Smith’s Family Tropical Paradise is a family-run business that offers a dinner buffet, a luau show, a botanical garden, and Wailua river cruise tours. We heard quite a lot about them and they came recommended by locals and friends as the best luau in Kauai and all of Hawaii. The Smith Family Luau is located on the east coast of Lihue, right off of Kuhio Highway along the Wailua River.
If you’re thinking about visiting and want to find out more about what it’s like and whether it’s worth it, read our honest review of the Smith Family Garden Luau. We cover what you will be doing and some helpful tips along the way to get the most out of your experience.
Smith’s Family Garden Luau Itinerary
- 5:00 pm: Gates Open for the Botanical Garden
- 6:00 pm: The Imu Ceremony (demonstration of the pig and rice pudding)
- 6:15 pm: Cocktails and Music
- 6:30 pm – 7:50 pm: Dinner Feast
- 8:00 pm: Rhythm of Aloha Luau Show
Buying Tickets For The Luau
You can buy tickets for the Garden Luau on their website, which includes, the ceremony, dinner buffet, and the Rhythm of Aloha Luau Show. However, if you already have dinner plans and just want to see the show, there is an option at the bottom of the page where you can just purchase show tickets.
You need to book the tickets for the Smith’s Garden Luau way ahead of time. We recommend looking at least 3-4 weeks early to get you’re preferred date. It’s one of the most popular Luau’s in Kauai, so it often gets sold out.
If you’re coming during the summer when it’s the busiest, you’ll want to make sure you do it in advance otherwise, you won’t find tickets for the specific date you want. Although if you’re planning for a weekday, you will have an easier time than if you’re looking to book for a weekend.
If you need to cancel a reservation for any reason, there is a cancelation policy. You just need to cancel within 24 hours of the event date, or else you will be charged. If you don’t cancel within 24 hours, you have to pay a 50% cancelation fee. Also, a “no show” will result in a 100% cancelation fee, so make sure to let them know.
How To Get To The Smith’s Family Garden Luau
The Smith’s Garden Luau can be found in Kapa’a. Whether you’re coming from the north or south of the island, you will probably take the Kuhio Highway to get to it. If you rent a car, the directions from Google Maps are simple, so you won’t get lost. They offer extensive parking so it’s easy to find a place to park your car.
Just keep in mind that by the time you leave, hundreds of other people will be trying to do the same. It may be worth parking farther in the back rather than right by the entrance of the Smith’s Luau. We parked our car near the end of the parking lot and also rushed to it after the show was over to avoid getting stuck in traffic. Since it’s so well-known, taxi companies in Poipu, Lihue, Princeville, and other parts can send you a cab. Uber and Lyft are also available.
This is the complete address for it: 3-5971 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaʻa, HI 96746
Arriving at Smith’s Family Luau
From Poi’pu, it took us around 35 minutes to get to the Smith’s Family Luau in Kapa’a. We arrived around 5:20 pm, which was enough time to get on the last tour in their trolley to explore the garden before the ceremony started at 6:00 pm. You need to be there by 5:30 if you want to go on this tour, which I recommend you do. You can check in with just our last name, so no need to print out your tickets or look through your email for them.
They welcome you with a paper map and a shell necklace lei. As soon as we entered, we saw several chickens, chicks, peacocks, ducks, red-crested cardinals, and zebra doves. You can buy $1 food bags at the entrance to feed them.
As we walked along the path, we got our picture taken with two Hawaiian models before getting on the trolley tour. You can later buy this photo for $25 at the entrance of their theater right before the luau show starts or after. We personally didn’t buy it, but we were able to see it, and it was a very good-quality photo. There were plenty of families that did buy their photos.
Smith’s Botanical Garden Tour
The Smith’s Tropical Paradise Garden is a botanical garden about 30 acres in size along the Wailua River. Before the luau ceremony, they take you on a trolley ride around the garden while the tour guide explains what each area of the garden is.
You get to see a Japanese garden, a hibiscus garden, a Ginger garden, a Polynesian village, a Filipino village, a bamboo rain forest, and a fruit forest. The garden really has plants and designs of different cultures around the world. The short tour lasted about 10 minutes.
After the tour, you’re dropped off in the middle of the garden and can explore it closer and take pictures before the Imu ceremony begins. We walked along the ponds and took pictures of the Polynesian face sculpture, red bridge, and boats in the water. It really sets the tone for what the rest of the evening will be like.
Imu Ceremony (Pig Roasting Demonstration)
At 6:00 pm we heard a shell horn, which was our sign that the Imu ceremony would start. We walked over and gathered around the ceremony area across from the Smith’s Luau house. Kamika Smith welcomes everyone to the luau and introduces two men that will be demonstrating the cooking process of what they do for every dinner feast.
Smith talks about the cooking method called kalua and how they prepare the pig and rice pudding in their Imu oven placed in the ground. First, the two men dig up the sand with what looks like a garden hoe, then they remove a rack that has banana leaves on it.
They remove the hot rack with the pig inside of it with their long hooks, and then they place the pig onto a metal tray. The men remove the banana leaves and hot rocks that are placed throughout the pig. The purpose of the rocks inside of the pig is to cook the meat from the inside out. Lastly, they use their hooks to pick up a pot full of rice pudding from the Imu oven.
It’s really neat to be able to see how the roast is done. It adds a more personal and cultural touch to the whole event. Not every luau in Hawaii does this which makes them really stand out in this regard.
Cocktails and Music
After the Imu ceremony is complete, you walk up to the luau house to grab free mai tai and pineapple coconut cocktails. They’re located on trays right when you walk into the seating area for dinner.
The cocktails were both sweet, but they were delicious. It’s an open bar, so you can grab as many as you’d like. The only catch is you can only grab two at a time, but that’s more than enough for most people.
There were regular drinks you could order, such as sodas, Hawaiian punch, orange juice, pineapple juice, guava juice, and pitchers of water placed around the luau house. After grabbing drinks, you can choose any of the open seats. If you come in a group of 6 or more, you can call them to reserve a table ahead of time but otherwise, it’s open seating for everyone else.
Once we sat down at the table with our cocktails, we enjoyed our drinks while listening to Hawaiian music before dinner was served. One thing they did which was convenient was that they set the dessert table up, and you could grab dessert before dinner. The large space had a roof over it with fans on the ceiling to keep the area cool and shaded away from the sun.
Each table had a red napkin, mug, silverware, ice water, cream, and sugar. Some of the tables that had at least 6 guests or more had reserved signs on the table with their names. It was only two of us, so we had to sit at an empty table.
There were between 200-300 guests attending the garden luau on a Monday. We met a couple from Los Vegas sitting across from us, and they talked about their time spent on the island and mentioned how they thought this luau was one of the best ones in all of Hawaii.
Around 6:30 pm, a man comes up on stage to blow the shell which signals that dinner is ready to be served. They started to call each table one by one to go up and grab food.
We were one of the last tables to be called to go up. There were 6 lines you can go in, and all of the lines served the same foods. One of the things we really liked about it was that the servers will continuously go up and check if any food has run out and replace it before it does. So whether you go first or last, you don’t have to worry about not getting the food you want.
On the menu, there are a variety of foods that are served at the luau. Some of the side dishes we got were salad with guava dressing, Hawaiian-style macaroni salad,
Japanese cucumber salad, fresh Hawaiian bread, purple sweet potatoes, Chinese fried rice, mashed potatoes, and stir-fried vegetables.
For the main entree, you can get sweet sour mahimahi, kalua pig, chicken adobo, and teriyaki beef. The dessert on the table was fruit, rice pudding, fruit jello, and coconut cake. Our plates were both full of food, and we brought another small plate each full of desserts on our way back to the table.
We would describe the food as good. To be completely honest, it wasn’t great, but it also wasn’t bad, and when you’re feeding anywhere from 200-300 people at a time in a buffet style, you can’t ask for much more. They included tastes of different cultures, and the variety of options certainly made us happy with our decision to eat dinner here. Martin’s favorite was the kalua pork while mines was the fried rice.
Hawaiian music plays while guests eat their dinner, and guests’ birthdays and anniversaries are announced to the crowd. Kamika Smith teaches us Hawaiian moves and different sayings in the Hawaiian language.
There were so many different options for everyone to eat something, and no one goes hungry at the dinner feast. The best part is that you can always go back up for seconds after you finish your first plate. We were too full at this point to go up for seconds, but some people certainly did. The coconut cake was very delicious, so Martin definitely got another plate of that tasty dessert, and I grabbed more fried rice.
I enjoyed trying the different dishes that were served at the luau. We liked how they served a buffet-style dinner because there was food we had never seen or heard of.
Rhythm of Aloha Show
We started to head to the Lagoon Theater around 7:40 pm to see the luau show. While the music and small events like bringing people with birthdays onto the stage to dance were still going on, we started to head to the theater earlier than everyone else to get some good seats.
While there isn’t really a bad spot to watch the show from, we were able to be right in the middle and not too far back. It looks like other people had the same idea, so we were glad to account for this.
While walking toward the theater, we saw cans and torches lit with fire along the path, which really created a beautiful and tropical atmosphere. Since the scenery was quite nice we stopped for a few minutes and took pictures.
At the theater, you can purchase a photo of yourself that was taken earlier for $25 dollars each. Pitchers of water are placed on the left side of the theater before you enter so you can grab a refreshment. The weather in the evening is not as hot as midday, but it’s still easy to get thirsty. Fortunately, there are fans above the ceiling inside the theater.
The theater has open seating for any guest to watch the show. As we sat down, we could see that stage was surrounded by a torch-lit lagoon amphitheater. It’s all surrounded by the natural botanical gardens.
The show started at 8:00 pm and showed authentic performances from cultures around the world like Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, Philippines, New Zealand, China, and Japan.
We saw different performances, from a fire show to hula dancing and a haka and chants (called mele in Hawaiian). The performance was incredible to watch since you get to experience the cultural dances and the meaning behind each performance.
The outfits worn during the performance are very colorful and beautiful. In the middle of the show, they dropped down a wall, and you can see the musicians playing authentic music. It was quite a surprise since we had assumed some of the songs we recorded, but I think that just shows how incredible everything really is.
Overall, the staff was very friendly and attended to the needs of each guest. They made our first luau experience enjoyable and provided a fantastic atmosphere. The itinerary for each activity was well organized, everything went smoothly, and we did not feel rushed when transitioning to different activities.
I highly recommend Smith’s Family Garden Luau to everyone, especially families with kids, if you want to have a wonderful time. There are also a couple of other luaus in Kauai worth checking out. You can experience a big botanical garden that has animals, Hawaiian music, free cocktails, a dinner feast, and an unforgettable luau show.