Nowadays, you can find luaus all over the island. They're a great way to learn about Hawaiian culture, sample delicious traditional Hawaiian food, and celebrate another day in this beautiful state. However, keep an eye out for luaus that is too tourist-oriented. If you're going to attend a luau party, you have to do it right.
When you visit Hawaii, you must go to at least one luau party. Missing it would be like going to Paris and skipping the Eiffel Tower. During the Hawaiian tourism boom of the mid-20th century, luaus became popular with visitors. The novelty of an outdoor night party, full of food, fragrant flowers and music, turned the commercial luau into the tourist event that remains to this day.
Most visitors who are disenchanted by luau say that the problem is simply food. Traditional Hawaiian food just doesn't feel right on everyone's palate. Luaus has long been a favorite activity of tourists from the Hawaiian Islands. Long before the commercial tourism industry prospered, Hawaiian kings received visitors and foreign dignitaries organizing a luau.
In fact, the largest luau party in modern history was launched by King Kamehameha III in 1847 and included more than 1500 guests, 271 pigs and an abundant variety of chicken dishes, fish, tropical fruits and desserts. 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. There are variations in the food and style of luaus, but they all offer a similar offering of traditional Hawaiian luau dishes, which are sometimes served in a formal sitting setting, but are usually served in buffet form. There are many luaus to choose from on each island, but the general rule is to always book in advance.
The modern luau has some differences from the luaus of the past, but the significant elements remain the same. Most commercial luaus today eliminate the laborious task of digging the imu and waiting for the main course. Another specialty of many luaus is lomi salmon (a mixture of smoked salmon, tomatoes, peppers, onions and crushed ice). Local luaus preserve the unifying community experience that King Kamehameha II set out to create in the first true Hawaiian luaus.
The most successful commercial luaus today are those that don't claim to be authentic Hawaiian. Unlike commercial luaus held at night, most baby luaus start during the day and can extend into the night. Unlike the extravagant luaus that are organized for tourists, entertainment for a local luau does not usually include fire dancers, unless there is a talented cousin in the family. However, some families choose to simply buy their own tents, tables and chairs and use them as family property for all family luaus.
Some of the islands' best luau food and Polynesian entertainment can be found at “commercial luaus. 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. While locals traditionally organize luaus (albeit on a much smaller scale than commercial ones for tourists) for weddings, graduations, birthdays or any other important event.