A luau is a Hawaiian celebration that includes food, drinks, and entertainment consisting of dance and music. When you look at that description it sounds like a party, and that is basically what a luau is. What differentiates a luau from just a normal party?

The First Hawaiian Luau

For thousands of years, Polynesians held consumption of food as a sacred ritual. When eating, there would be prayer and thanks given to various entities that allowed for the meal. Men ate in separate quarters and ate certain foods that were restricted from women and children. Other foods were reserved only for the gods and ceremonial presentation.

With the introduction of Christianity to the Hawaiian population in 1819, a large feast was planned by the urging of Kuhina Nui (Queen Regent) Kaahumanu, and her stepson, Kamehameha II, to abolish the ancient laws and temples of worship. Also, in direct defiance to one of the sacred kapu (forbidden laws) of mixed dining, the feast included the enjoyment of food and drinks in the company of both men and women, along with entertainment. This is believed to be the first Hawaiian luau. 

Cooking Methods

Besides cooking smaller food items on an open flame over coals, Hawaiians steam their large amounts of food in an imu (underground oven). Taro, sweet potato, breadfruit, pork, fish, chicken, and pre-wrapped food items, like laulau, were cooked in the imu. 

The imu is a pit dug in the ground normally about 5-6 feet wide and 2-3 feet deep; however, dimensions vary based on the amount of food that goes in. Kindling, then larger logs, then round porous rocks are placed in the imu and lit. After the rocks get hot, a layer of banana stumps are placed on the rocks, then the food items. Banana and ti leaves cover the food items, then several damp woven mats cover the imu. Dirt is then placed completely over the mats and the food cooks for anywhere between 8-12 hours, depending on its heat and contents.  

The History of the Luau

Hawaiian luaus were held to celebrate special occasions and mostly centered around food. Prior to the first westerner, Captain James Cook, arriving in the Hawaiian Islands, Hawaiians did not have the resources to produce metal and lacked the luxury of eating with utensils. Because they ate with their hands, food was prepared in a variety of ways. 

Fish and poi were the main foods eaten, as they were most abundant. Fish were eaten raw or cooked over coals or in the imu. Poi, the staple Hawaiian food made from taro that is steamed and mashed, has always been a favorite dish. Hawaiians enjoy eating other items such as breadfruit, sweet potato, banana, pork, chicken, and other delicacies from the ocean, including seaweed, limpets, and urchins. 

Hawaiians have long enjoyed awa, a calming drink used for ceremonial purposes, and often for recreational use. A distilled spirit created in Hawaiʻi is okole hao, made from the ti root. 

In the mid 1800’s, commerce and agriculture boomed in Hawai’i, which brought an influx of immigrant workers to work in the sugar cane and pineapple fields. These immigrant workers brought their culture and foods with them. Hawai’i then became known as “the melting pot of the Pacific” and from that point on, luaus includes a diverse menu of ethnic foods from around the world. 

Where did the word luau come from?

Before the word lūʻau was used to reference a party or feast, ancient Hawaiians used other words like pa’ina (party) or ahaʻaina (feast). In the mid 1800’s, people around the world heard of the Hawaiian islands, and a group of media writers were invited to experience and write about this beautiful place. 

A luau was prepared for them, where one writer asked, “what is this?” meaning “what is a luau?” or “what do Hawaiians call this type of gathering/celebration?” The host misunderstood thinking the writer asked what was the food in front of them. It happened to be a dish called luau, the name of the taro leaf, similar to spinach. That writer went on and shared that a Hawaiian party is a luau!

Our Maui luau brings people together, offering a full evening of food and entertainment for Old Lāhainā Lūʻau guests to have an unforgettable night. Wondering what to expect? Great food, unmatched entertainment, and an unforgettable cultural experience.

The Best Maui Luau: Old Lāhainā Lūʻau

On the scenic Lāhainā coast, we have proudly entertained thousands of guests for over 30 years (since 1986). This popular Maui luau features some of Hawaii’s hula dancing legends, singing sensations, and award-winning musicians. The big meal features traditional Hawaiian fare such as kālua pork, poi, and fresh limu (seaweed), along with an incredible spread of desserts. If you’re looking for a vegan luau, let us know and we’ll bring you some delicious meat-free options. 

The stage at Old Lāhainā Lūʻau is a show in itself. For decades, it has featured what many say is the most beautiful and unique show backdrop in all of Hawaii. Watch live as the sun sets over historic Lāhainā Harbor, and then stay after dark to experience one of the world’s only true luau evening shows under the stars! With ono (delicious) Hawaiian food, hula dancing, and music that entertained our ancestors, our Maui luau provides something special for everyone.

What food is served at this luau?

As mentioned above, some of the food is traditionally cooked in an underground oven, and some foods are prepared in a state-of-the-art kitchen on our stunning property. Due to current Maui COVID restrictions, the buffet option has beenreplaced with a taste of EVERYTHING delivered right to your table, restaurant-style. 

This authentic Hawaiian luau starts with crispy kalo (taro) and sweet potato chips with flavorful kalo hummus to dip them in. Enjoy a fresh local green salad with a breadbasket side and honey-guava butter to spread on top. Dive in for an ono sampling of Hawaiian food with generous portions of kālua pig, laulau (bundles of pork and taro leaves), fresh ahi poke, and salty lomilomi salmon that goes perfectly with freshly pounded poi. For a sweet palate cleanser, try the silky coconut haupia and sweet kulolo. 

After some entertainment, enjoy coffee and/or tea with pineapple upside-down cake and house-made ice cream. Drinks are free-flowing throughout the night for guests 21 and up. Guests who are vegetarian or have food sensitivities can let staff know and they’ll be taken care of.

Can guests experience a vegan luau or vegetarian luau?

Old Lāhainā Lūʻau cooks up masterpieces to delight our customers, including our vegetarian and vegan friends. If you prefer a plant-based life, that’s not a problem—you won’t be eating kālua  pig, but our chefs always cook up some great vegan-friendly options for our non-meat eaters. Visit us for a vegan luau that will make the meat-eaters jealous! Let us know ahead of time that you have guests who prefer meat-free options and we’ll facilitate a lovely vegan luau.

Are there drinks at a luau?

Fruity tropical drinks are one of the most enjoyable parts of an evening under the stars for those over 21 years old (be sure to bring your ID). Feel free to sip tropical beverages such as the Blue Hawaiian and Lava Flow that will put you in the mood for celebrating. Old Lāhainā Lūʻau also provides local beer options, wine, and cocktails made with premium liquor.

What is a luau evening of entertainment like?

Expect music, dancing, and aloha from our Maui luau staff. When you go to a luau there is always entertainment, like Hawaiian dancing performances by hula dancers and slack-key guitar music played in the old style or modern acoustic interpretations of traditional songs. Before COVID-19, there were cultural interactive stations, which are currently not happening. Instead they are shared as a presentation on stage during meal time, hopefully returning in the near future. 

Hula Dancing is what people think about the most when they think of a luau. The hula is so deeply connected to Hawaiian culture that it’s hard not to be moved by even just one performance; and there are usually many throughout the evening, with different styles being showcased. These incredibly talented performers have been practicing their moves since youth and it shows with effortless, mesmerizing dancing.

Music to groove or relax to by award-winning musicians, ukulele players, slack-key guitarists, and soulful singers from the local community, fills the air and reminds you to enjoy the simple beauty around you.

What is a luau appropriate outfit?

It’s fun to get all dressed up for a luau, so make sure you pack your best aloha shirt or dress, as well as shoes that are easy to walk in on grass (e.g., not high heels). Maui residents typically only go in Hawaiian clothing during special occasions like weddings, but visitors are seen in aloha shirts and sundresses regularly. Wear something cool, comfortable, and bright!

A luau is an opportunity for all of us to share what makes Hawaii unique, and how we preserve our culture. A luau draws people together, melts away all barriers, lays down racial differences, economic levels, gender, and religion. All are equal at the luau; everyone laughs together and enjoys each other’s company, united by love and aloha. Please join us for a magical, tropical evening at Old Lāhainā Lūʻau and we’ll show you what a Maui luau is truly supposed to be.

Hot sun, gentle ocean breezes, warm saltwater brimming with sea life. Visiting Hawaii right now sounds like a dream…but then again, there’s still a worldwide pandemic happening. 

As the pandemic winds down in the U.S. and travel begins to open up in some areas of the world, tourism is picking up and more people are taking all that money they saved and packing up to see the world…well, at least the safer parts. Hawaii is being inundated with tourists, which is great but can be confusing when you’re not sure what the current Hawaii travel restrictions are.

The only predictable thing right now is that things are unpredictable and changing constantly. Our goal at Old Lahaina Luau is to provide some calm in the storm of information by keeping you up to date with travel information, Maui COVID restrictions, and fun, safe ways to have a smooth vacation in Maui, even with the Hawaii travel restrictions 2021 brings. 

Hawaii Travel Restrictions 2021 Update: A Few Highlights

(as of July 8, 2021)

There are currently three ways to get into Hawaii:

    As of July 8th, 2021 U.S. mainland travelers who are fully vaccinated can bypass quarantine (as long as there have been 15 or more days since the final dose). You will need to upload a photo and have proof of vaccination on hand while traveling.
    Skip quarantine by taking a pre-travel test (paid for by you) and a rapid post-arrival test (paid for by Maui County). The test must be from one of our state-approved providers and taken within 72 hours or less before your final flight to Hawaii. For those visiting Maui from the U.S. mainland or abroad, test results must be uploaded before flight departure.
    If you are not vaccinated and choose not to take a COVID-19 test before departure, you can complete a mandatory 10-day self-quarantine and shelter-in-place until it’s complete. You’ll need to check in on your smartphone or computer each day.

So, in a nutshell, the latest Hawaii travel restrictions update announced that as of July 8th, 2021, fully vaccinated visitors from the U.S. (ages 12 and up) no longer need to have a negative COVID test to get into Maui. Also, as of June 15, 2021, inter-island restrictions have ended between all islands, meaning you can travel between islands with proof of vaccination. The hope is that once Hawaii reaches the target of 70% vaccinated residents, they may be able to end the Safe Travels program altogether.

Current Maui COVID Restrictions: What to Expect on Island

Here’s a list of the most recent Maui COVID restrictions and what that means to you (as of June 15th, 2021). These rules include all Maui County islands; Maui, Molokai, and Lanai.

  1. Social Gatherings
    When you’re indoors, you can gather in groups of up to 10 people and up to 25 people outdoors. Multiple groups can gather if there are 6 feet in distance between them. This doesn’t apply to events, schools, etc. that have people ensuring that COVID protocols are being followed.
  2. Face Coverings Required Indoors
    Be sure to pack plenty of masks, as they’re still required when indoors by all people ages 5 and up (except when eating or drinking at a restaurant). No masks are required outdoors (as of June 15, 2021), however, Old Lahaina Luau requires all guests to continue wearing face masks when not sitting down and actively eating and/or drinking.
  3. Exposure Notification System
    All residents and visitors to Maui County, are urged to download the AlohaSafe Alert app or another Google-Apple Exposure Notification System app or enable their exposure notification setting on their mobile device, just in case.
  4. Physical Distancing
    Please continue to keep at least a six-foot distance from all people that are not from your household. This can be a challenge in congested areas, like Lahaina’s Front Street but we ask that you respect others’ personal space and wear a mask if outdoors in crowded areas or step aside to let others pass while keeping your distance. 
  5. Limited Occupancy
    Many restaurants and shops will be limited on how many people they can have indoors at one time. Please read all signs and peek inside to see if you can go on in or if you need to wait for others to exit first. The shop or restaurant owner can help you if you’re not sure. Please be patient, as we’re all just trying to get through this time safely.
  6. Keeping it Clean 
    You’ll find complimentary hand sanitizer out at most stores, restaurants, and activity locations, though it never hurts to carry your own. And you can bring bottles of up to 12 oz of hand sanitizer on the plane now. Employees that handle a lot of customer items, like cash or credit cards, are expected to be using hand sanitizer regularly.
  7. Disinfecting 
    Rest easy and know that businesses disinfect all high-touch surfaces, such as shopping carts, conveyor belts, counters, handles, knobs, and other high-touch surfaces multiple times throughout the day. Bring disinfectant wipes with you if you want to have the convenient option of wiping down your own surfaces.
  8. Clear Signs 
    You’ll see clearly posted signs at the entrance of each business letting you know about required face coverings, not to enter if you have a cough or fever, or are feeling ill, and maintaining a six-foot distance from others.

You can find the full text of the most recent Maui COVID restrictions on the Maui county website

Travel Tips for the Latest Hawaii Travel Restrictions Update

Follow these tips to get to Maui safely and smoothly during COVID.

    If you haven’t already done so, put and keep your vaccination card in a special place that is protected from wear and tear. DO NOT laminate it, but you can put it in a removable clear plastic sleeve. Be sure to take a photo of it on your phone, mark it in your favorite photos, and e-mail it to yourself or your family so you have backups. Always keep your card with you while traveling around Hawaii.
    Your health care provider or third-party vendor that gave you your vaccination will have a record they can print out for you (or one that can print from home on your health care provider’s website or app if they have one). Not sure where to find it? Call the provider where you got your vaccine and ask! It never hurts to have backups to your backups! Go ahead and text and e-mail it to yourself again so you have access to your COVID vaccination records wherever you are.
    Now that you have proof of vaccination, plan your trip, and know that tourism is high right now, and going on the off-season (September to November) might be a better experience. Check with your favorite airline about any extra Hawaii travel restrictions 2021 is bringing and how that may impact your travel times.
    This is the place you’ll be uploading the photo of your vaccination card ahead of your trip. Everyone in your party 18 and up will need to log in to travel.hawaii.gov and create their own account. Children under 18 can be accounted for under an adult’s account. Follow the simple instructions and you’ll be on your way to Hawaii, stress-free! You’ll need to fill out some basic information, upload a photo/scan of your driver’s license, and a photo/scan of your vaccination card. 
    Visit your Safe Travels account within 24 hours of your departure time and complete the health questionnaire to get your QR code (the black and white boxy barcode) that will help you get approved for travel once you’re at the airport.
    At this time, to the best of our knowledge, children ages five (5) and older who aren’t vaccinated will need to follow the current pre-travel testing protocol. This means that children 5-12 who are not eligible for vaccination and children 13-17 who have not been vaccinated, would need to pass a COVID test within the 72-hour pre-travel test timeline.
    Pack plenty of clean masks to switch out every few hours (they can get stinky!), antibacterial wipes, and hand sanitizer to keep your space clean
    You made it to Maui during COVID! That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook from the pandemic. Please keep wearing your mask, washing your hands, and distancing to protect our island and local residents.

Still have questions about the Hawaii travel restrictions 2021 brings?
Call this helpful center with friendly local people standing by to help answer your COVID travel questions. It’s open 8:00 am to 4:30 pm HST Monday through Friday at (808) 270-7855.

Maui COVID Restriction FAQs

Do I need to wear a mask in Maui? 
On May 25, 2021, Governor David Ige issued an amendment to the 19th emergency proclamation lifting the mask mandate for all individuals outdoors, effective immediately. Mask wearing is still highly recommended outdoors, when in large groups. Old Lahaina Luau requires all guests to continue wearing face masks when not sitting down and actively eating and/or drinking. The indoor mask mandate remains unchanged.

What if I lost my COVID vaccination card? 
No problem, just contact your health care provider (or place where you got vaccinated) and ask for your Vaccination Administration Management System (VAMS) printout for another form of proof. Some provider websites or apps provide your VAMS for easy printing from home, as well. If you’re already approved through the Safe Travels website, you’re good to go!

What should I bring to Maui? 

  • Pack items that will make for a more comfortable flight, like snacks (though you’ll need to eat any fresh produce by landing), an empty water bottle to fill up, and light clothes for sunny Maui weather. 
  • Besides having proof of vaccination, you want to have all necessary medications and prescription glasses or contacts for yourself and family members. 
  • Bring fun things to stay entertained, especially if traveling with children. A couple coloring books can go a long way (for you OR the kids).
  • Make sure to pack clean masks to switch out every few hours, wipes, and hand sanitizers to help avoid the spread of COVID.

Do I have to take the post-arrival rapid COVID test if I’m fully vaccinated*?
Maui’s post-arrival rapid testing program at Kahului Airport has ended, as of June 4, 2021. There is no longer any second (post-arrival) test required for travelers at this time.

International travelers will still need to take a test before leaving (as stated by the Safe Travels Program) to receive the travel quarantine exception. When deboarding the plane, your proof of vaccination will be confirmed by an employee, then you’re free to explore the island.

*Fully vaccinated means that you have received either both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the one dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine and it has been at least 14 days since your final dose. Proof of vaccination can be through your original CDC vaccination card or by showing your certificate of vaccination from the Vaccination Administration Management System (VAMS) from the CDC.

What about traveling to Maui with kids?
When traveling with keiki (children), keep these tips in mind:

  • Children two years and up must wear a mask at the airport, during boarding, through the whole flight and while getting off at their destination. 
  • Minors (children under 18) do not need to have their own Safe Travels accounts, you can add them to an adult’s account as a minor.
  • If you’re visiting from the U.S. Mainland, children under five do not need to quarantine or take a pre-travel test.