The Big Island is a mesmerizing place where you can dine, experience the best luaus, shop, and adventure a new place every day of your visit. But while there is a rich variety of things to see and do here, one classic activity that we recommend every traveler to experience if only just once, is a luau.
The word luau best translates to “gathering meal” and it truly is a place where people gather together to eat, but it also is so much more. Hawaiian luaus combine story-telling and cultural activities like fire knife performances and hula dancing with large buffet-like feasts. On the Big Island, a luau offers a chance to enjoy traditional Hawaiian and Polynesian dishes along with an immersive show of dance, song, and spoken word. Of course, every luau group in Hawaii has its own unique style and atmosphere, with no two companies ever offering the exact same experience.
The following is a look at just five of the most popular luau outfits on the Big Island and the special sauce they bring to the table:
Island Breeze Luau at the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Resort
This luau takes place at a historic oceanfront location that is right next to the former home of the Hawaiian royalty, giving a bit of legacy and authenticity to the performance. The Island Breeze Luau is also renowned for its outstanding traditional dancing that weaves together Samoan, Tahitian, and Hawaiian techniques.
When you arrive at this luau, you’ll be shown to your table and once that table is filled (either with your party or another), you’ll be invited to feast at the large buffet which always includes kalua or pig roasted in an earth oven. This location also features an open bar with signature island drinks like Mai Tais as well as local craft beers.
Voyagers of the Pacific at The Royal Kona Resort
This luau on the Big Island is held on the green grass grounds of the Royal Kona Resort, in an area overlooking the ocean on the island’s western end. In other words, among the best places for a sunset dinner and show. In fact, the stage for the dance and other performances has the ocean and the horizon as its backdrop.
Upon entering this private luau area, each person is greeted and given a traditional Hawaiian lei to wear. Guests are then invited to meander the grounds and explore various cultural arts and crafts presentations, including hula dancing lessons. Then, once that earth-baked pig is ready, there is a short ceremony in which the kalua is brought out from the earth and the buffet is officially opened. This is an all-you-can-eat buffet featuring authentic Polynesian foods.
This luau is aptly named the Voyagers of the Pacific because once the show begins, you’ll find yourself witnessing a fantastically grand story that follows the epic voyage of the Polynesians of old as they braved the Pacific waves and made their way to the Hawaiian islands.
Legends of Hawaii Luau at Hilton Waikoloa Village
The Legends of Hawaii Luau really accentuates the show part of the luau. Here, the Hilton Waikoloa Village has built a massive, state-of-the-art stage that really takes all of the luau’s performances to the next level. This is a family-friendly show which features hula dancing, drumming, fire dancing, live music, and much more. The stories here revolve around early Hawaiian days and are less connected than at other luaus, but offer a more varied experience.
This location features a massive buffet with top-tier options reflective of the local environment. For example, you might feast on that traditional kalua or enjoy cutting into a fresh island-caught fish seared with sweet peppers and smothered with a citrus lime butter sauce that was also sourced from local producers.
The Mauna Kea Luau at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
The Mauna Kea Luau is one of the longest-running luaus on the Big Island and has consistently been ranked among the top luaus on the island by both visitors and locals. What makes this luau so highly rated is that it offers a good balance of everything. Here, the stage is set between ancient trees overlooking the ocean, so that visitors can truly enjoy a sunset dining and performance experience. This luau also uniquely features more modern American and English songs as well as traditional Hawaiian songs, all of which honor the land and Hawaiian heritage.
The Mauna Kea Luau at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is particularly a great choice for families with young children. That’s because while the buffet is being shared and before the main show, children are invited to take to the stage with some of the dancers to learn how to hula and see some of the arts more up close.
Feast & Fire Luau at the Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa
The Feast & Fire Luau offers an exceptional dinner show that highlights those early Polynesians who first came and called Hawaii home. Here, the storytelling includes not just the journey across the ocean, but also those early days — and that storytelling is told through dance, drums, and more.
This is also one of the many luaus on the big island that is well-known for their food options. Slow-cooked kalua pork is highlighted, along with other outstanding options like taro rolls with lilikoi butter and freshly caught fish. Dinner here generally comes as plated service and not buffet style.
Experience One or Experience Them All
Remember, each luau is unique and while the above are five of the most popular luaus on the Big Island, this is by no means an exhaustive list. You’ll find a lot of options across the Hawaiian islands for this style of dinner and show. Which one you like best will depend upon factors like preferred food options and whether you prefer good storytelling or better performative dancing. We hope the above list has given you some good ideas on where to start but, as always, make sure to check out our other pages to learn more about all the Big Island has to offer.