Whether or not to book a lu‘au — it’s the Hawaiian vacation dilemma. Some travelers wouldn’t dream of it. Too cheesy. Too touristy. But it may be one of the most Hawaiian things you do, in spite of the fact that you’ll be sitting with a few hundred other people and the entertainers are professionals.
Hawaiian families hold lu‘aus to celebrate births, 16th birthdays, weddings, family reunions and funerals. Preparation begins the day before with a fire in a rock-lined pit or ‘imu. Then the pig, wrapped in banana or ti leaves and burlap, is placed in the hot ‘imu and covered with burlap and more hot rocks. The morning of the event, family members cover tables with paper cloths and fresh flowers, and string lanterns from trees. Then guests arrive with big bowls of macaroni salad or fresh pineapple. Someone will bring haupia or coconut pudding. And during the afternoon, someone breaks out in slack key guitar or ‘ukelele and sings while others do the hula.
A public lu‘au follows somewhat the same format, if on a big scale. Activities start just before sunset, the better to enjoy the spectacle. These dinner shows take place on resort grounds. Expect kalua pig from the ‘imu, poi (you’ve got to try just a little), long rice (not rice at all but noodles with chicken), some kind of fish, many salads, rolls, desserts, and mai tais and soft drinks.
The entertainment usually covers the dances of Polynesia, and ends with a dazzling Samoan fire dance. The cost, about $100 per adult, covers a lei, open bar, buffet dinner and show. Popular shows, like Old Lahaina Lu‘au, should be booked a few weeks in advance or certainly as soon as you get to Maui. The Old Lahaina Lu‘au entertainment is a pageant of Hawaiian history.
Especially on a first trip to Maui, you shouldn’t miss this very Hawaiian experience.. You’ll enjoy Hawaiian ho‘okipa, or hospitality.