While luaus in today's Hawaii aren't historically accurate recreations, that doesn't mean you can't learn anything about Hawaiian culture and have a good time while doing it. Genuine, old-fashioned luaus haven't existed for about 100 years. The Hawaiian word was aha`aina, or pa`ina, and that could be translated as a big dinner or banquet. The word luau actually means one of the traditional dishes included in it, a kind of Hawaiian brand of chop suey that uses chicken or squid and plant leaves; taro leaf similar to spinach, in fact, is the real luau.
In the past, luaus were commonly celebrated to celebrate a child's first birthday, aptly named “baby luau”, where they were officially called once parents had enough time to think of a name that correctly encapsulated their spirit and personality. From the spectacular Grand Luau show to the most intimate Andaz luau, the Wailea luaus attract guests from every corner of the island. For example, many people argue that dancing with fire is not native to Hawaii, although it is now standard in almost all luaus. The local menu includes dishes you won't see in other luaus, such as poke hee (marinated octopus), pohole salad (fern sprouts, local onions and tomatoes in vinaigrette), luau kalo (stew of taro and luau leaves in creamy coconut milk), lau lau (pork wrapped in luau leaves) and guava cake.
While a pu, or conch shell, was often used to announce the arrival of ships, as well as the beginning of the ceremony and as an accompaniment to traditional Hawaiian chants in ancient luaus, the act is still commonly used today to signify the beginning of a modern luau. Waikiki is the second largest entertainment city in the country after Las Vegas, and many of the best singers, dancers and comics began performing for tourist luaus. Almost all luaus offer a basic package and a premium package (and sometimes several other combinations). Leis are often given on arrival as a token of affection, and most luaus end up with ailao, a traditional Samoan pre-war ritual of turning knives and shooting.
And since you can find luaus on all four major islands, it's easy to choose one that's convenient for your location. Consistently chosen as one of Hawaii's best luaus, Smith Family Garden Luau is offered in the family's 30-acre garden along the Wailua River. While modern Hawaiian luaus are celebrated daily on all islands as a way to gather visitors and residents in a celebratory feast under the stars, with common entertainment such as live music, hula dancing, lei making, Samoan fire knife dancing, imu ceremonies, storytelling, a dinner party Buffet and fluid assortment of tropical cocktails, the Hawaiian luaus of the past, although also a great event, were generally very different in terms of general purpose and style. One of the most popular luaus in all of Hawaii, the Old Lahaina Luau on Maui strives to deliver a culturally sensitive presentation.
You'll enjoy the experience more if you hear about the luaus and their history like a Hawaiian banquet before you go. There are luaus for babies, which are given on the child's first birthday; luaus at church, the local equivalent of the church dinner; and family luaus, which are sometimes celebrated for dozens of relatives under a tent on the lawn and that last for days. Most commercial luaus today eliminate the laborious task of digging the imu and waiting for the main course. The most successful commercial luaus today are those that don't claim to be authentic Hawaiian.