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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.
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.
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.
Paradise Cove Luau is on a 12-acre beachfront estate where a Hawaiian-style luau supper and Polynesian entertainment is staged with fun-filled activities throughout the evening.
The conch shell and haunting drums welcome malihini and kama'aina alike to enjoy this festive occasion. Under the stars. Indulge in traditional Hawaiian foods and join in the excitement of song and dance of old Hawaii.
The sound of a conch shell welcomes you to the Sunset Luau! A starlit Kona sky, an array of delectable Hawaiian dishes, and a journey through the islands of Polynesia in traditional music and dance create an unforgettable evening.
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.
Experience an exhilarating and enchanting journey through Hawaiian history—and discover its deep cultural roots in canoe (waʻa) exploration, which brought the first ancient explorers to the shores of Ko Olina.