The feast is served Family Style at each table. The Tables are set for 8 so if you are a small group or a couple, you will be sharing food with strangers, not a huge issue for us but could be for some.
Hawaiian Taro Roll
Not exactly what would call a course, which would not matter but they do claim it’s 3 courses. No matter as there is plenty going on to make up for it afterward. The Rolls are fluffy lights but really quite sweet. The Butter is fantastic and this course is more than enough to keep the hunger at bay.
Seasonal Vegetable Stir-Fry – Roasted Garlic Olive Oil
Roasted Garlic Edamame Fried Rice – Onion, Carrots
Local Honey Glazed Sweet Potato – Toasted Coconut
Hawaiian Style Poke – Diced Ahi, Sweet Onion, Ogo Inamona Jus
Lomi Lomi Salmon – Diced Tomato, Smoked Salmon, Green Onion, Hawaiian Sea Salt
Upcountry Mixed Greens – Radish, Carrots, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Orange Sesame Dressing
Asian Noodle Salad – Kula Farms Vegetables, Toasted Sesame Vinaigrette
Local Potato Mac Salad
Imu Kalua Pork – Green Onion, Volcanic Sea Salt
Ginger Teriyaki Grilled Flank Steak – Julienne Bell Pepper, Sweet Onion
Sautéed Mahi Mahi – Lemon Butter Caper Sauce, Tropical Fruit Salsa
Huli Huli Style Chicken – Sesame Seeds, Scallions
The main feast is still pretty much as it was with the Buffet, it is just now brought to the table for you and served family style in the center of each table. They bring a lot of food, and there is more than enough to go around.
There is a lot to unpack here so let’s focus on the highlights. The Steak was tasty but it was a cheap cut and cooked to death, it is more roast beef than grilled steak, but was good. The Fish was ok, but this is shipped in and not fresh-local-caught (we doubt any Luau Fish really is!). The Huli Huli Chicken was good, it was even finished off on a flame grill as it should be! We love Huli Huli Chicken and for a Luau, this was an excellent representation. The pork was fantastic, as is always the case when cooked low and slow underground. Quite salty with a nice smokiness and is super tender.
The Ahi Poke was excellent and a good portion, especially if not everyone on your table likes Poke, you can hoover up the excess! The sides were all good, but they are just sides and not something to get excited about.
Overall it is an excellent feast and while it’s still Buffet food (served table side) and not a choreographed Menu, really that is what we expect from a Luau Feast. There are definite shades of mass catering going on, but this is always the case when you have a large number of people to be served all at once. It’s not the BEST Luau feast we have had, but it certainly keeps up with the front runners, we put it about tied with Old Lahaina and Grand Wailea, but slightly behind Feast at Mokapu and the front runner Feast at Lele.
Assorted Tropical Cookies
Fresh Sliced Pineapples
White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
We have to say the dessert selection was actually much better than the Menu suggests, we go a huge selection of different cakes and cookies. These were all small portions of various desserts and were all delicious. These are again what you would expect to find on a Buffet, just plated up and brought to your table.
The show is a real cracker. This is our number two show on the island. It is a Tahiti Production show, and they are one of the largest providers of Luaus in the world. This can lead to a fairly generic production but Te Au Moana really stands out as a polished and fantastically executed show.
Only the fantastic Old Lahaina Luau tops the Moana show, and this is mainly because it follows a similar format. The show is more of a story-based show than most and tells the tale of the Ocean and the Voyagers arriving in Hawaii.
There are a lot of performers and at times the stage is packed. The costumes are some of the most intricate and vibrant we have seen and the backdrop to all this is the stunning Wailea Coastline as the sun sets. The choreography was flawless and the various routines were far more elaborate and engaging than most luaus, who just sort of place the performers in a line and demonstrate the dance. This was far more intricate choreographed and involving.
The Music was loud and visceral as Performnet rushed through the crowd with shrill and ear-splitting “Chee-Hoo” shrieks. We really do love the fact they wait for the feast to wrap up before the show, allowing everyone to really just sit back and take it in.
The Finale is the Samoan Fire Dancers and these are the best performers we have seen on Maui, there are some exceptional displays over on Oahu, but Maui’s performances are often a little subdued, with just one performer doing the standard tricks. Don’t get us wrong, that’s still impressive, but this was next level. There are two performers working in tandem with lots of duel tricks, passing the batons and interacting with each other that just lifted the bar.
There really is a lot to like about the show put on by Te Au Moana and Tahiti Productions.
As with most of Maui’s Luau, there is an Open bar provided. Until you have been to a Luau without an open bar, you do not appreciate how important it really is. The Bar at Te Au is good, but we had a couple of niggles.
First, the big issue, we got our drinks served in plastic cups. This is a bit of an issue for us, we think we can be trusted with glassware at a Luau. We do see some images where the drinks are now served in Plastic Picnicstyle glasses, which is fine, but we still see them served in disposable cups too.
This is not ok really and for a couple of reasons. One is of course style and enjoyment. We just don’t like being treated like drunk college kids. We have paid a fortune for this event, and frankly want to enjoy our drinks from a real glass. When served in plastic at a pool or on a cruise we understand, breakages happen and clean-ups are problematic in some locations. But at a Luau with a table and chairs on a grassy lawn, it’s not really ok. More so wherever we are we really don’t like disposable.
Ocean Plastic is a big issue anywhere and we have got to cut down as a species, but out here on these pristine remote tropical islands, we really need to make an effort. It would be so easy for these to blow off and end up in the ocean, maybe eaten by a curious turtle. While we would rather see glass, Reusable plastic is ok, but they need to cut the disposable cups now.
Ok, rant over, hopefully, the change is in progress as we are seeing more reusable plastic now. It’s probably not a reason to skip Te Au Moana anyway. The good news is the Bar, apart from this was really good.
The drinks flowed freely all night and in our case, maybe a little too freely. There was a good selection of tropical cocktails, the Mai Tais were good with lots of Dark rum but maybe a little too fruity and sweet for us. We really liked the Lava flows and the Pineapple in the Mules gave them a real tropical zing.
Beer was provided by Maui Brewing Company, which is always a welcome addition, and included our personal fav, Big Swell IPA. There was a good choice of wines and the usual Spirits and mixers. Spirits are mid-level branded, nothing too fancy but not cheap well drinks either.
Apart from the cup issue we really enjoyed the drinks, and there was never anything remotely resembling a queue, which is pretty impressive seeing as there are so many people at the event. This is partially because, no payment is taken, and partially because, most drinks are pre-mixed, and fairly basic cocktail recipes.
Overall is the Te Au Moana Luau Worth it?
Unfortunately, this is where the Te Au Moana Luau falls down slightly. It really is a solid luau. Our complaints are small and far outweighed by the positives. Overall we had fantastic experiences at the Luau and it compares really well against pretty much every Luau on the Island, so what is the problem?
Well, at $265 per person, it really should be better than solid! This is an enormous price to pay for any entertainment and we expect to be really dazzled. The Feast at Mokapu, while being the most expensive o the island at least tries really hard to justify that enormous price tag by doing things a little differently and adding the extra sparkle.
The Te Au Moana just really skates by doing the basics. It does them really well, but it doesn’t go the extra mile to add that Pizazz. Pre-pandemic this Luau was well under $200 and for that, we really loved the show, but ringing in at $265 for the standard seating, it really is pushing the boundaries of acceptable pricing.
The problem is, there are no real alternatives in South Maui. There are only 3 active Luau’s (see below) and these range from $265-$280 for standard seating. They are all Hotel Luaus attached to high-end luxury hotels and can fill the seats with guests from the Hotel who like everything on a platter.
For those on more of a budget staying in the area, it really is hard to justify these sorts of prices, but your only alternative is the costly and time-consuming trip over to West Maui. We really feel the Hotels are stretching the elastic as tight as it can go to claw some pandemic cash back, but these price hikes are staggering. We do wonder if they can hold this price point or if customers will vote with their feet.
This is not an attack solely on Te Au Moana, as we can see All South Maui luaus are stretching the price points as far as possible, and even the West Maui Luaus are cranking the cost up.
As for if the Te Au Moana Luau is worth it, not if you are one of the budget travelers to South Maui, from Kehei we would make the effort to get to Lahaina/Kaanapali. If we were in Wailea, then we would probably stick to a Luau in staggering distance, it’s always worth it with an open bar.
The Te Au Moana is so evenly matched to the Grand Wailea Luau it’s hard to call, and while the Feast At Mokapu is fantastic, the extra cash might be better spent and we prefer the Show here at Te Au Moana.
It may simply be that with this pricing you just decide a Luau is out for now. $265 is a lot of cash and would get you a couple of really nice dinners, or dinner and a cruise, or 4-5 rally fun happy hours. You certainly do not HAVE to do a Luau.
We definitely feel there is room on South Maui, somewhere in Kehei maybe, for a more budget-friendly Luau for the many tourists not wanting to pay through the nose, but not wanting to trek all the way to West Maui. The obvious solution is to split your stay, half in West Maui and half in South Maui. But often by the time you are researching Luau’s your accommodation is already booked.
There are two main rivals in South Maui and we point out a couple of really great options in West Maui too, in case this makes more sense.
Grand Wailea Luau – $265pp – South Maui
The Grand Wailea Luau is right next door to the Te Au Moana, situated at the stunning Grand Wailea Hotel. It is scarily similar to the Te Au and really we would go to whichever is closer.
Feast at Mokapu – $280 pp – South Maui
The Feast at Mokapu is hosted just down the coast at the Stunning new Andaz Maui Resort. This is a super premium Luau and offers a more fine dining experience. While the food and drink are superior to the Te Au, and the location is pretty even, the show is definitely better at the Te Au.
Feast at Lele – $193 pp – West Maui
The Feast at Lele offers a similar format to the Mokapu. However, the meal is even more of a gastronomic journey. The Food at Lele definitely beats Te Au, but the location and the show at Te Au easily top the Feast at Lele. The price difference is pretty wide, allowing enough to pay for a taxi over the Lahaina.
Old Lahaina Luau – $229 pp – West Maui
Simply put, this is the best Luau on the Island. The price has shot up recently and is now not far behind the South Maui Luau’s but you get a first-rate meal, a stunning location, great drinks, and the best show available, and it still is cheaper.
Have your Say
Let us know if you have been to the Te A Moana Luau. What did you think of the event? How did you find the feast? How were the drinks? What did you make of the Grounds and how did you enjoy the show? Let is know in the comments and if you have any questions just fire away.