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The oldest of the Hawaiian islands, Kauai boasts a dramatic, distinctive backdrop for Hawaii’s signature party: the luau. It regales guests with hip-swinging entertainment by top-notch performers and lays out a spread of local dishes, some of which have been savored by islanders for generations.
For Kauai visitors ready to join the fun, these five luaus aim to please.
Aulii LuauKauai’s only oceanfront luau has plenty going for it. Soft trade winds, sunset views and evening stars set the stage for a good time at Sheraton Kauai Resort. Along with standard luau food such as kalua pig (slow-cooked in an imu, or underground oven) and haupia (a coconut dessert), guests can dig into dishes such as ginger shoyu-marinated beef and mango cake. The show’s performers, all Kauai-born and raised, share songs and dances linked to island legends and lore, and they engage in good-natured audience participation.
Grand Hyatt Kauai LuauThis luau at Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa is loaded with island hospitality from the moment the conch shell sounds. Guests can mingle during the lei greeting, photo ops, cocktail service and arts and crafts demonstrations. Then come dinnertime, clients will sample luau favorites, as well as Asia-Pacific dishes such as sesame-seared mahi mahi and steamed coconut-lemongrass rice. The show is a stunner, with songs and dances from Tahiti, Samoa, New Zealand and Hawaii. Twirling fire-knives add sizzle to the experience.
Luau KalamakuRecent upgrades make this luau at Kilohana Plantation worth booking for both first-time and repeat guests. As the party gets underway, clients can weave leis, play ancient games and tour the historic sugar plantation on a vintage steam-engine train. Traditional dishes such as lomi lomi salmon and poi share the buffet with yellow curry ratatouille and vegetable chow mein. The stage show, enhanced by new state-of-the-art sound and light systems, takes visitors on a musical trip around Polynesia, complete with swinging Maori poi balls.
Smith’s Tropical Paradise LuauThe Smith clan has been welcoming clients to its east Kauai garden setting for more than 50 years. Three generations take part in the festivities, which is a major selling point for this luau. Snap photos as the steaming pig is lifted from the imu underground oven, learn a few hula moves and sip exotic drinks at the open bar, then head for the all-you-can-eat feast. During the live show, the family’s aunties, uncles, sisters, brothers and cousins share heartwarming renditions of Pacific Rim songs and dances.
Tahiti NuiThis longtime Hanalei restaurant and bar presents the most casual of Kauai’s luaus — and arguably the most fun. It features all the classic luau ingredients, from the imu ceremony to the buffet and dinner show. But it’s all done with an unhurried, north shore vibe. In fact, guests might just come away feeling like they’ve spent the evening in someone’s home. Woven rattan wall covers and strings of party lights add to the island-style mood of this one-of-a-kind Kauai luau.