One of the essential activities you need to do during a stay in Kauai is attending a luau. This rich cultural tradition dates all the way back to 1819, and many of the features of that first-ever luau are still part of today’s experience.
What began as a way to celebrate one another as a community and pass along the stories of ancestors has extended to include all visitors to Kauai. By attending a luau, you can experience an honored tradition spanning centuries. It’s one of the best ways to see the full meaning of the aloha spirit, and there are many Kauai luaus to choose from.
In this guide, we list the best luau on Kauai, as well as a FAQ to cover some of the basics and get your family the best experience. We’ve been to most of the ones around Kauai so these are our experiences and ratings for them.
Luau Kalamaku is a great choice for a truly Hawaiian experience close to the heart of the island in Lihue. At this central location on the beautiful grounds of the Kilohana Plantation, your family can get a real tropical feel.
All of the standard features of a luau are part of the package at Luau Kalamaku, including a huge Hawaiian feast, swaying music to put you in the aloha spirit, and an explosive performance that brings the past to life.
The stories are the stuff of legend. The imu ceremony was one of the most authentic activities we got to see, and the train ride around the plantation was well worth it.
There are two packages to choose from depending on your group’s makeup and preferences. The Luau Kalamaku standard package includes everything you need for the full experience including the buffet-style meal, open bar, hula dancers, and fiery performance to round out the evening.
For those who want to get up close to the action of the performance, consider splurging on premier seating. If you’re looking to enjoy some one-on-one time with that special someone, consider the Plantation Owner’s Evening Luau. You’ll get all of the features of the standard package as well as a four-course meal overlooking the plantation and premier seating for the performance.
We chose the standard package, which included more than everything we needed for a memorable evening. In addition to the food, music, and performances, we’re able to see a craft fair featuring local artisans.
In the heart of the sacred Wailua River Valley, you’ll find Smith’s Kauai, a family-owned tradition for over 50 years. Over four generations of Kauai native Hawaiians have created something of a legend as the best luau in Kauai and all the other islands of Hawaii.
The experience at Smith’s begins with a lei welcome and the chance to join a narrated tour around the 30-acre gardens. Just get there at least half an hour before the ceremony, so you can get on the last tour.
The traditional imu ceremony is an essential part of the evening, where guests can learn about the Kalua method of cooking a pig. You’re then invited to partake in cocktails and music before the feast is served. They served Mai Tai’s and a coconut pineapple drink when we visited.
The Smiths Luau ensures no one goes home hungry with a huge offering of traditional Hawaiian cuisines such as kalua pork, chicken adobo, beef teriyaki, and sweet-n-sour mahimahi. My wife is a pescatarian so it was nice to find seafood options.
The prices at Smith’s Kauai are the best on the entire island providing an unbelievable value for what you get. The entire luau experience starts at only $140 for adults, only $35 for juniors 7-13, and $25 for children 3-6.
If you already have dinner plans, you can pick up tickets exclusively for the performance at the end of the show. We do feel though that dinner is a big part of the luau, so we recommend booking the full experience.
Smith’s Garden Tropical Paradise isn’t just any spot and serves as the central focus of an entire day spent on the Garden Isle. You can also take a Wailua River cruise and coast for an hour and a half up and down a beautiful stretch of 2 miles surrounded by river valley forests as you are told stories of ancient Hawaii.
Along the course of this journey, enjoy views of the famous Fern Grotto, a geological formation where plants grow from the rocky roof down. Read the full Smith Family Garden Luau review.
If you’re staying in the Poipu area on your Kauai vacation, and especially if you’re staying at the Sheraton Resort, you should consider the Luau Ka Hikina (formerly Luau Makaiwa).
The Luau Ka Hikina begins with a cocktail reception followed by a welcoming ceremony with old-style hula dancing. Next up is the dinner buffet with kalua pork, huli huli chicken, lomi salmon, and haupia!
After dinner, the evening show features traditional Polynesian performances by the local hula school Halao o Leilani. The luau is held under large open tents near the ocean. Consider a light jacket, especially if there is the potential for rain (common on the island), as evening temperatures can sometimes become coolish.
With a beautiful oceanfront location, the Luau Ka Hikina is smaller and more reminiscent of luaus found at resorts on Oahu and Maui. Overall, this is how a luau should be on the ocean with hula dancing and it’s heartily recommended by us.
Grand Hyatt Kauai hosts a luau representing the full spectrum of Polynesian culture throughout the Pacific. They have collected parts from different island nations as well as Hawaii to curate a one-of-a-kind performance for guests from around the world.
Situated on the south shore of Kauai in fabulous Koloa, the Grand Hyatt Kauai serves as the backdrop for a performance featuring Hawaiian cultural activities, a massive buffet menu, and beautiful dances. Guests also get access to the open bar with a choice of domestic beers, wines, Mai Tais, and a complete range of non-alcoholic options.
No expense was spared on the menu for the luau buffet at the Grand Hyatt Kauai. You can feast upon fresh, locally sourced salads to start before moving on to Imu-style pork, Makaweli New York steaks, Huli Huli chicken, and volcano-spiced local catches.
You get to wrap it up with something decadent like coconut cream pie, haupia, or guava mousse cake for the real sweet tooth. There are choices for everyone in the family, young and old, and even the pickiest eater can find something to enjoy.
The Grand Hyatt Luau is open to the general public in addition to guests of the resort. Tickets start at $175 for adults, $117 for juniors between 13-20, and $80 for children 5-12.
The dance performances are a fusion of far-flung places such as Tahiti, Samoa, New Zealand, and of course, Hawaii. Grand Hyatt has gone out of their way to recruit some of the finest performers on the planet to represent their home’s traditions and cultures through this unique show.
Nestled on the south shore right on Poipu Beach sits Auli’i Luau, the only Kauai luau that’s performed on the oceanfront. Visitors can join them for a celebration of Polynesian traditions while the sun sets to the west bathing the entire coast in a magical fading light.
Attending it lets you hear the soothing sounds of the breakers in the distance, see the dazzling display of light to close the days, and feel the cool ocean breezes.
A several-course buffet feast includes fresh salads, traditional entrees of chow mein, fresh fish, Kalua pig, and cabbage, as well as scrumptious desserts such as mango and coconut cakes. This is only a small sample of the menu, so be sure to bring a big appetite and savor a little of everything.
The meticulous planning of the choreographer and director Mi Nei Oliver-Martins brings to life a performance that features nine distinct routines. Like the other experiences, all of Polynesian culture is represented, including all of the Hawaiian islands, New Zealand, Tahiti, and the friendly island nation of Samoa.
Standard seating runs around $179 for adults 18 and over, $139 for teens, and $114 for children 4-12. Premier seating is available that can place you in the first 3 rows for just $25 more per person.
If you want to feel the warmth from the flaming sword dance, it’s worth the extra bucks. One thing to keep in mind is that paying the premium can make it easier for large groups to stay together but it’s all still enjoyable without the premium seating.
Poipu Beach is one of our top beaches in Kauai, and the warm sand, a glorious glow about the world, and cold Mai Tais await guests at Auli’i Luau. Support the local culture and community by patronizing this Kauaiian native offering.
The Hawaii Alive Luau is located on the grounds of the Royal Sonesta Resort in Lihue. This is a great venue for a rain-or-shine luau, as it takes place in the covered plaza area of the resort. If weather permits, you’re treated to a performance in the luau garden which is adjacent to Kalapaki Beach.
One of the oldest and most famous families in Kauai is responsible for bringing the history of the Polynesian people to life in this corner of Kauai. The same family started with humble beginnings in 1961 when this property was known as the Kauai Surf Hotel and continues through today.
Performances are put on by the Rohutu Polynesian Dance Company and Halau Na Punua O Kauai. They have over 60 years of experience bringing the rich stories of Polynesian culture to life for guests and it really shows in their performances. You also get the full buffet experience with a selection of salads, a poke bar, filling entrees, and the chef’s dessert selections.
Non-alcoholic drinks are included with the price of admission. You get one drink included with your ticket, and there is also a full cash bar if you want to get loose and practice your Hula with professional instruction. Although one drink is often more than enough for us.
Tickets for the Luau at Hawaii Alive are in the middle of the road price-wise, with adults starting at $160 and a flat $56 for kids 6-12. Kids under 5 get in for free. The reasonable pricing for children makes it an awesome luau for families.
Kauai Luau FAQ
Are Luaus worth it?
Attending a luau gives you a glimpse into the rich Polynesian culture and can show you what is so special about the natives from all of the Pacific Islands. It’s more than just food, song, and dance. It’s like seeing the legends of ancient people come to life before you with bursts of fire.
If you can witness this beautiful display of culture and history, we certainly recommend booking a luau for your Hawaiian vacation. A luau in Kauai is absolutely worth what you pay for. There are plenty of options to choose from depending on exactly what you’re looking to experience.
What is the best luau for families?
The two “big” luaus on Kauai are the Luau Kalamaku and the Smith Family Garden Luau. Both luaus have their supporters who consider them the best luau on Kauai, and it seems it’s about a 50/50 split. But you can’t go wrong when deciding between the two. Both luaus offer a professional, fun-filled night of fine dining and entertainment.
They’re certainly the most memorable to us, and the customer service experience is out of this world. It’s a feast for all the senses the entire family can enjoy and participate in. They really do make you feel special.
What is the cheapest luau in Kauai?
Money saved on your luau experience can go toward other tours in Kauai, and this Hawaiian island isn’t the cheapest place to visit by any means.
In my opinion, Smith’s Luau and Luau Kalamaku give you the most bang for your buck, with the full experience clocking in around $140 for adults, while kids will only run $25-$35 apiece.
This is a fantastic value, but if you want to save more and are cool with just catching the show, Smith’s offers show-only tickets that are $25 for adults and $12.50 for children 3-12. If you’re visiting Kauai on a budget, this can allow you to see a luau show without needing to spend extra for the dinner.
Smith’s Family Luau is more convenient to Kapaa and Kauai’s North Shore towns of Princeville and Hanalei, while the Luau Kalamaku is more convenient to the Poipu area. Both luaus are convenient to the Lihue area and both cost about the same.
How do Luaus in Kauai compare to other islands?
Some things will be the same no matter where you attend, with the overall themes being similar across the islands. What unique features the luau has depends on the history and story of the island you are on.
Those in Kauai highlight the unrivaled natural beauty of the Garden Isle. Through the use of some of the most memorable landscapes on the island, you can get an authentic feel for the dances and culture of Hawaii and other Polynesian countries. The powerful stories unique to Kauai are brought to life through ceremonies and performances.