If you’re visiting Maui for the first time, you should definitely consider attending one of the many Maui luaus. Besides being a fun night to remember, attending a traditional Hawaiian luau feast is a great way for you to immerse yourself in entertainment popular across all the Hawaiian islands and learn more about Hawaiian culture. It will also give you the chance to experience traditional Hawaiian cuisine.
What is a Luau?
Traditionally, the Hawaiian word “luau” referred to the leaves of a young taro plant, which are often used in local dishes in combination with coconut milk, chicken, squid, or octopus.
The term, however, was later associated with the ancient ritual where the people of the town unite in a social gathering in celebration of significant life events, war victories, or the launching of a new canoe. Originally called “aha’aina,” the celebration includes feasting on traditional Hawaiian food, listening to Hawaiian music, and enjoying luau entertainment, including Samoan fire dancing, hula dancing, and Polynesian dancing.
What dishes are served at Maui luaus?
There is no fixed menu that every Maui luau conforms to. That being said, there are a number of dishes that you can expect to see in most luaus in Maui, including:
Kalua pig is a roast pulled pork dish traditionally cooked in an imu or an underground oven. The savory flavors of Kalua pork come from salt, smoke, and its own juices.
Poi is a porridge made of taro eaten by many people across the Hawaiian Islands. This dish is traditionally prepared by pounding fresh taro root with water. Poi, when eaten fresh, can be very sweet. However, the taste becomes sour and the consistency thickens if it is kept longer than a day.
Poke is one of the most famous Hawaiian dishes that is now being served in many restaurants across the world. This dish features bites of uncooked fish seasoned with onion, soy sauce, or spicy sauce. Most poke bowls use ahi tuna.
Laulau is a dish that features meat wrapped in luau leaves and cooked in an underground oven or steamed. This dish may use pork, chicken, or fish.
Haupia is a classic luau dessert made from coconut milk, sugar, cornstarch, and water. The dish is a cross between coconut jelly and pudding and is traditionally served in little cut squares.
Kulolo is a popular Hawaiian dessert made of ground taro, sugar, and coconut milk. Traditionally, the dish is made in an imu where it is steamed or baked for hours.
Kulolo mostly resembles a fudge, although locals consider it a pudding. The dish has a caramel-like flavor with a hint of smokiness from being cooked in an imu.
Besides the dishes mentioned above, luaus will most likely serve other local favorites, including fried rice and vegetable curry.
There are many ways to enjoy a Luau feast. Traditionally, the food was eaten off of lauhalas, large woven mats made from ti leaves. Diners were also seated on the floor and only used their hands to eat. These days, however, many luaus in Maui offer tables and seating.
Where To Go For The Best Maui Luaus?
Now that we’ve got all the basics covered, it’s time to show you where you could get the most authentic luau experience in Maui. Do note, however, that while we have included prices in this article, it is best to check with the resorts in case there is a price surge.
Old Lahaina Luau
- Length: 3 hours
- Price: $229
Dubbed one of the best luaus in Maui, Old Lahaina Luau delivers pretty much everything you could hope to see and experience in a Hawaiian luau. It doesn’t hurt that all guests are greeted at the door with a fresh flower lei and a glass of Mai Tai.
Before the feast begins, guests will be given a glimpse of Hawaiian history by gathering to watch the traditional imu ceremony of excavating the kalua pig from the underground oven. Once the kalua pork has been chopped up, the buffet-style feast begins.
Once the sun sets, the entertainment begins. Performers will take guests through the long history of Hawaii through dance and music, including hula dance. That being said, do not expect fire-knife dancing as there were no such dances back then.
The Old Lahaina Luau has a seating choice of tables and chairs or traditional seating.
Feast At Lele
- Length – 3 hours
- Price – $193
If you’re looking for a more upscale Maui luau, Feast at Lele in West Maui is a great option. For starters, guests are given a Mai Tai and a lei of Kukui tree nuts when they arrive. In addition, the feast features a five-course, sit-down dinner paired with stories and dancing from the island.
The first course offers traditional Hawaiian food with a show of traditional Hawaiian songs and dances. The second course focuses on food and entertainment from the island of Aotearoa, which is now known as New Zealand. The New Zealand course is accompanied by the traditional Haka dance, which is an ancient Maori war dance. Women, on the other hand, perform using poi.
Feast at Lele also has performers that can do Tahitian dance and Samoan sasa dance, as well as fire dancers.
Having said that, there is less interaction at Feast at Lele than Old Lahaina Luau as guests are not given the chance to gather around an imu.
Maui Nui Luau
- Price – $198
Hosted at the Sheraton Maui Resort, Maui Nui Luau offers a very authentic luau taking place on the world famous Ka’anapali Beach. The Sheraton luau also features a buffet of Hawaiian meals and a fresh flower lei greeting (if flowers are available).
Performers at the Maui Nui Luau tell the story of Maui, the demigod the island is named after. Guests are also immersed in the culture of Hawaiian and Polynesian Islands through song and dance. There is also an incredible fire knife dance throughout the performance.
Grand Wailea Luau
- Length – 4 hours
- Price – $265+
The Grand Luau at Honua’ula is located at the award winning Grand Wailea Resort and Spa. The luau at the resort excels in giving guests excellent service, a solid menu, and a chance to dine at an ocean-view location.
The luau at Grand Wailea features family-style meals and Keikei (kid) friendly food options. There is also a wide range of pre-show activities, including hula lessons, ukelele lessons, torch lighting, and the unearthing of the kalua pig.
The luau show, which starts after sun down, tells the story of La’amaikahiki and Moikeha voyages, which led to the Polynesians discovering the island of Hawaii.
Te Au Moana Wailea Beach Resort
- Length – 2.5 hours
- Price – $265 for standard seating & $325 for premium seating
Te Au Moana Luau gives guests a chance to experience a spectacular luau show at the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort in Maui. Also translated to “the ocean tide,” Te Au Moana Luau aims to create a special atmosphere on a lawn overlooking the ocean to connect guests to Polynesian culture.
Guests who visit Wailea Beach Marriott Resort for the Te Au Moana Luau will receive a fresh flower lei or a carved wooden fish hook necklace upon arrival. They will then be led to pre-show events, including some Polynesian rituals like tapa making, or the process of creating fabric from tree bark. Families can also participate in storytelling or coconut husking activities.
Prior to the feast, guests can gather to witness the unearthing of the Kalua pig and indulge in a buffet thereafter. The feast also features kula greens, coconut haupia, and Molokai sweet potatoes.
Wailele Polynesian Luau
- Length – 3 hours
- Price – $210 for Ohana (standard) seating & $250 for premium seating
Often referred to as the most authentic luau in Maui, the Wailele Polynesian Luau at the Westin Maui Resort and Spa is truly a breathtaking experience. During the show, guests are treated to astounding performances that tell the story of the demigod Maui through Hawaiian costumes, kahiko dances, and fire knife dances.
The Wailele Polynesian Luau has show dates on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. There may also be additional shows on Wednesdays and Fridays during the summer or on holidays.
Drums of the Pacific
Presented at Hyatt Regency Maui, the Drums of the Pacific is the longest-running show on the islands and has been entertaining guests for more than four decades.
The Drums of the Pacific features a spectacular show of Hawaiian chants and music, coupled with the sound of the conch and the beating of the drums. The program also features an unforgettable display of Samoan fire-dancing and flame-eating.
The feast at the Drums of the Pacific luau is served buffet style. There are plenty of traditional luau dishes available, including kalua pork and lomi lomi salmon. They also offer tropical cocktails, including Pina on the rocks and Mai Tai.