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A visit to the Hawaiian Islands is not complete without experiencing a luau – a Hawaiian feast featuring lively music and vibrant cultural performances from Hawaii and greater Polynesia.
History of the Luau
In ancient Hawaii, a feast to celebrate special occasions was called an ahaaina – aha meaning gathering and aina meaning meal. Celebrating special occasions together was an important cultural tradition. Additionally, it was believed that certain foods represented specific qualities and attributes. During this time women were not allowed to eat with men nor were they allowed to eat certain foods.
King Kamehameha II marked a new era by ending traditional practices in 1819. He celebrated this event with a special ahaaina where the women were invited to eat with the men, symbolizing a dramatic shift in societal norms.
Over time the word luau became the more commonly used term for these special parties. Luau, which refers to the taro leaf, was frequently served at these special feasts as well as a number of other dishes.
Popular Luau Dishes
- Poi: Pounded taro plant root; a starch meant to be eaten with everything.
- Kalua Pig: Pork prepared in an imu or underground oven and shredded.
- Chicken Long Rice: A chicken noodle soup-like dish with bean thread noodles and ginger.
- Laulau: Meat wrapped in luau (taro) leaves and steamed. Traditionally, this is prepared in an underground oven called an imu.
- Lomilomi Salmon: A side dish made from salmon, tomatoes, onion and crushed ice.
- Haupia: Coconut pudding.
- Poke: The term literally means "to slice cross-wise into pieces" and commonly features raw fish served with a variety of condiments such as shoyu (soy sauce), green onions, kukui nut (candlenut), limu (seaweed). However, the dish isn't exclusively fish-based and there are other variations as well.
The luau tradition carries on today. Friends and family get together for a luau to celebrate special occasions including graduation, a wedding and most commonly – a birthday. While these luau are private, there are a number of different luau experiences across the state for visitors to enjoy.
Enjoy a garden luau followed by Kauai's most spectacular international pageant at the lagoon amphitheater. The Golden People of Hawaii depicts dances and songs from Polynesia and Asia. Luau's are on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Five thousand years of legend and lore are acted out in a rousing canoe pageant daily at 2:30 p.m. on the lagoon that meanders through the Polynesian Cultural Center's 42 tropical acres.
The background sound of ocean surf and a soulful steel guitar; a welcome lei and Mai Tai; tables laden with traditional island foods; this is The Mauna Kea Luau - everyone's dream Hawaii experience shared through music and food.
There’s no show in the world like it! This “must-see” spectacle is the #1 performance in Waikiki. The Magic of Polynesia featuring John Hirokawa: Guaranteed to Mesmerize.
Come early and stroll the Plantation's tropical grounds as you enjoy the late afternoon sun or walk through an amazing craft fair and view beautiful creations that are all "Made on Kauai".
Legends in Concert Waikiki presents "Rock-A-Hula," a dazzling new live concert from yesteryear to today, featuring a unique tribute to "Elvis" joined by an all-star cast, hula and more at the newly renovated Royal Hawaiian Theater in the heart of Waikiki.
A cast of over 100 young Polynesians will enchant you with their enthusiasm, grace, endurance and beauty. Ha: Breath of Life is a 90-minute, world-famous, award-winning show that you must not miss, and having seen it, will never forget.
Experience Polynesian culture at the Drums of the Pacific Luau located at the Hyatt Regency Maui. Enjoy song and dance from the islands of Polynesia, including an all-you-can-eat buffet with traditional island fare, authentic imu ceremony, and three-man Samoan fire-knife dance, all oceanside.
Hawaii's favorite visitor attraction offering 7 Pacific Island villages and exhibits on 42 acres. Featuring Hawaii's most authentic luau, and our new show, "Ha: Breath of Life.” We also offer an immersive big screen showing of "Hawaii'an Journey", canoe rides and Polynesian themed shopping.