The sun is about to set, the tiki torches have been lit, the drums are now pounding, and the pig is taken from the imu aka the oven in the earth – you guessed it, it’s luau time in Oahu!
Attending a luau is an experience that both locals and tourists must have at least once. While many luaus still offer traditional entertainment and foods, you can also find great contemporary flair to them. You can expect to pay around $80-$100 per person – some are cheaper, of course, and others twice that amount.
In this post, we have compiled a list of the best luaus in Oahu that capture the true spirit and romance of the experience.
We’ve done our research and found that the six luaus below are the best: Polynesian Cultural Center Luau, Toa Luau, Paradise Cove Luau, Experience Nutridge Luau, Ka Moana Luau and Chief’s Luau. Make sure to add at least one of these to your list of things to do in Honolulu.
How did we come up with this list? It took many hours of research and gathering of feedback from consumers, and most importantly, our very own personal experience.
1. Polynesian Cultural Center Luau
This is perhaps the most authentic luau you’ll find on the island. It’s held amid the six re-created villages at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie and is very popular among the locals.
It also includes the HA: Breath of Life show where over 100 Polynesian performers tell a story of passion, ignited by dance, song, and fire. The 90-minute show is a stunning culmination of special effects, surround sound, and animation. You won’t want to miss it!
The only thing that some travelers may not like is that there is no booze allowed at this luau – it is a Mormon-owned facility after all. But to be honest, the finger-licking food and personalized tours more than make up for it. You’ll also get to explore the unique culture of each island with hands-on activities such as fire starting, canoe paddling, games of skill, and more.
Keep in mind that their cheapest package only includes the evening show and a self-guided tour. If you want all the bells and whistles, i.e., lei greeting, free smoothies, luau buffet, live music, guided tour, free pass to the island villages, and more, you’re going to have to pay more.
Important Things To Know About The PCC Luau
Packages: Four packages –
- Super Ambassador Luau Package ($242.95/adult)
- Alii Luau Package ($184.95/adult)
- Gateway Buffet Package ($139.95/adult)
- Islands of Polynesia & HA: Breath of Life Package ($119.95/adult)
When is the Luau: 12:45 pm to 9 pm, Monday to Saturday.
Location: Polynesian Cultural Center, 55-370 Kamehameha Highway, Laie, HI (1-hour drive from Honolulu)
Price: From $119.95 per adult and $95.96 per child (ages 4-11)
Attire: Floral dresses for women, Hawaiian print shirts for men, and flip-flops are recommended because they make the most comfortable choices for enjoying a luau, but you can wear any attire you want.
Pros: As the name says, it’s a “cultural center”, so it offers both entertainment and education about the Hawaiian and Polynesian culture. We love this luau because there’s a lot to do here. In addition to the “HA: Breath of Life” show, you can go canoeing, paddling, and even learn authentic Polynesian cooking!
Cons: No alcohol allowed.
Tips To Enhance Your Experience: Bring an umbrella or a rain jacket with you because it can rain even on the sunniest of days on this side of the island. Dress comfortably in loose clothes and flip-flops; you’ll be walking a lot so a pair of super comfortable walking shoes is a must. And don’t forget to pack lots of sunscreen!
2. Toa Luau
When you combine a traditional show with undisturbed natural beauty, you get the Toa Luau at Waimea Valley. We recommend hiking to the nearby Waimea Falls and the lush botanical gardens surrounding it before you attend the luau.
Like all the authentic luau, this one also features an imu ceremony, where a kalua pig and other delicacies for the feast are cooked inside a rock oven buried in the ground. Entertainment includes a fire-knife dance by incredibly skilled performers and a Polynesian show that showcases cultural delights from Samoa, Tahiti, Hawaii, New Zealand, and Tonga.
All of the packages include a flower lei, imu demonstration, luau dinner, kava ceremony, cultural activities, Polynesian show, and drink tickets (the number of drink tickets varies based on your package). It also includes admission to the botanical garden and Waimea Valley. The scrumptious buffet menu includes Pupukea Green Salad made from island-grown veggies, Grilled Shoyu BBQ Chicken, and house-made Haupia that’s to die for.
If you have a tight budget or you can’t attend the evening luau for some reason, you can attend their day shows for $75 per person. It has the same show as the evening luau but doesn’t include cultural activities and elaborate dinner, thus the cheaper rate. That’s why it’s only one hour long, while the luau usually lasts up to 4 hours.
Note: Waimea Botanical Garden and Falls are closed on Mondays, except in summer (June, July, and August). Day shows and Monday luaus operate all year round.
Important Things To Know About The Toa Luau
Packages: Three packages –
When is the Luau: 4:45 pm to 8:30 pm (evening luau); 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm (day show), Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Location: 59-864 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa, HI
Price: From $115 per adult and $95 per child (ages 5-12)
Attire: All casual wear is acceptable, but Aloha wear is encouraged (you are in Hawaii, let it loose!)
Pros: Wheelchair access is available (just let them know after you book). In addition to free parking, you also get one complimentary drink ticket per adult regardless of what package you choose. Iced tea and water is available throughout the luau at no extra charge.
Cons: The timings can be tricky and reservations are almost always full, so make sure to book way in advance.
Tips to enhance your experience: Once you buy the package, you get access to the Waimea Valley and the garden – BUT, this access is only valid on the same day as the luau. So, do not be late; we recommend allowing yourself at least 2-3 hours to explore the whole valley. Also, bring a change of clothes (or a swimsuit) if you are planning to visit the waterfall; there are changing rooms by the falls.
3. Paradise Cove Luau
The lively Paradise Cove Luau has one of the largest shows on Oahu, in the Ko Olina Resort area which is about 40 minutes from Waikiki (if you’re lucky and the traffic is light). Drink in hand, you can stroll through the charming village, play local games, and learn traditional arts and crafts.
The stage show includes a singing emcee, a fire-knife dancer, and both contemporary and traditional Hula and other Polynesian dances. They also have a Finale dance where the audience gets to participate.
All packages include the Hawaiian Revue, Imu ceremony, lei greeting, one complimentary drink, and a mouthwatering feast. The menu includes traditional luau dishes like kalua pig, teriyaki chicken, lomi lomi salmon, and a variety of salads and fresh tropical fruits.
One of the best things about this luau is that you get a free Cove Card worth $12 to $20 depending on which package you choose. You can use this card to buy drinks or merchandise in the on-site shops.
Import Things To Know About The Paradise Cove Luau
Packages: Three packages –
When is the Luau: 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm, 7 days a week
Location: 92-1089 Aliinui Dr, Kapolei, HI (at Ko Olina Resort)
Price: From $125 per adult; $105 per youth (ages 13-20); and $90 per child (ages 4-12)
Attire: Resort casual or Aloha wear is recommended
Pros: You are greeted with a free mai tai and can get photographed with the friendly entertainers and dancers if you want. The complimentary Cove Card to shop at the Cove Marketplace is another bonus. For $35 you can arrange for round-trip transportation from Waikiki.
Cons: Some luaus will keep going even if it rains – this one doesn’t. If the weather conditions don’t look good, they will close the luau and let you know.
Tips to enhance your experience: The show starts at 7:00 pm, but you should try to get to the place by 5:00 pm if you want to shop at the marketplace and try your hand at the arts and crafts-making. If you are wheelchair-bound or have any special requirements regarding your accommodation, let them know at least 3 days in advance.
4. Experience Nutridge Luau
Lush tropical jungle, check! Unforgettable view of sun sinking in the sea, check! Farm-to-table dinner with local, fresh ingredients, check and check! This four-hour-long luau is very intimate (only 30-40 people) and perfect for couples looking to reconnect over beachfront views and fireside chats.
The luau is held on the Nutridge Estate inside the Pu’u Ualaka’a Wayside Park. Elvis Presley famously spent a lot of time on this estate while shooting for his movie Blue Hawaii. When you arrive for your luau, expect to be surrounded by macadamia nut trees spread over 22 acres of land.
During the evening luau, guests can participate in the building of the Imu before getting down for a small, family-style luau. The event ends with a farm-to-table dinner overlooking the Honolulu city lights. You can also book a private luau if you want to experience the traditional luau minus the strangers.
Important Things To Know About The Experience Nutridge Luau
When is the Luau: 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm, Monday – Friday and Sunday. It’s closed on Saturdays.
Location: 3280 Round Top Drive, Honolulu, HI
Price: $159 for adults
Attire: Loose, casual wear and comfortable walking shoes are recommended because the luau is on slightly hilly terrain and you’ll need to walk a little to get to it.
Pros: A kukui nut lei and two alcoholic drinks per adult are included in the ticket price. One-way and round-trip transportation is available at $14 and $18 respectively.
Cons: This is a small-scale luau so if you’re expecting a big-production show with dozens of performers and flower parades, this luau is not for you.
Tips to enhance your experience: If you are over 21, don’t forget to bring a picture ID if you want to order an alcoholic beverage. As mentioned above, you’re going to have to walk on slightly hilly terrain to reach the luau so wear comfortable shoes and clothes. However, if you don’t want to walk at all or you can’t because of an injury or illness, let them know in advance so they can arrange for special transportation.
5. Ka Moana Luau
This is a very interactive luau where guests can participate in headband weaving, hula lessons, lei-making, ukulele lessons, temporary tattoos, and several other cultural activities before the show starts. It’s located at the Sea Life Park Hawaii, which you can access for free, thanks to your luau ticket.
All packages include a lei greeting, all-you-can-eat island-style buffet dinner, cultural activities, complimentary drinks, and admission to the marine experience park mentioned above. If you’re traveling with your kids, we can’t recommend the park enough; you can swim with dolphins, sea lions, sharks, and many other sea creatures.
The luau itself includes centuries-old traditions of fire-making demonstrations and coconut tree climbing. Their menu is very vegan-friendly as well. In addition to daily special vegan dishes, crisp steamed vegetables, and fresh tropical fruits, the buffet includes juicy kalua pork, huli huli chicken, and lomi lomi salmon.
Important Things To Know About The Ka Moana Luau
Packages: Three packages –
When is the Luau: 5:15 pm to 7:30 pm, 5 days a week. It’s closed on Thursdays and Saturdays.
Location: 41-202 Kalanianaole Highway, Waimanalo, HI
Price: From $129 for adults, $109 for youth (ages 13-17), $89 for children (ages 4-12), and free for infants (ages 3 and younger).
Attire: Loose casual wear is a good choice.
Pros: The Ka Moana Luau has probably the largest selection of cultural activities for guests and their little ones. The Celebrity package comes with a free mai tai upon arrival and a free souvenir photograph per booking. If you are not able to visit the Sea Life Park on the same day as your luau, you can use that pass anytime within 1 year from the date of your luau. The facility is wheelchair and disability-friendly; just let them know about your condition 48 hours in advance.
Cons: This luau is very popular among families traveling with children, so if you’re looking for a quieter, intimate experience, this one is not for you. Also, there’s no free parking; self-parking costs $10/vehicle.
Tips to enhance your experience: Bring a change of clothes if you’re planning to visit the marine park and enjoy the water activities.
6. Chief’s Luau
Chief Sielu, the world champion fire-knife dancer, and his family perform at this top-rated luau at the Wet‘n’Wild Hawaii water park. Chief is super funny too so be ready to laugh your heart out throughout the night as you enjoy an all-you-can-eat dinner.
You’ll also be entertained by the thrilling Samoan dance, Haka warrior dance, hula dance, and much more. While both packages include a lei greeting and complimentary drinks, the Royal package comes with a free souvenir gift, courtesy of the house.
Important Things To Know About The Chief’s Luau
Packages: Two Packages –
When is the Luau: 5:30 pm to 8:15 pm, 6 days a week. It’s closed on Tuesdays.
Location: 400 Farrington Highway, Kapolei (Inside of the Wet’n’Wild Hawaii park)
Price: From $155 for adults, $135 for youth (ages 13-20), $110 for children (ages 5-12), and free for infants (ages 4 and younger)
Attire: Casual wear is fine.
Pros: Special rates for locals and military personnel are available. They also provide ADA lift bus from Waikiki for guests in wheelchairs. If you don’t have your own transportation, they can book it for you for $39 per guest. They have 7 convenient pick-up points located all over Waikiki, each with different departure times.
Cons: There’s no free parking. If you decide to drive your own vehicle, you’ll have to pay $9 per vehicle.
Tips To Enhance Your Experience: Many guests who self-drive to the luau have complained about the wrong instructions on Apple and Google Maps, so be careful. We recommend following the instructions provided on their website here.
Also, if you want to visit the Wet‘n’Wild water park the same day as your luau, allow yourself at least 5-6 hours before the luau starts because there are more than 25 rides and attractions here.
Other Luaus Worth Mentioning
The luaus listed above are the best ones so you may find them sold out during your summer vacation to Oahu. But don’t worry, there are some other options you can explore:
Aha’aina Luau at the Royal Hawaiian Resort
Only held on Monday and Thursday evenings, you can get to this luau at the Royal Hawaiian which is a Luxury Collection Resort. The luau’s name comes from the word “Aha’aina” which means “gathering for a meal” in the Hawaiian language.
An Aha’aina is apparently the original luau, where ancient Hawaiians used to come together to celebrate special occasions with hula dance and a delectable feast. The luau dinner is a 3-course meal served by friendly waitstaff; rather than a buffet dinner that’s common at most luaus. All packages include free self-parking or valet service.
As you enter the grounds, you’ll be welcomed with na lawai’a (tending of fishing tools), poi-pounding, and kappa-making (fabric made from pounding bark) demonstrations. A host will share interesting stories about the ocean and lei-giving as you dine. After dinner, the event concludes with a hula dance, a song, and a dramatic performance.
Packages: Two Packages –
When is the Luau: 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm, every Monday and Thursday
Location: 2259 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu (Inside the Royal Hawaiian Resort)
Price (Standard and Premium, respectively): $200-$220 per adult, $149-$169 for children (ages 5-12), $20 for infants (ages 2-4), and free for infants under 2
Attire: Resort casual is recommended
Pros: You’ll get one welcome drink and two drink tickets for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, all free of charge. They also have a full cash bar. Special dining options for vegans, vegetarians, and gluten-free folks are also available.
Cons: They don’t provide any transportation and the luau is only held on two days per week. This is also a popular luau, so availability is limited.
Over 3 million visitors have come to this luau, held about 45 minutes west of Waikiki. It’s considered one of the most laid-back and folksy luaus and offers an all-you-can-eat, multicourse buffet. All packages include lei greeting, 2-3 drinks (depending on the package), the American-Polynesian feast, and unlimited hot coffee and soft drinks.
Packages: Two packages –
When is the Luau: 5:30 pm to 8:45 pm, 5 days a week. It’s closed on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Location: 91-119 Olai Street, Kapolei, HI
Price: From $135 for adults, $115 for juniors (ages 13-20), $95 for children (ages 4-12), and free for infants (ages 3 and younger)
Attire: Beach casual is recommended
Pros: If you book at least 10 days out, you can claim a 10% discount on your package (use promo code: Luau10). They also offer round-trip transportation from Waikiki for $35 per guest.
Cons: There is no ATM on-site and the selection of entertainment is not as extravagant as other luaus mentioned above.
Do you enjoy Broadway-level showmanship complete with celebrity impersonators and local music? Are you looking for a luau conveniently located in the middle of downtown Honolulu? If so, don your slippahs and head over to Rock-A-Hula luau!
There are complimentary mai tais, free hula lessons, fire-knife dancing, and powerful performances from Tahitian artists – all inside the Royal Hawaiian Theater. And while the unlimited buffet is enough to land you in a food coma for the rest of your life, it’s not the best thing about this luau experience; that honor goes to the Rock-A-Hula show.
Keep in mind that their cheapest package only includes the show and a meet-and-greet with the cast.
Packages: Four packages –
- Rockin’ Show ($69/adult)
- Hawaiian Night Luau ($113/adult)
- Stateside VIP ($151/adult)
- Green Room ($189/person)
When is the Luau: 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Location: Royal Hawaiian Center, Bldg B, 4th Floor
Price: From $69 for adults and $41 for children (ages 3-11).
Attire: Casual wear is good. However, the show is inside an air-conditioned theater so you may want to bring a lightweight jacket or sweater.
Pros: This is one of the cheapest luaus you can find on the island. Special discounts are available if you can present a valid Hawaii or military ID. You are also free to take pictures with the performers. If you want to celebrate a birthday here, you can bring your own cake for a fee of $30 per cake and they’ll provide the plates and cutlery.
Cons: The Green Room package is not wheelchair-guest friendly. Round-trip transportation service is only available for a minimum of a 30-person group.
Ka Wa’a Luau (Disney’s Aulani Resort)
A hit among the children, this luau features Disney characters that come out to interact with guests throughout the show. There is a group lei-making activity for the little ones so parents can make the most of the unlimited open bar. If you see Mickey and Minnie Mouse perform traditional hula dance, know that you’re not hallucinating!
The pre-show demonstrations are not to be missed. This is when you can enjoy traditional Hawaiian arts like pa’i’ai taro pounding and flower arranging.
Both packages include a lei-greeting and unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Packages: Two packages based on seating preference –
When is the Luau: 5:15 pm to 8:00 pm, Tuesday through Saturday. It’s closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Location: 92-1185 Aliinui Drive, Kapolei (Inside Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa)
Price: Starts at $170 for adults and $99 for children (ages 3-9). Entry for children under 3 is free.
Attire: Casual wear is recommended, but they also have a couple of rules. For example, swimsuits, baseball caps, torn/ripped jeans, and sleeveless shirts (for men) are not allowed.
Pros: It’s a Disney luau so children are sure to have lots of fun here. They also provide an American Sign Language interpreter on request, just let them know at least 14 days in advance.
Cons: Their dress code is also not as laid back; at most luau, you can sashay in while wearing a swimsuit with a cover-up over it, but that’s not allowed here.
Diamond Head Luau
If you want to experience the authentic Polynesian culture, this is the luau to be at. The evening show features native chants of Haka, traditional dances and songs of Tahiti and Tonga, acrobatic fire dances, and more – all with an oceanfront view.
All packages include a lei greeting, temporary tattoos, mai tai, two drink tickets, Tahitian dancing, hula lessons, and a Hawaiian feast you’ll never forget. It also includes a free pass to the Waikiki Aquarium.
Packages: There is one standard package – Farm to Table, priced at $159 for adults, $139 for youth (ages 13-17), and $89 for children (ages 4-12). Entry for children under 3 is free. For an extra $30, you can upgrade your package to include cocktail table service and a front-row table.
When is the Luau: This luau is temporarily closed. We will try our best to update the post Once its open.
Location: 2777 Kalakaua Ave #4027, Honolulu, HI
Price: $159 per adult with an option to upgrade for an additional $30.
Attire: Beach casual wear is recommended
Pros: We love the straightforward pricing and that it’s free for babies under 3. All the dishes are farm-to-table and many of them are vegan-friendly.
Cons: Well, for starters, it’s closed right now. When it does open, remember that your free Waikiki Aquarium pass is only good during luau hours, i.e., strolling through the aquarium before the luau starts or after it ends is not possible. They don’t offer any one-way or round-trip transportation facility either.
What To Expect At A Luau
Every luau is different. Most of them offer a lei-greeting, complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, a buffet dinner, and a music and dance show – but this can vary so be sure before booking.
You’re likely to witness an imu ceremony before sitting down to dinner; but again, not all luaus have one. The ceremony itself may not look like much, but it can be interesting to watch the process of a kalua pig being cooked with hot coals inside an underground oven.
Another thing to keep in mind is that unless you have booked your very own table – an option not available at most luaus – you’ll be sharing a large table with complete strangers.
In terms of entertainment, luaus offer two types: performances and interactive. Many luaus offer their guests an opportunity to participate in cultural activities (like hula dancing and lei-making) before the dinner starts.
Is A Luau In Oahu Worth It?
You bet your lei it is! For about $100, you get to eat as much delicious island-fresh food you want while some of the most talented performers dance and execute fire-knife stunts in front of you. You haven’t experienced Hawaii until you’ve luau’d a little.
How To Choose A Luau In Oahu
Well, it depends on what you want. If you want to immerse yourself in the Polynesian and Hawaiian cultures, pick a luau that offers authentic delicacies such as poke, taro, and kalua pork. The entertainment should also feature traditional demonstrations like Samoan fire-knife spinning and traditional Hula dance.
If you’re looking for a romantic, intimate experience, it might be best to stay away from family-friendly luaus, like the Ka Moana or Ka Wa’a luau listed above. Instead, the Nutridge luau might be more your speed.
Luau Food Menus
There are a handful of traditional dishes you can find at pretty much every luau:
- Kalua Pig: This is pork cooked in an underground oven (imu) and then shredded.
- Poke: This is freshly caught, raw fish prepared with limu (seaweed), kukui nuts (candlenuts), green onions, and shoyu (soy sauce).
- Haupia: This is a traditional pie-like dessert made from coconut milk and sometimes topped with whipped cream.
- Laulau: This is cooked taro leaves with fillings made from coconut cream, fish, or pork.
- Poi: This is fermented root of the taro which is baked and pounded to a paste-like consistency.
All luau buffet meals also include tons of fresh fruits such as pineapples, mangoes, bananas, mandarins, grapes, and an assortment of berries. There is usually more than one type of vegan or vegetarian salad as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most authentic Luau in Oahu?
That would be the Polynesian Cultural Center Luau; they have actually won multiple awards for their authentic luau.
Which Luau is better: Germaine’s or Paradise Cove?
This is a tough question: both luaus are fantastic in terms of food, entertainment, and pre-show activities. Both luaus have thousands of positive reviews as well. If we had to choose though, we might lean toward Paradise Cove, only because it’s held 7 days a week so making reservations is comparatively easier.
Where is the best place to see a Luau in Hawaii?
We’ll have to say Oahu. After all, this is where the Ali’i Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center is held. The center was opened in 1963 and ever since then, their luau has taken top honors when it comes to celebrating cultural heritage in a royal style. The main event is held in a covered venue against a backdrop of lush gardens and waterfalls.
What is the best Luau in Oahu for adults?
We recommend the Nutridge Luau, especially if you are 21 or older.
What is the best Luau in Oahu for families?
If you’re traveling with kids, the Polynesian Cultural Center Luau is a good choice for two reasons: a) they offer several interactive experiences to teach about the Polynesian culture, and b) no alcohol is allowed in this luau so your little ones are not likely to come across jolly-happy drunks.
Other than that, the Ka Moana Luau is also a good option.
Should I tip at a Luau? And how much?
With most luaus, the meal is included in the ticket price so there’s no need for you to tip unless you are really happy with the service. However, if the meal is not included, you may want to tip around 15-20% for great service and 10% for unsatisfactory service. We don’t recommend tipping less than 10% in any case.
What Luaus are close to Waikiki?
The Experience Nutridge Luau, Diamond Head Luau, and Rock-A-Hula Luau are the closest to Waikiki.
Almost all the luaus listed here are worth visiting, but our favorite just might be the Paradise Cove Luau thanks to its easily customizable experience. They have extensive menu options for even vegans and vegetarians, and they have a hotel pick-up and drop-off service as well.
Since luaus are a major tourist attraction, they have become a big business. This means you get what you pay for. The very best luaus, like the ones mentioned in this list, book up weeks (and sometimes months) in advance, so reserve early. Planning your luau night early on will help you get into the Aloha spirit!