If you plan to visit Hawaii, attending an authentic Hawaiian Luau is an absolute must and offer delicious cuisine, exhilarating dances, and an experience like no other. Luaus are also core to the traditional culture of native Hawaiians. That makes them central to the true Hawaiian vacation experience. If you are visiting Maui, here’s why a luau needs to be at the top of your list.
Before the luau we know today, a different festival was practiced in Hawaii called the aha‘aina. This name translates to “gathering meal.” While we still gather for meals at luaus, the celebration has changed significantly.
These traditional gatherings centered on a feast of sought-after meals and live entertainment. However, the extreme social inequality made them different from modern luau’s. Certain meals were reserved for the king and influential men of society, while common people could only eat certain foods. Meanwhile, men and women were entirely separated by gender for the feast.
In 1819, Hawaiian king Kamehameha II ended the aha‘aina. In wanting to end the strict traditions that divided the Hawaiian people along lines of gender and social status, he held a feast where he ate alongside women. This simple act meant monumental changes as Hawaiian society became less stratified by gender and class. From this moment, the luau was born.
Luaus today follow many of the traditions that came before. The name itself, luau, is a prime example as it refers to a meal of taro leaves and chicken cooked in coconut milk. These were staple dishes of the aha’aina too.
The ceremony is often initiated with the blowing of a conch shell. This was once used to signal the arrival of ships and the beginning and ending of ceremonies. Now, it’s commonly the beginning of luaus.
The sitting arrangements of traditional luaus include mats made of ti and Hala leaves, which are native to the islands. Modern luaus also accommodate table and chair seating. However, more traditional options include pillow mats and low tables. To provide a more authentic Hawaiian luau experience, some luaus make these available.
One ironic difference between modern and past luaus is hula dancing, as today Hula is almost synonymous with luaus. However, hula was actually banned in 1830 by Queen Ka’ahumanu since she viewed the activity as too taboo for Hawaiians. This was an interesting contrast to the taboo-breaking of King Kamehameha II. Luckily, that ban has long since passed.
Modern guests can happily enjoy hula at modern luaus. The Samoan fire knife dance is performed at most luaus nowadays, but not all. Please verify this if a fire knife dance is a must for you. At the Old Lāhainā Lūʻau, the fire knife dance is not in the show as it is not an authentic dance of Hawaii.
Core to most luau experiences is the imu pit. An imu is an underground oven used to slow cook a lot of the food served at a luau. As luaus are famous for their feasting, the imu is rarely absent.
If you arrive at a luau on time, you’ll likely see an imu already cooking your food. Imus are built hours before the luau. They are constructed by digging a deep hole and covering it in rocks and leaves. These materials hold in the heat of the fire.
However, it’s the steam that cooks the meal. The steam also provides some flavor to the food. Whether succulent meat or vegetables, it’s all guaranteed to be cooked to perfection.
The most popular imu food is the kalua pig, a whole pig placed within the imu. It is then smoked with salt, banana leaves, and various wood for flavor. After cooking for most of the day, the kalua pig will emerge tender and delicious. The secret is soaking up the flavor of the food and plants it is cooked alongside.
For those interested in alternatives to pork, another popular dish is Lomi Lomi. This is a traditional dish of salmon cured with salt, tomatoes, and onions. For those with dietary restrictions, gluten-free luaus in Maui are available. To add to that, there are also plenty of vegetarian options.
In Maui, no luau is complete without taking in a beautiful island sunset. The west side of Maui offers the best Hawaiian sunset views.
As the sun sets, you can take epic photos of the gorgeous oranges, reds, and pinks dancing across the water. The silhouettes of palm trees also form a perfect backdrop to your adventure. When the sun sinks below the horizon, tiki torches are lit, and the feast begins. To accommodate a balance of food and entertainment, look no further than Old Lahaina Luau.
Feel the beat of traditional Hawaiian pahu drums as the story of the islands is told through dance. Learn about the Hawaiian people’s early migration to the islands. Discover their relationship with the gods as well as their contact with foreign missionaries. Unravel the modern wave of tourism and immigration to the islands.
All of this is told through a variety of traditional hula and chants. This amazing Hawaiian show and dinner provide a unique blend of tradition, history, and performance.
These fantastic sights and experiences are just a few of many to be found at a traditional Hawaiian luau.
We invite you to celebrate Hawaiian culture at the Old Lāhainā Lūʻau. With luau Maui tickets available on our website, we offer the ultimate Maui-style entertainment and onolicious cuisine. We also pride ourselves on keeping a strong focus on Hawaiian history and culture.
At Old Lāhainā Lūʻau, our luaus are held daily during sunset hours. This makes for a stunning show, breathtaking photo opportunities, and food cooked to perfection in traditional imu pits. We welcome you to the next one! If you’d like more information, check out our information page.