Luau is a traditional Hawaiian festivity where you feast on authentic Hawaiian foods such as poi, poke, Kalua pig and so on. The term luau means “taro”, and the name of the celebration actually came from “one of the most popular dishes served at the feast: chicken and taro plant leaves baked in coconut milk” (more history here). To many, a trip to Hawaii must include the iconic luau. For us, it sounded like a splendid arrangement to get to know the Hawaiian culture and to indulge on Hawaiian food.
It was a fairly spontaneous idea for us, which left us with only 1 night to pick from since different luaus happen on different nights. Our option was the Island Breeze Lu’au at the Courtyard of King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. It was around $100USD per person, so I prayed that the food better be good?.
We arrived around 5:30 and there was already a long line at the entrance. You could get your parking validated for $5USD. They did preferred seating check-in first, we got checked in around 6:25, and there was still a long line behind us. We then pass through a photo booth and some more greeters at the door that tried to convince people the only way to profess their love for their date is to buy her a Hawaiian flower necklace ($10USD) or buy him a Kukui nut necklace ($5USD). Money hungry a bit? Anyways, they do give everyone a free small seashell necklace.
There was some sprinkles here and there. They were selling these clear plastic raincoats. We didn’t get any since the drizzle was super light. But I do think the better service would be to hand the raincoats out for free, because they looked like the one time use disposable ones. The location of lu’au was right beside Kamakahonu Beach and Ahu’ena Heiau (King Kamehameha’s temple), with a great view of the water and the Kailua Bay. Too bad for the clouds and slight rain, it would have been stunning.
Get ready to share tables with strangers?. You are seated randomly based on the number of people in your group and where they could fit you. But the earlier you get in, the closer you will be seated to the stage, and the earlier you will get to go to the buffet because they start from the tables closest to the stage. We got seated near the middle, it was hard to see the show sometimes but you just have to move your seat around a bit more. On their website, they said they have some preliminary activities and the Royal Court arrival on a canoe, except I think we missed all that because we got checked in so late?.
The luau was listed as open bar, but the only unlimited drink was Mai Tai and beer. Any other mixed alcoholic drink, you would have to order and pay extra for. Although the Mai Tai was watered down very much, I still liked it a lot, very fruity.
There was quite a few tables of food. I was so excited at first because I thought they were all different! Until the MC said all three trains of table had the same selections?, it was just more efficient this way as people could spread out to either one to get their food. There was a kid’s table too, with macaroni and cheese, fries and chicken nugget.
They had fresh pineapple and papaya, green salad, assorted dressings, bean salad, pickled cucumber salad, and macaroni salad.
From the very top to bottom – poi, lomi lomi salmon, white rice, poke, sweet potatoes, BBQ chicken, fish, teriyaki beef and Kalua pig.
This was my first plate. I grabbed a bit of everything except the fish (because I had enough fish in the last few days?, more in my next post).
I was critically analyzing the food? and weighing their worthiness and potential for seconds. The salads were salads, fruits were fruits, nothing out of the ordinary. The poke wasn’t fresh, the Kalua pig was very dry and lacking in flavours. This was where the MC taught us poi was meant to be eaten with seafood like poke or lomi salmon. The sweet potatoes were good. I really liked the BBQ chicken and teriyaki beef, both were juicy and tasty.
This was my second plate with dessert. Yes, I went to the kiddie table and got some fries. They were soggy though, probably from the rain. The haupia and chocolate cake were delicious. The foods were refilled pretty fast. Plus, even if one table ran out, there were 2 others with the exact same thing that you can run to.
The MC was engaging and enthusiastic, he told us about the story of how Hawaii came to be and the culture of people from different islands around. The performance featured Polynesian dances from New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, and Hawaii. The dancers were energetic and friendly, some were more skilled than the other. I really have to applaud the fire dancer guy. He did a wonderful job and it was tough because I can’t imagine having a good grip on those fire sticks when you’re pouring sweats and there’s light drizzle. His hand slipped twice, and once it fell into the audience seating, but nobody got hurt?.
Overall, I found this luau to be somewhat overpriced. The show was entertaining, but I was disappointed with the food, in terms of selection and taste. If I were to go for another luau the next time I’m in Hawaii, I would definitely put more effort into researching the location, menu and reviews ahead of time.