Mauna Kea Luau

Mauna Kea Luau - Fantastic Live Performance & Feast on the Kohala Coast
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

The Mauna Kea Luau offers both resort guests and non-guests a fantastic luau experience on the Big Island's Kohala Coast. Here, you can expect a massive and delicious feast paired with a lovely performance recounting Hawaii's unique history and mythologies. 

- The Local Expert Team

Everyone visiting Hawaii for the first time has to try a luau at least once. Maybe it won’t be for you or your group, but most will find the experience extremely rewarding — especially if you choose your luau well. As one of the highest-rated luaus, the Mauna Kea Luau at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is an excellent choice for first-timers as well as luau aficionados.

A big part of the draw for the Mauna Kea Luau is its location. This luau takes place at the gorgeous Mauna Kea Beach Hotel & Resort which is itself located on the west shores of the Kohala Coast near Mauiumae Beach. Every luau that happens at this resort happens at sunset, with the performances occurring just on the beach so that you can enjoy the live entertainment and feast while likewise taking in a Wheniful sunset.

When the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel first opened in 1965, it did so as the most expensive hotel ever. The Mauna Kea Luau was added on shortly after the resort’s grand opening, first as a way to show off the resort in magazine spreads like those of Newsweek. Its popularity quickly lent to the luau becoming its own major attraction as now both guests of the resort and non-guests are invited to share in the experience.

The Mauna Kea Luau is a more laid-back luau experience, with guests encouraged to wear “luau attire” which generally translates to Hawaiian shirts and shorts as well as light summer and floral dresses. When you arrive, friendly staff members will seat you based on whether you have a Premium or Regular ticket. Enjoy then a complimentary Mai Tai or non-alcoholic drink as you wait for the big celebrations to begin via the traditional Imu ceremony in which the kahlua pig is taken from its underground oven and presented at the buffet.

The dinner buffet does occur just before the big evening performances, but an introduction to Hawaiian history and mythology will occur during this feasting portion of the evening. As the meal comes to a close, children are often invited on stage to join in on a dance that recreates one of those mythological tales. Then, all plates are swept away, and guests enjoy a full evening of song, dance, fire knife performances, and more.

Let’s take a second to expand on the dinner buffet offered by the Mauna Kea Luau. Certainly, for some, choosing which of the Big Island’s many luau experiences to go to will be determined by the food. This is an area in which the Mauna Kea Luau truly excels. The carnivore in you will love to see the many tables ladened with traditional Hawaiian fares like imu-roasted kalua pig, teriyaki steaks, and tons of local island-caught fish. There is also plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, although the strict vegetarian may not appreciate the spread as much as those who make an exception for seafood. 

When it comes to choosing between Premium or General seating, there are two differences: Snacks and seating area. Those with a Premium ticket holders will enjoy tables at the front and center for an excellent view of the entire performance. Tables and seats are not on different level platforms and so, while the stage is raised, this can make a big difference. Additionally, Premium ticket holders enjoy local dried fruits, ships, and macadamia nuts throughout the performance. 

Insider Tips:
-No two luaus are going to be the same. The Mauna Kea Luau is an excellent choice for its fantastic food, premier and attentive resort staff, and performances detailing Hawaiian history. However, if you prefer a heavier song and dance performance or one detailing an overall arching Polynesian theme, then another luau on the island might be better suited for you.
-A common complaint for this one is that there is a lot of talking narration, especially at the start.