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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.
Voted the #1 paid attraction in Hawaii, the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu's North Shore offers 6 Pacific Island villages and exhibits. Featuring Hawaii's most authentic luau, and our award-winning show, "Hā: Breath of Life.” Visit us for an unforgettable experience great for the whole family.
As the sun sets across famed Kaanapali Beach, beating drums and the call of a conch shell signal the start of Maui's most exciting and longest running Polynesian luau. Enjoy a stunning celebration of music and dance that culminates with an amazing fire knife finale sure to dazzle the entire family.
Come visit the most authentic luau on the island. The Ali'i Luau offers melt-in-your-mouth Kalua Pork from the traditional firepit and other island cuisine. Not only do we take great pride in making our luau the most delicious, we also embrace Hawaiian culture to give you a fantastic experience.
Rock-A-Hula® is Waikiki’s biggest show featuring a “Hawaiian Journey®” from the 1920s to today with powerful performances of music and dance by the largest cast of artists, hula, fire knife dancers and amazing musicians in the premier 750-seat Royal Hawaiian Theater.
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.
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.
Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel extends their ho‘okipa by presenting The Legends of Kā‘anapali Lū‘au every Monday night in the heart of the hotel‘s Tiki Courtyard. You’ll be greeted with warm smiles by the friendly staff of the hotel, leading you to a scrumptious feast prepared by island-born chefs.