What is a Luau?
A luau is a traditional Hawaiian gathering and feast. It has three main elements: traditional Hawaiian feast, mele (song) and hula (dance). The first recorded luau was held by King Kamehameha II in 1819. Today families in Hawaii will sometimes celebrate special occasions with luaus. These are however private and not open to the public.
Is a luau authentic?
Commercial operators have stepped in and organize luaus for tourists to attend. Typically they are held at or near resorts next to the beach with sunset views. They will include a meal of traditional Hawaiian foods (including roasted pig). Typically drinks are included (Mai Tai, Pina Colada, Blue Hawaiian etc). After-dinner entertainment will include various hula dances, perhaps a fire or knife dancer etc. Are they authentic? Well, considering that they are a commercial business, they are okay. Definitely check out reviews on Trip Advisor, the Maui Time’s ‘Best of Maui’ section and other review sites to see what others have thought. Additionally we have a great concierge (Concierge Connection) that can recommend a Luau near you, and help with great seats.
Should you book a Maui luau?
It depends what you are expecting. If you want to try authentic Hawaiian foods and enjoy a Hawaiian-esque show, book a luau. The food is usually very good, and I am not sure where else to go for traditional roast imu pig (it is so good). However, if you are more interested in culture or history, take a pass and book the Ulalena show in Lahaina – no dinner included, but a great indoor show, depicting the history of the Hawaiian islands with great live music and dance.  this show is closed - we hope it will re appear in 2022.
What is the best luau on Maui?
I recommend seriously considering the luaus near your condo. Keep in mind the free drinks and how far you will need to drive after the luau. Maui Police cracks down on impaired driving, so unless you have a designated driver, plan on taking a cab. Uber is also now on Maui. Remember that the drive from Lahaina to Kihei/Wailea can take an hour in post-luau traffic (and that’s if there is no accident on the two-lane highway).
If you prefer a sit-down dinner, check out the Feast of Lele in Lahaina. All other luaus on Maui are buffet-style which is nice as you get to pick and choose what you want to eat. The Old Lahaina Luau consistently rates well. The Grand Luau at Honua’ula (Grand Wailea) and Te au Moana (Wailea Marriott) are good South Maui options.
What is the best place to buy luau tickets?
The cost is anywhere from $100-$130/adult. Children usually get in at a reduced rate. Tips are extra (expected and appreciated). You can book tickets directly from the luau organizers (online or at the resorts). Remember, most luaus do not run daily, you will want to pre-book tickets to avoid disappointment.
If you are considering the Grand Luau (Grand Wailea), buy your discounted tickets at Costco and then phone the resort to reserve your seats.
Where you sit at a luau is important. The right seats can insure a much better experience. For that reason we recommend using our concierges. They know all the luaus intimately and in talking with you about your expectations can recommend the best for what you want. You’ll be able to see and hear the show, sit on the ground traditional style at low tables or standard tables for just you or with a group. They earn a small commission for doing this but the cost you pay is no more than you would pay directly to the event – you’ll be much happier.
There are also time share stands that will sell you heavily discounted tickets (in return for attending one of their time share presentations). This is one way to save money however ask yourself: are you willing to give up several hours of your vacation in a time share presentation and do you have the willpower to say ‘no’ to their sales pitch?
What to wear to a luau?
Dress code is Hawaiian casual: a nice Aloha shirt with shorts/khakis, an Aloha dress for the ladies. Most luaus have lei available for purchase. Also most have a professional photographer present – a great opportunity for a family picture!
Where to park?
Double check this when you make your reservations. At the Grand Wailea for instance, valet parking is included in the price of the tickets. However, you will want some change to tip the valet.