From the moment you step off the plane at Kahului Airport, you are apt to be blasted with a myriad of bright billboards and glossy pamphlets for “the best” in Maui luaus. There are a lot of options available for you, so many that knowing which is the best pick for you and your family can be a struggle. Especially if you are traveling on a limited schedule and limited budget. One good pick for those new to luaus in general and who are looking for something more of a local’s favorite is the Te Au Moana Luau at the Wailea Beach Marriott.
The Wailea Beach Mariott Resort & Spa is located southeast Maui, a short drive south from Maalaea Bay. But note that while the feast and performances occur on the ocean-front yard and stage of this resort, don’t mistake this for a hotel-oriented luau. No, the reason why the Te Au Moana Luau is such a local favorite is that the troupe behind the performance is the very popular Tihati Productions. Tihati Productions is the largest and longest-running entertainment company in the entire state of Hawaii. This group hires only the best in entertainers and goes a long way to ensure that they keep that hard-earned reputation of providing the most immersive, engaging storytelling experience.
It is this immersive storytelling experience that is undoubtedly the highlight of viewing the Te Au Moana Luau. The name of this luau, Te Au Moana, translates to “The Ocean Tide”, which is appropriate both for its location and the content of the show itself. The theme here is how the ocean and the changing tides have connected the greater Oceania region. The storyline focuses heavily on Polynesian culture and the various ways the ocean plays a role in that culture, such as with fishing and voyaging. Guests also hear more about how those first Polynesians reached the shores of Maui through exuberant dances and songs. In addition to traditional Polynesian dances, this outstanding performance includes an imus ceremony, kalpa printmaking, flower crafting, and a thrilling fire knife dance finale.
Before the show, there is, of course, the feast. The grand buffet menu for the luau feast is put together by Executive Chef Isaac Bancaco, designed to highlight the Polynesian event. This means a ton of dishes inspired by Maui’s own ingredients, such as Hamakua mushroom salad, freshly baked taro, Lomi Lomi salmon, and, of course, a succulent grilled imua kalua pig. Dinner performance tickets also include access to an open bar serving local juices as well as alcoholic beverages. But while the menu is done well, you may not find the quality of each dish as on par with other locations, both at competing luaus and similar Polynesian-centric dining establishments.
In summary, the Te Au Moana Luau is perhaps the best choice of Maui luaus when you are looking for an authentic, local favorite in performance. The luau feast here may not be quite as exquisite as you will find elsewhere, but the open bar and being able to sit atop a grassy knoll directly over a private resort beach is a pretty nice exchange.
Avoid booking your tickets too far in advance as this is one of the luaus you do not want to go to if it rains. The reason being that part of the charm of the performances is having that gorgeous Pacific ocean backdrop, the soft ocean breezes, and the way the fire knife dances light up the knight sky. There is no covering where the stage and outdoor seating is so all rain events are moved indoors to a more suitable location.