Best Oahu Luau

A common question that I get is "what is the best Oahu luau?" and my response is the best one for YOU! I'll help you determine which one is the best fit for your budget, schedule and interests.

I get asked which is the "most authentic" one. They all are but honestly there is no way of getting around the commercial, professionally produced factor.

germaines luau dancers

The most authentic ones are probably in someone's backyard for their own friends and families where they don't charge tourists an admission price. I've been to all of them (except the military one at the Hale Koa hotel) and had a good time at each one.

Luaus By Name

There are a LOT of luaus here, approximately 6 main ones the last time I counted.

They all pretty much do the same thing in the sense that food, drinks and the show with a fire dancer at the end are included.

To learn more about each specific luau see the article that I wrote on each one..

Paradise Cove Luau

Germaine's Luau
The Chief's Luau

Starlight Luau at The Hilton Hawaiian Village
The Royal Hawaiian Luau

The Polynesian Cultural Center

*There are now a couple of newer luaus-the Big Kahuna and Te Moana Nui. Reviews coming but I've heard great things about the Big Kahuna

Luaus By Price

germaines luau performance

I give my opinion on the luaus below in terms of how they compare for the price. You can also compare at a glance checking out the link just below for pricing

LUAU PRICES- at a quick glance

The Cheapest

Germaine's

-You get what you pay for
-They overdeliver in attitude, Aloha spirit and fun
-The food quality is ok
-Oceanfront on the beach but beach quality is "meh"


 

the royal hawaiian luau monarchy

The Most Expensive

The Royal Hawaiian Luau

-5 star hotel means a 5 star luau
-Open bar
-Multi-course menu served
-Oceanfront location on the garden lawn with spectacular Diamond Head views


 

sea life park luau

The Inbetween

Paradise Cove Luau and The Chief's Luau

-Similarly priced-3 different packages; you can have table service, front row, flower lei, pictures & more drinks included for more money or pay less & have less
-Lots of cultural activities
-The shows are good, venues are memorable, food is ok to borderline bad


 

polynesian cultural center ha

Best Value for the Dollar

Polynesian Cultural Center

-Villages and cultural activities during the day
-Luau and Imu ceremony
-Varied food options & preparations besides Hawaiian
-HA show at night-best in the state in my opinion


 

starlight luau hilton

Convenient & Priced Well

Starlight Luau at The Hilton Hawaiian Village

-In Waikiki
-Only 2.5 hours long
-Food is good and has a kiddie buffet too


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Best Oahu Luau-By Location

Waikiki

royal hawaiian luau aha aina

The Starlight Luau at The Hilton Hawaiian Village

The Royal Hawaiian Luau-Located at the "pink" hotel The Royal Hawaiian Hotel

*NOTE: Waikiki luaus don't have an Imu ceremony which is when the pig is taken out of the underground oven and blessed for the evening's dinner.


On The Beach

paradise cove luau lagoon

Paradise Cove Luau-Ko'Olina Resort Area

Germaine's Luau-One highway exit before Ko'Olina

*NOTE: Beach luaus are located on the near west side of the island about 1-1.5 hours away. Transportation is available with most pickups between 3:45 and 4:30 pm.


Mountains/Ocean View

chiefs luau

The Chief's Luau-Located at Sea Life Park about 40 minutes east of Waikiki. Very beautiful setting surrounded by Ko'Olau mountain range. Across the road is the ocean with views of Rabbit Island.


Garden Setting

Polynesian Cultural Center-Set in a garden off of the luau pavilion at the center. Very lush, tropical setting. Complete with an Imu ceremony before the meal.


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Best Oahu Luau-By Food Quality

The Best

The Royal Hawaiian-pictured below

the royal hawaiian luau dinner

The Starlight Luau at The Hilton Hawaiian Village-pictured below

starlight luau hilton food

The Polynesian Cultural Center-pictured below

polynesian cultural center luau


 

The Okay to The Worst

Paradise Cove Luau (pictured below-It's okay, I went for seconds on some things. I was happy enough but picky eaters won't be happy. On a scale of 1-10 for picky eaters I'm a 5.

paradise cove luau buffet

Chief's Luau (pictured below)-Not as good as Paradise Cove but not way worse. Didn't care for most things. There's definitely room for improvement. I liked the salad dressing.

sea life park luau food

Germaine's Luau (pictured below)-The worst. You get what you pay for and it's the cheapest luau. Strongest alcoholic drinks out of all the luaus-really strong.

germaines luau dinner


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Best Oahu Luau-Pros & Cons

No one luau gets an A+ in each category for food, location, venue and show. Some excel in some categories and rate less in others.

To be fair no one show can be everything to everybody and there is an audience for each. Pros for one person can be minuses for another.

paradise cove luau lei making

*NOTE: With all of the cons for each luau please keep in mind that it's about the overall experience of the luau. You'll have hula girls, fire dancers, a nice setting and fun things to do.

 

Germaines

Pros

-The cheapest-transportation, dinner & show included
-Fantastic attitude
-Party atmosphere-best for adults, singles
-All you can drink soda
-On the beach
-See the sunset

Cons

-Food-it's edible. I thought it was the worst compared to the others. Some, not most people would disagree with me
-The beach is not that nice by Hawaiian standards; it's in an industrial neighborhood
-Long drive-1-1.5 hours to get there from Waikiki
-Hard to see Imu ceremony-I had to peek through people
-Very large and commercial-several hundred people (common on Oahu)
-People seem to love it or hate with no inbetween


Paradise Cove Luau

Operates daily

paradise cove luau tree climber

Pros

-Nicest beach setting-located in the Ko'Olina Resort Complex
-Direct sunset views
-Great for families, couples
-Lots of cultural activities to observe and participate in
-Seated Imu ceremony-nicest one to me
-Dancers have great bodies
-Most locals take their visiting friends and family to this one

luau oahu imu gathering

Cons

-Long drive-1-1.5 hours from Waikiki
-Food is okay. I went back for seconds but there's room for improvement.
-Very large and commercial


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The Chief's Luau

Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday

best oahu luau

Pros

-The least commercial & scripted
-Good for families
-All the dancers look Polynesian
-Shortest commute outside at Waikiki-40 minutes
-The Chief performed at Polynesian Cultural Center for years, been on tv shows, etc.
-Owner-operated-husband & wife are always there
-Laid back, not super-structured and NON-SCRIPTED
-Contingency plan for rain-covered pavilion for eating
-If swimming with dolphins at Sea Life Park just stay for the luau; take the luau trans back
-Photo ops with dolphins swimming in the Dolphin Cove Theater nearby
-Gorgeous mountain setting with ocean views across the road
-Small luau
-Just makes you feel good
-Current TripAdvisor favorite

sea life park luau me

Cons

-Food almost sucks; better than Germaine's but less good than Paradise Cove Luau
-Drinks were way too sweet and I have a sweet tooth
-The grass could be in better condition. If it's been raining it probably gets muddy
-I could use more structure to the show; at times Chief Sielu would ramble and go off on tangents


Polynesian Cultural Center Luau

Daily except Sundays

polynesian cultural center luau fire show

Pros

-Best bang for the buck I think. You get the villages during the day, the luau AND the HA: Breath of Life show afterwards. I think that's the best show in the state.
-Beautiful, lush garden setting
-Most authentic-it's located at the place that specializes in teaching Polynesian culture
-TEN fire dancers at the end of the HA show

TIP: DON'T do a luau elsewhere on the island AND do the Polynesian Cultural Center. Just kill 2 birds with one stone and do them both here (unless you want alcohol).

 

 

 


polynesian cultural center canoe pageant

Cons

-No alcohol is served-run by the Mormon faith
-Costumes are on the conservative side-female dancers don't show as much skin
-Far-1 hour on the north shore
-Long Day-they open at 12 noon and you're done by 9 pm. They have late entry packages but I think the value for the dollar is greatly decreased this way. You can arrive later if you like.


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Starlight Luau at The Hilton Hawaiian Village

Sunday-Thursday

starlight luau hilton fire dancers

Pros

-Close-located in Waikiki
-FOUR fire dancers
-Food is very good. I would go there just to eat.
-Produced by Tehati Productions-known for amazing productions
-Short-2 hours
-Small-tops out at 2-300 people or so
-Ocean views in distance
-Lots of vegetarian options
-Not expensive compared to the other luaus
-Good-looking dancers

starlight luau hilton golden circle

Cons

-Located on the roof of the parking garage facing the ocean; surrounded by high rises
-Kind of hard to coordinate a special meal
-Hardly any cultural activities. I saw 2 things. You basically go, eat, watch the show & leave.
-No Imu ceremony-not possible in Waikiki to cook a pig underground


The Royal Hawaiian Luau

royal hawaiian luau outside

Pros

-Excellent food-this is for you if you're a foodie
-Open Bar
-Only luau not buffet style-served to you multi-course style
-Excellent service
-Classy-5 star hotel means 5 star luau
-Cultural demonstrations
-Beautiful setting-oceanfront on the lawn with million dollar Diamond Head views
-Doesn't feel scripted
-Very small-probably 150 people or less
-Rain contingency plan-moved just inside into the ballroom. Walk to doorways to see the fire dancer outside at the end
-The show tells the story of hula through the ages from ancient, WWII days to now. I loved the Boogie Woogie girls.
-Programs to keep

the royal hawaiian luau place setting

Cons

-Expensive at $175 for adults but good value
-No Imu ceremony-not possible in Waikiki to cook a pig underground
-Not suitable for young children


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How Long & When

All of the luaus start in the evening at approximately 5 or 5:30pm and most last a few hours. There are a couple of varations on this which are noted below.

Germaine's Luau-Operates daily except Mondays; summertime daily. 5:00-8:00pm

Paradise Cove Luau-Operates daily, 5:00-8:00pm

Starlight Luau at the Hilton Hawaiian Village-Sunday-Thursday, 5:30-7:30pm

The Chief's Luau-Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 5:00-9:00pm (check-in 4:30pm). Additional dates: Thanksgving, Thursdays 12/26/13 & 1/2/14, Saturdays 12/28/13 & 1/4/14

Polynesian Cultural Center Luau-Daily except Sunday; the center opens at 12:00 noon but the luau starts at 5:00 and lasts a couple of hours. The HA show starts at 7:30pm afterwards.

The Royal Hawaiian Luau-Mondays Only, 5:30-9:00pm


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Cost & Availability

The cost and availability of luaus varies but most of them will have a VIP section closest to the stage, a middle section and a general seating section. The VIPs will have the most liquor, table service, fresh flower leis and a personal photo included. The subsequent sections get fewer or none of these things.

PRICING & AVAILABILITY

 

 

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