The Best Luaus on the Island of Kauai - 2 Dads with Baggage

The Best Luaus on the Island of Kauai

The Hawaiian Island of Kauai is our family favorite. Although we’ve visited other Hawaiian Islands over the years, we keep returning to Kauai as our home away from home. In fact, we’ve been coming to the Garden Island since our girls were babies not even walking yet. Over our many visits we’ve had the chance to experience a number of cool local destinations, including several of the luaus offered here. Given all those many visits, we have created a list of the best luaus in Kauai.

The costumes and hula dances at Luau Kalamaku are top notch. (photo courtesy of Luau Kalamaku)

The luau is a tradition in the Hawaiian culture that dates back centuries. Originally the luau was a feast to celebrate life’s milestones. Around The hula dancing is always the highlight, but the celebration is so much more. The movement of the hips is what most people remember of the hula, but the arms, hands and face are more important. Each dance tells a story in gestures and movements, with drum beats and singing as the original background. Music was added later, and in the modern versions of the hula we sometimes witness more showmanship than was originally part of the experience.

The Best Luaus in Kauai

The story through hula dance at Luau Kalamaku
So much more than hula dancing, a luau is a cultural celebration that honors age-old traditions.

The best luau in Kauai by our estimation? Luau Kalamaku at Kiohuna Plantation in Lihue is no ka oi. (For you haole – mainlanders – no ka oi is Hawaiian for “the best”.)

#1 – Luau Kalamaku at Kilohana Plantation, Lihue

The story and plot built into the show at Luau Kalamaku is very engaging, and the performances are exceptional. More than sexy hula dancing, this presentation has a storyline that weaves the both female and male dances together into a plot that builds to a finale. The costumes are elaborate, the fire dances are mesmerizing, and the round stage ensures all seats have a great view.

All the traditional foods are served buffet style. This includes kalua pork cooked in the ceremonial imu, a variety of chicken, seafood and vegetable dishes. They sometimes even serve poi (which is an acquired taste – the kids promptly spit it out). Oh, and the open bar doesn’t hurt. Blue Hawaiians all around!

We have really enjoyed the food at Luau Kalamaku each time we have attended. (photo courtesy of Luau Kalamaku)
Activities at Luau Kalamaku

A nice sidebar to the luau is the grounds where it takes place, offering a lot to do before the event begins. Get there early to take a ride through the 100+ acre grounds on the Kilohana Plantation’s real steam locomotive. Leave time for a walk through the gorgeous grounds covered in tropical flowers and plants. There’s also an antique and gift store in case you’re in a shopping mood. The night we visited, there was a craft fair on the lawns outside the event area. We ended up buying koloa wood jewelry and some delicious guava caramels. Fun, fun, fun for everyone!

These are all the reasons why we rate Luau Kalamaku at the top of the best luaus in Kauai.

There are many components to the luau performance at Kalamaku.
Details for Luau Kalamaku
  • Price: Adults (18+ over) $171-$198, Teen (13-17) $99-$133, Child (3-12) $59-$92 (depending on seating location)
  • Food: Pretty Darn Good
  • Program: Really exceptional
  • Extra activities: Lots of things to see and do
colorful hula dancing at Luau Kalamaku
There were many colorful dances at the Luau Kalamaku.

#2  – Smith’s Family Garden Luau, Wailua

One of the very cool things about the Smith’s Family Garden Luau is its setting along the shores of the Wailua River downstream from Wailua Falls. The falls are famous for their starring roles in many movies and shows including 70s hit show Fantasy Island. The grounds are gorgeous, planted like a tropical botanical garden. Guests can tour on very easy meandering trails through the jungle.  A narrated tram tour is also available.

Watching the imu ceremony at Smith Family Garden Luau
Unearthing the ceremonial imu at the Smith’s Family Garden Luau. 
Activities at Smith’s Family Garden Luau

The kids loved chasing the regal peacocks and their chicks around the lawns. To add flair, there are multiple tiki torches scattered around to give the whole place a warm and authentic glow. Unearthing the roasted pig from its ceremonial imu pit was worth braving the crowd. The methods here seemed true to the original Hawaiian customs. This is one of the reasons we rate this high on our list of best luaus in Kauai.

The traditional lighting of the torches at Smith’s Family Luau is a ritual worth experiencing. (photo courtesy of Smith’s Family Luau)

The food was good – not great – but we didn’t expect it would be. After dinner, we were moved to a traditional stage area to be reseated and the show began. It was more of a production, with its theme and dances centered around Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of Fire. There is even a “volcano” that spews lava and fire, which was a tiny bit hokey. There is some audience participation here, so if you prefer to avoid that don’t sit in the front.

A beautiful array of food at Smith’s Family Luau. (photo courtesy of Smith’s Family Luau)
Details for Smith’s Family Garden Luau

This is by far the most affordable of the options for best luau in Kauai.

  • Price: Adult $140.00, Jr. (7-13) $35.00, Child (3-6) $25.00
  • Food: Good
  • Program: Good+
  • Extra activities: Solid number of things to do
tropical flowers at luau in Kauai
Colorful tropical flowers surround the grounds at Smith Family Garden Luau

#3 – Aulii Luau at the Poipu Sheraton, Poipu Beach

More of a hotel version of the traditional luau, the Aulii Luau show at the Poipu Sheraton is easy to get to, easy to park and easy to manage. If you have small kids, this one might be a good choice because you can duck out to the nearby beach if you need a diversion. The show was presented on a stage, accompanied by live music that was remarkably good both during dinner and as part of the show.

The Sheraton Luau represents many forms of culture in dance and song. (photo courtesy of Aulii Luau)

At the performance we attended, there was a fun mix of dances and exhibitions. We particularly enjoy the fire-knife dances where big scary guys tossed flaming knives in the air and to each other. The hula dancers performed a variety of moves that made us all go “WOW”. They represent a number of cultural dances ranging from traditional Hawaiian to the drum dances of Tahiti. Even New Zealand’s Maori people have a dramatic dance in the show.

The knife and fire part of the Sheraton Poipu’s luau is pretty awesome. (photo courtesy of Aulii Luau)
The Feast at Aulii Luau

The food? Yeah, well no one really expects to go to these events for cutting edge culinary masterpieces. All the traditional dishes are well presented and delicious. Guests will find traditional kalua pork, ahi poki, haupia (a coconut custardy kinda thing), and the ever-present poi (pounded and mashed taro root).

Details for Aulii Luau

This luau is probably the best value on the island. It was easy to reach, comfortable and outdoors near the beach. These and other reasons are why it made our list of best luaus in Kauai.

  • Price for Regular Seats: Adults (18yrs+): $190-$215, Teens (13-17yrs): $140-$165, Youth (3-12yrs): $114-$140 (depending on seating location)
  • Food: Okay/Good
  • Program: Very good because of variety and those knife dudes
  • Extra activities: Few, but points for being so close to the beach
Rain or shine, cloudy or clear, the sunsets in Kauai never disappoint.

More Best Luaus in Kauai

There are several other luaus we have not yet tried, and wish we had time to visit them all. We hear from several sources that the more intimate Hawaii Alive Luau at the Royal Sonesta Resort is very good in both entertainment and food (tickets start at $160 for adults). Another is Havaiki Nui Luau held at the Grand Hyatt Kauai (starting at $203 for adults).

These options may be less showy and more intimate and authentic. This may not be a bad thing, especially if you are staying at this resort. As long as the food and program are good and the drinks are flowing, most of us can power through.

Whichever you choose, the best luaus in Kauai are amazing experiences that can bring you closer to traditional Hawaiian culture. Since we are visitors in this amazing land originally settled more than 2000 years ago, it’s important to understand and help keep alive the history – both tragic and happy – of this beautiful land.

Mahalo – enjoy!

Our family does luau pretty well!
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