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Tip: A bird sanctuary island that is 3 miles off Maui's south shore.
Do a Luau on Kauai
The format—a sort of Hawaiian-style dinner theater with mai tais, kalua pig, hula dancers, poi, drums, Haupia pudding and fire knife dancing—was standard fare. Those days are over. Cookie cutter luaus are fading as new and more sophisticated entertainment is added to the menu.
There are luau performances, both traditional and theatrical, that are elaborate productions with original music and storylines. They play more like stage musicals than hula shows. Others call to mind nightclub floor shows with an emcee to keep the story moving from one act to the next.
The ticket price and menu will be comparable, so the choice may be in the entertainment.
Kauai’s newest luau, called Luau Kalamaku, uses a theatrical format and features a cutting edge stage performance that tells the story of a Polynesian family’s epic journey across the sea from Tahiti to Hawaii. The show is staged in a renovated carriage house on the grounds of Kilohana Plantation. The facility seats 1,000 people and features a circular center stage, which is a break in tradition from the typical rectangular hula platform.
The show blends live and recorded music piped throughout the audience by a state-of-the-art sound system. The fire dance is particularly unique coupling a fire knife dancer with a troupe of fairy-like dancers in striking costumes juggling illuminated poi balls in a sort of dream sequence. Another show stopper is a beautiful love song performed in the English language. If you’ve lost track of the storyline, the lyrics of this song will bring it all together.
Tihati Productions stages two luaus on Kauai, both taking a more traditional approach to the stage show. The award-winning “Hiva Pasefika” is performed at ResortQuest Kauai Beach at Makaiwa and calls on the spirit of ancient Hawaiian hula, chant and music to tell the story of Polynesian voyages from Tahiti to Hawaii. You’ll see Tahitian dancers in traditional costumes and a Samoan fire dance. “Hiva Pasefika” plays Tuesday through Sunday nights.
Tihati’s other production, “Havaiki Nui,” can be seen Sundays and Thursdays at the Grand Hyatt Kauai in Poipu. This luau is staged in a lovely outdoor setting a stone’s throw from the beach. An emcee navigates dancers on a Polynesian voyage to “Havaiki Nui,” the great land of promise. It features a variety of dances from lands throughout the Pacific and ends with a fire knife dance.
The luau show at Smith’s Tropical Paradise is a Polynesian review staged in a lovely torchlit amphitheater on the banks of the Wailua River. It features music and dance from the islands of Polynesia with some stunning special effects.
Luaus are staged from the north shore to the south shore, each with its own unique signature. Ask before you book.