While you can enjoy a Hawaii vacation without going to a luau, it wouldn’t nearly be as much fun.
A luau is the ultimate “feel good” celebration that incorporates favorite Island traditions as well as modern-day amenities. For many visitors, a luau winds up being the highlight of their entire Hawaiian experience.
In ancient times, Hawaiians held traditional feasts to mark special occasions—the birth of a child, a successful harvest or victorious battle were all reasons to honor the gods who showed them a favor. These celebrations were called ahaaina (“gathering for a feast”). The term “luau” actually came much later and refers to the edible taro leaves that are used to wrap the food before being placed in the imu (underground oven).
In the past, men and women were not permitted to eat together. When the ancient Hawaiian kapu (taboo) system was effectively abolished in 1819, however, that custom was changed. Today, luaus are celebrations enjoyed by everyone—men, women, and children—and are often held to commemorate a baby’s first birthday, a special anniversary or major event.
Many of today’s commercial luaus pull out all the stops to provide a unique luau experience. The larger operations will even provide round-trip transportation to and from your hotel, and pre-dinner festivities may include hands-on craft demonstrations, storytelling, and Hawaiian games.
Of course, the star attraction at any luau is the food. Most luaus offer a full array of Hawaiian specialties such as kalua pig (roasted in the imu), lomilomi salmon, poi and haupia (a type of coconut pudding). However, since some visitors may not enjoy these traditional foods—even some locals aren’t fond of poi—most menus also include American favorites like fried chicken, salad greens, teriyaki beef, rice, chicken and chocolate cake.
And no luau would be complete without a Polynesian revue. Many luaus provide spectacular entertainment showcasing some of Hawaii’s most talented young performers. There are Tahitian numbers, Hawaiian hula performances, and Samoan fire knife dances. And don’t be shy if you’re asked to join these dancers on stage and show your stuff!
Overall, a luau is one of the “must” things to do in Hawaii. It’s a relaxing and colorful way to celebrate the cultures and traditions of these islands.