The Luau

For dinner, our newlywed friends invited us to a luau, an informal gathering for food and entertainment. We’ve never been to one, so we were both excited to attend this Hawaiian tradition.

The Old Lahaina Luau was held near the Lahaina Cannery Mall, a 15-minute drive from the hotel. We saw a beautiful rainbow right after we parked. It was my first time seeing a complete rainbow, both ends visibly in sight.

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As we funneled through the door, we were immediately greeted with kukui nut necklaces and a cocktail.

Finally, I got lei’d in Hawaii! I was surprised it didn’t happen sooner. I imagined as soon as I stepped off the plane, I’d be greeted with an orchid lei—just like the movies. Sadly, nothing like that happened.

With our mai tais in hand, a bare-chested man escorted us to our tables. The large center stage and the number of tables surprised me. We could see the ocean and the sun setting, but I was expecting a different type of luau—what I’ve seen in movies. On the beach, intimate, long table of 50 people, pig roasting in the background, dancing… Twice, my idea of Hawaii has been deceived by the movies.

As the other guests arrived, we were able to walk around, take pictures and buy local handmade souvenirs.

Right before dinner, we saw the big kalua pig removed from its imu, underground oven.

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Dinner was buffet style and offered a large assortment of dishes. I saw many familiar traditional Hawaiian dishes, considering we were at Helena’s a couple days prior.

I took a little bit of everything: green salad (had to get some freshness on my plate!), stir fried vegetables, lomi lomi salmon (salmon ceviche), Polynesian baked mahi mahi (too dry), kalua pua’a (not bad) fried rice, crab salad (delicious and full of mayonnaise), taro salad (taro, spinach and coconut sauce) to fresh papaya.

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It was all mediocre food. Even the much anticipated kalua pua’a didn’t match my expectations. It’s hard to compare, considering everything at Helena’s was so good. Cocktails were all-you-can-drink and I tried a variety, but they were all very light in alcohol. Probably a good thing, considering our livers needed to rest at least one night.

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Soon, the entertainment at the center stage began. It was an enjoyable show of cultural dances and music.

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For dessert, we were offered a plate of haupia (coconut pudding), macadamia nut cake tart and luau bar (chocolate and coconut bar). Fresh fruit was a better dessert option in my opinion—sweet papaya, watermelon and honeydew, yum.

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Overall, the luau was very commercialized, with hundreds of other tourists, but it was still entertaining and had decent food. Again, I imagined something way more intimate, but I think it’s essential to do any type of luau when you’re in Hawaii—at least once.

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