Your First Hawaiian Luau: Everything You Need to Know

Updated July 2, 2021.

Aloha! This What I Ate Wednesday is all about the beautiful, tasty, traditional luau food. My sweet husband and I have been to Hawaii three times now, but this was our first luau experience. And we’re bringing you along with us!

Pre-luau Activities

The fun started before the luau officially began. There were games, adult beverages, and tattoos for all! I had to get a tattoo, and even Steve got one! His is a shark and mine is a tribal print!

Steve got a shark
I wanted a big one!

Kalua Pig

And next came… the pig! It had been roasting in the ground all day, just like they cooked it for hundreds of years in the Polynesian islands. Check it out! We could actually smell it cooking while we were sitting on the beach earlier in the day.

Still smiling!
So tender it fell apart on the tray!

The Royal Procession

Then came the performers in a royal procession, just as the chiefs or royalty would have at a luau hundreds of years ago.

Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 10.10.27 AM

The Food

Now for the main event: luau food! It was set up buffet-style, and the emcee demonstrated how to eat poi and explained what everything was while we all loaded our plates.

Thank goodness every item was labeled!
Fun Plate
Fresh Pineapple
Banana Cake

I would have thought this would go with the dessert, but this is the bread with the meal! No rolls or other loaves of bread, just moist, delicious, incredible banana bread! I felt a little bit like I was in the South–dessert with supper!

Fresh Papaya

It really does taste better fresh! I could have made a meal of the fresh fruits and banana bread.

Macaroni Salad

Not sure how authentically Hawaiian macaroni salad is, but it tasted great!

Pickles (above) and Lomi Lomi Salmon (below)

I never would have known the lomi lomi had salmon in it by looking. It looks like pico de gallo! But sure enough, there were little pieces of salmon in there.

Poke (above) and Poi (below)

Poke (pronounced “po-kay”) is cubed, raw tuna, and poi is a taro paste. You’re supposed to eat them together, but the poi is a bit bland. It was, however, a favorite of Duke Kahanamoku, who was the father of modern surfing. It’s also high in potassium, carbs, and nutrients (that purple is the natural color!), so it’s an ideal food after a long day of fishing, hunting, gathering, hiking, dancing, and other calorie-burning things Polynesians did in their daily lives!

Purple Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Butter

The first time I had a purple sweet potato was in Japan. They’re so good! And that coconut butter… wow!

Steamed Rice, of course
Kona Coffee BBQ Chicken

OK, I could make a meal of the fresh fruit, banana bread, and this incredible chicken!

Island Fish with Ginger and Soy
Kona Beef Broil with Teriyaki Sauce
Kalua Pork (left); Kalua Turkey (right)

Look how happy they are! What a fun job to work at a luau!

Chocolate Cake
Banana Cake

The only thing better than the banana bread.

Haupia (coconut dessert)

This has the consistency of flan, but maybe just a little firmer. It has a strong coconut flavor, and yet it tastes lite! Definitely a must try at your next luau!

My Plates: The Sampler Platter

Wow! That was an awful lot of food! I tried to get small portions, and yet my plate still overflowed! Every bite was an incredible Polynesian journey, much like the entertainment!

A Bit of Romance

Many people come to Hawaii to celebrate something–retirement, honeymoon, anniversary, birthday, etc. My sweet husband and I were celebrating our third anniversary, and the new friends we sat with for dinner were a mother (Cynthia) and daughter (Natalie) celebrating Cynthia’s birthday! The emcee pointed out a couple seated at the table behind us who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, then suggested that everyone celebrating an anniversary should slow dance to the next song. Much to my delight, my sweet, introverted, shy husband was the one to pop up so we could dance together! Here’s photographic proof, thanks to my new friend Natalie!

So in love!

Polynesian Culture

While we ate, we got a beautiful show of Polynesian Cultural dances not just from Hawaii, but from all of Polynesia! Here’s a glimpse:

New Zealand

I’m so glad we did the luau! We both had fun, and we made some new friends. I highly recommend a luau for your next trip to Hawaii! Are you ready to plan your trip?

Want more? Check out my World Foods and Hawaiian Islands Pages!

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8 responses to “Your First Hawaiian Luau: Everything You Need to Know”

  1. […] everyone’s favorite: What I Ate Wednesday! Last week we talked about the luau on the Big Island, and this week I’m letting you in on the rest of the Hawaiian goodness! If there’s one […]

  2. […] For the whole experience, check out What to Eat at the Luau! […]

  3. […] I just feel “islandy” wearing one. The ones below are perfect for strolling the beach, attending a luau, or going out to […]

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