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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.
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.
Hā: Breath of Life, is a stunning evening show featuring over 100 Polynesia performers, special effects, animation and surround sound. It is a story of passion, ignited by fire, song, and dance. This 90-minute, world-famous, award-winning show is a MUST see and truly an unforgettable experience.
Waikiki’s only oceanfront dinner show is a culinary and sensory celebration, commemorating Hawaiian culture and transforming the traditional island experience in grand Royal Hawaiian style. The Royal Hawaiian’s ‘Aha‘aina is a lavish epicurean journey through time.
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.
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.
Big Island's most popular luau at the Courtyard Marriott King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel. Located on the historical grounds of Ahu Ena Heiau on Kamakahonu Bay. Includes the arrival of the Royal Court by canoe, an imu ceremony, a buffet dinner, open bar and a spectacular Polynesian review.
Enjoy an exquisite gathering with an authentic experience of old Hawai'i. As the sun sets, treasure this mesmerizing setting as you indulge in island culinary treats with the Pacific Ocean as the backdrop. Watch as music and dance bring the story of Polynesia to life.