Updated: May 21, 2015
Best Maui LuausA highlight of many peoples vacation to Maui is a night out at a luau. What is a luau? A luau is a Polynesian feast and party, featuring traditional food, dance, chanting, crafts, and more. Maui offers you several choices when it comes to luaus - most are performed on resort properties, and one popular one is hosted each night in downtown Lahaina. In this guide, we will take a look at the various luaus, give you some idea of what to expect in terms of prices, food, drinks, and entertainment, and let you know about priority seating and how to get reservations.
Maui Lu'au Tips and Suggestions - Luau Prices and ReservationsIn general, most luaus follow the same script and recipe. For a fixed admission price, from $65-$85 for adults and $45-$55 for children, you get several hours of food, drinks, and entertainment, beginning just before sunset. Sometimes you can get lucky and just show and buy tickets, but most people make reservations in advance to be sure the show is available on the day they want to attend. There is normally a lei greeting, with either fresh flower leis or shell necklaces -- we've seen both. All luaus offer all you can eat and all you can drink. Mai tais are the traditional cocktail served, but there is generally an open bar serving a variety of beer and liquor cocktails as well, so don't feel obliged to knock down mai tais if you don't like them. Before the official beginning of the show, there is often native Hawaiian or Polynesian crafts on display, and sometimes demonstrations of things like hula dancing, climbing palm trees, opening coconuts and pineapples, etc. It's a good idea to show up at your luau at least 30 minutes early, because the seats fill up quick, with the first people getting the first row of tables nearest the stage, and late comers sitting in the back with not-so-great views. Some luaus offer reserved premium seating for the first row of tables -- you pay an extra $10-$20 per head, and you get guaranteed front row seating, so you don't have to show up an hour early and wait in line.
Since these luaus are fairly expensive, especially for a family, you may not feel it is worth the extra money for premium seating, but it is a nice benefit if you can swing it. We talked a little about the drinks, but another highlight of the event is the buffet of traditional foods. The star of the meal is the famous kalua pork, slow cooked all day in a pit (called the imu) -- the result being deliciously flavored meat as a main course. There is usually also a variety of fish and chicken dishes for variety, and poi (made from the taro root), mahi mahi, steak, veggies, salads, etc. Desserts can vary, but many cakes and treats feature pineapple or coconut or macadamia nuts to stay in the island tradition. One problem with sitting in the back rows of the luau is that you usually also eat last. Getting 100-200 people through a buffet line takes a while, so they usually have people go up table by table, with the front row going first -- yet another consideration as to why getting in near the front is best! After the meal, the entertainment really starts as it gets darker outside. There are normally several series of costumed dancers doing various hula or other native dances and chanting. Most luaus also feature some sort of fire dancer as a highlight, with the spinning flame torches lighting up the dark night sky. And that pretty much wraps it up. Most luaus last about 2 hours, from the official starting time until finish.
Luau Reviews - Old Lahaina - Wailea Luaus- Kaanapali LuausSo now that you know what to expect, let's get into the actual luaus on Maui. The most popular luau, the one that wins the most reviews, is the Old Lahaina Lu'au in, you guessed it, Lahaina. Their website is OldLahainaLuau.com. Unlike many of the resort-based luaus, the Old Lahaina is held nightly, at 1287 Front Street, right on the water (at the north end of Front St., so you hit is quick when coming in from Kaanapali). Their reservation number is (808) 667-1998. During the summer they generally begin seating around 5:45, and around 5:15 in the winter months. Cost is $89 for adults, $59 for kids 12 and under (lap babies free). They DO NOT have any fire dancers, but the rest of their show and food service is top notch. Keep in mind that these shows often are sold out 4-6 weeks in advance, especially in the summer, so plan ahead. Some people prefer to stick around their resort so they can drink and not worry about driving, but consider taking a cab if needed into Lahaina for this great luau. The Wailea Marriott hosts a lu'au 3-4 nights a week. The setting is good, with the stage right in front of the beach, with tables facing the sunset over the ocean. Pricing is $80 for adults and about $40 for kids 6-12 (5 and under free). You can reserve premium seats for about $10 extra per person. They have a cool fire knife dancer, but overall, we think the Lahaina show is a better experience. The Maui Prince at the far south end of the resorts in Wailea also has a lu'au, usually Tues. and Thurs., priced at the same as at the Wailea Marriott. Closer to Kaanapali, consider the Sheraton Maui Lu'au, normally held on Wed. nights (when we were there Feb 2007, it was also held on Thurs.). At the Sheraton they also incorporate the drama of the lighting of the torches on Black Rock. The luau grounds look directly out over the ocean and beach here, though the stage is to the southern end rather than western side. Anyways, a man makes his way along the cliff rocks, lighting torches as he goes, then dives into the sea when the final one is lit -- very dramatic, and you know the night has begun! Seating is at round tables that hold about 10 people -- being near the front does make it easier to see the dancers on stage. Our only minor complaint was the singing MC, but the food was good and plentiful, as were the drinks. One note, the luau grounds are pretty open here to people walking by -- if you want to get a taste of luau entertainment without the big price tag, consider "loitering" for a while and listening to the music and watching some of the dancers. Here is a picture of the Sheraton Luau grounds.
The Royal Lahaina Luau is another popular one, held at the Royal Lahaina Resort, located just north of Kaanapali Beach (just past Black Rock, 1/2 mile from Whaler's Village). Booking online (hawaiianhotelsandresorts.com) offers rates of $59 per adult and kids 11 and under free - a very good choice for the budget conscious, since this is still a top-rated luau. Finally, the Hyatt Regency Maui on Kaanapali beach offers a "Drums of the Pacific" Lu'au. You can get in the mood by previewing a video of the fire dancer here. Prices are $79 for adults, $49 for teens, and $39 for kids. While you can't see the ocean from your seats, it is on the waterfront and the performers and food are good - not a bad choice, especially if you are staying here or at a neighboring resort on Kaanapali.