The Best Luaus in Wailea (+ Where to Watch Hula for FREE)

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If going to a luau is on your Maui bucket list, listen up ; ) 

While I personally think the best luau on Maui (heck, in Hawaii) is the Old Lahaina Luau (we’re still awaiting news of their reopening after wildfires swept through Lahaina at the end of last summer), if you’re staying in South Maui it’s a bit of a drive over to that side of the island. 

But good news! If you’re looking for a luau to enjoy that’s within walking distance (or a quick drive) of the Wailea resorts, you’ve got options!

Best Luaus in Wailea

There are three big luaus in Wailea, a smaller luau in nearby Kihei plus an ala carte luau show (with dinner add on options). AND there are a couple of places where you can watch hula and listen to live music for FREE. 

Let’s get into your options: 

Grand Wailea Luau // Te Au Moana Luau // Feast at Mokapu

First let’s start with the three big luaus in Wailea…There’s a luau at the Grand Wailea, one at the Wailea Beach Resort (Te Au Moana Luau), and one at the Andaz (Feast at Mokapu). 

I’ve attended the luau at the Grand Wailea and I’ve watched the other two from my hotel room balcony. 

I would say the Grand Wailea Luau and the Te Au Moana Luau are comparable. Prices are similar, food is served family style at the table and quality is similar, drinks are included (but pretty weak), settings are both oceanfront. 

I think the show at the Grand Wailea is the most unique though. It’s actually one of my favorite luau shows that I’ve seen anywhere. They have an aerial silks dancer which isn’t something I’ve seen anywhere else plus the fire dancing is top notch. 

Also, since I attended before COVID, the Grand Wailea has built dedicated luau grounds so it feels like a more permanent setup than something they set up temporarily on the lawn. It may not sound like a big deal, but I think it makes a pretty big difference when it comes to how the event flows and the quality of the production. 

Here’s the pricing: 

Te Au Moana Luau (at Wailea Beach Resort): $265/adult and $165/child (6-12), 5 and under are free. That’s the “basic seating,” there’s a $30 upcharge for premium seating. 

More info here

Grand Wailea Luau: $265/adult $200/child (12 and under) but $325 and $245 for premium seating. And if you have kids under 5 I would call to double check about the pricing. There’s usually an age cut off where they’re free but that could definitely be a factor in choosing between these two since the other luau 5 and under are free. 

More info here

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About the pricing:  It is what it is and if you want to attend a luau, these are the prices, but honestly they’re a little hard for me to stomach. When I attended the Grand Wailea luau last, it was about $100/adult. Yes, they’ve made a few improvements to the setting but nothing about it is worth a $165 price increase. 

If this is on your bucket list and it’s a big deal for you, you’ll have a great time at either of these luaus.However, I personally would never pay these prices for these events. It may be easy for me to say since I’ve been to a lot of luaus, but the value is not there for the price. 

For $250/person you could go to Maui’s most high end restaurant(s) and have the most extravagantly magnificent meal of your life (for a lot less than $250/person really). Even though the price is high, a luau is about the whole experience and you really shouldn’t expect more than a mediocre to decent meal at any luau (no matter how expensive). 

I don’t say this to discourage you from doing a luau, just to set your expectations. 

If you are making the decision between these two luaus, each luau is NOT offered every night so availability may sway your decision. 

The Feast at Mokapu (Andaz) used to be positioned as the only “luxury luau” on Maui and was priced accordingly, BUT while the other luaus in Wailea have majorly upped their prices, the Andaz hasn’t so their “luxury” luau is close to the same price as the other “standard” luaus making for an interesting comparison. 

Priced at $280/adult and $140/child for the standard seating and $340/adult and $180/child for premium seating, they’re now within the same price range as the other two luaus. 

More info here

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Feast at Mokapu is definitely a more elevated experience with a farm to table menu. Since the other two luaus have ditched the buffets in favor of family style service, it’s not as much of a distinction anymore, but this is a much smaller luau than the Grand Wailea so food quality is higher even though the menu is similar. Plus the drinks are more restaurant/bar quality. 

I think the major drawback to this luau is the show. I would call it more “luau-lite.” The dancing is good, but it’s just nowhere near on the scale as the Grand Wailea. Example, they have one fire dancer and the Grand Wailea has like, five. 

The Feast at Mokapu also runs on a pretty limited schedule with shows only two (sometimes three) days a week. 

Gilligan’s Island Luau, Kihei 

Here’s your “bargain” luau. If you want to experience a luau (dinner plus the show), but you’re willing to forgo a lot of the nicer trappings for a lower price, this could be a good option for you. 

With tickets starting at $159/person, it’s QUITE a bit cheaper than the cheapest option in Wailea (like, by $100/person). But it’s also pretty bare bones. 

The luau is hosted at Gilligan’s Bar & Grill at the Maui Nui Golf Course in Kihei, and it’s…kind of like going to a luau at a sport’s bar. With a view of the ocean in the distance. It’s nice, but not what a lot of people are expecting. The food also gets mixed reviews (buffet style) and honestly while it’s so much cheaper than the Wailea luaus, $165/person is still a lot of money to spend. 

Find more info here

South Maui Gardens, Kihei

I think this is the most interesting option on this list. I haven’t been here yet (I really only recently even heard about it), but I am FASCINATED. 

This nursery/event space close to the Cove Beach Park is a beautiful outdoor venue that’s home to a food truck park…and a hula show on Wednesday evenings. 

The entertainment lasts from 5-7 PM and features live music plus an hour long show with dances from across the Pacific Islands (including Samoan fire knife dancing). 

The venue is open seating and while they have some mats set out for guests, they encourage you to bring your own beach chairs to set up camp. 

You can add on a bento style dinner for about $30/person (reserve in advance), or grab dinner from one of the many food trucks on site. 

Tickets to the show are about $100/person but they usually have a 25% discount available. 

Honestly, I LOVE this set up. Especially if you have kids. You get to see a full quality production without paying a premium for mediocre food and drinks. $75/person is a pretty good deal for 2 hours of entertainment and the flexibility to do whatever you want for food. And not having to sit at a table and make small talk with strangers is a big bonus for me ; )

This isn’t the big fancy resort experience, but I think it’s a really good fit for a lot of travelers. 

Find more info here

On Another Note: If you’re looking for a condo or vacation rental for your trip, I’ve put together a post about where to find condos on Maui. It breaks down different areas to look for condos depending on your budget and what you’re looking for. Seriously, don’t miss this post

Where to Watch Hula for Free in Wailea

If you’re on a tight budget (or just not invested enough to fork over the serious $$$ for a luau), but still want to watch some hula, here’s where to go in Wailea: 

Polynesian Show at the Shops at Wailea

On Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30-6:30 PM, the Shops at Wailea hosts a Polynesian dance for visitors. It’s not the fanciest production, but it’s pretty good for free. Pair it with dinner afterwards at one of the restaurants at the Shops at Wailea (Lineage, Pint & Cork, Tommy Bahama, Ruth’s Chris, Waikiki Brewing Co, etc.) or the Monkeypod (my favorite!). 

The Shops at Wailea also host lei po’o (flower crowns) workshops, ukulele lessons, and live music on other days. Check their schedule here

Four Seasons Maui

The Four Seasons doesn’t host a public luau, but they get pretty festive every evening starting with a torch lighting ceremony at sunset and then hula and live music in the Lobby Bar. 

Their Lobby Bar is one of my favorite spots in Wailea, and obviously the food and drinks aren’t free, but it’s a LOT cheaper (plus so much better) than a luau. 

Watch a Luau from the Resort

If you’re staying at the Grand Wailea, Wailea Beach Resort, or Andaz, you’ll quickly be able to figure out the best public spaces to catch a good view of the luau. 

But even if you’re not, all of these luaus are hosted in pretty wide open spaces and it’s not too hard to find a good view of the show. The Grand Wailea luau and the Te Moana Luau (Wailea Beach Resort) are easily watched from the Wailea Beach Walk and the Feast at Mokapu (Andaz) is too, but my favorite view is from one of the upper pool decks. The pool clears out before sunset, and you can grab a chair and pretty much watch the whole thing. 

Want to read more posts about Maui? I’ve got plenty!

Things You Can ONLY Do on Maui // 4 Day Maui Itinerary // My Favorite Road to Hana Itinerary // Things to Do Upcountry // Tips for Sunrise at Haleakala National Park // Snorkeling Molokini Crater // Whale Watching

My Favorite Hotels on Maui // Where to Find Condos on Maui // Wailea vs Kaanapali // Every Resort in Wailea Ranked // Four Seasons Maui Review // Andaz Maui Review // Fairmont Kea Lani Review // Wailea Beach Resort Review // Four Seasons vs Andaz Maui // Andaz Maui vs Wailea Beach Resort

Best Restaurants in Wailea // Best Breakfast in Wailea & Kihei // Mama’s Fish House // Best Luaus in Wailea

My Favorite Things to Do in South Maui // Best Beaches in Wailea & Kihei // Road to Hana Tips // Driving the Backside of the Road to Hana // Where to See Turtles on Maui

Maui vs Kauai // Everything You Need to Know BEFORE you go to Maui

Here’s one more really important thing you need to know before your Hawaii trip…

Reservations You Need to Make BEFORE Your Hawaii Trip

You’ve got your airfare, hotel, rental car and your big activities booked, so you should be good to go, right? Wrong!

Travel is BOOMING in Hawaii so a lot of state and national parks used the closure and reopening to institute reservation systems at some of the island’s most popular spots to make things a little more sustainable.

That means that there are now over half a dozen sites (beaches, trailheads, etc.) that require advance reservations. And some sell out well before you arrive on the island so you really need to have some sort of a plan.

I recently saw somebody in a Hawaii travel group post in a panic that they didn’t know they had to make reservations for things in advance…they thought they could just show up and “go with the flow.” I was tempted to say, well, “as long as the flow doesn’t take you somewhere that requires reservations, you can!” ; )

But I don’t want YOU to be that person, so I’ve pulled together a list of all the places you need to reserve entry in advance (plus all the details on booking windows, price, links, etc.) and a handful of popular tourist hotspots that book out really far in advance too.

Haleakala National Park (Maui)

To visit Haleakala National Park for sunrise at the summit, you must make reservations in advance here.

Reservations are required to enter the park gates between 3AM and 7AM (sunrise hours).

Online reservations are $1 per reservation/vehicle PLUS you’ll pay the park entrance fee of $30/vehicle when you arrive (National Park annual passes are also accepted at the gate).

The reservation booking window opens 60 days in advance at 7AM HST. There are also a limited number of tickets released two days before.

You can make one reservation every three days with the same account. So if you want to make reservations for back to back days (in case of weather/conditions), you’ll need to do so with separate accounts (email addresses).

If you can’t get reservations for sunrise, you can enter the park anytime after 7AM without reservations. The summit is spectacular during the day and you don’t need reservations for sunset.

I strongly recommend creating an account before and making sure you’re logged in at 7AM HST because it’s not uncommon for reservations to sell out quickly.

Waianapanapa State Park (Maui)

To visit Maui’s famous black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park on the Road to Hana, you must make reservations in advance here.

Reservations are required to visit the beach and are distributed in windows from 7AM-10AM, 10AM-12:30PM, 12:30PM-3PM, and 3PM-6PM. And they are pretty strict about exiting by the end of your window time (you can arrive anytime within your window).

It’s $5/person to enter plus $10/vehicle to park and those fees are paid when you book your time slot.

Reservations open up 30 days in advance.

Iao Valley State Park (Maui)

To visit the lush, green mountains and hike at Iao Valley State Park, you must make reservations in advance here.

Reservations are offered for 90 minute time slots beginning at 7AM and ending at 6PM. They ask that you arrive within the first 30 minutes of your time slot.

Entry is $5/person plus $10/vehicle to park.

Reservations open up 30 days in advance.

Diamond Head (Oahu)

To hike to the top of Waikiki’s famous Diamond Head, you must make reservations in advance here.

Reservations are offered in two hour increments beginning at 6AM (6AM-8AM, 8AM-10AM, etc.) and ending at 6PM. If you’re parking onsite, they ask that you arrive within the first 30 minutes of your reservation window.

Entry is $5/person plus $10/vehicle to park.

Reservations open up 30 days in advance.

Tip: I recommend booking one of the first two time slots because there isn’t much shade on this hike and it gets pretty hot.

Hanauma Bay (Oahu)

To snorkel at Oahu’s pristine Hanauma Bay, you must make reservations in advance here.

Entry times are staggered in 10 minute increments from 7AM to 1:20PM with roughly 1000 slots being assigned in advance every day.

Reservations can be made two days in advance and they open at 7AM HST. They’re usually gone in minutes (if not seconds).

If you’re unable to get an advanced reservation, you can try for a day of, walk in ticket. They open at 6:45AM and they only have a limited number available. Everyone in your group needs to be present when you purchase your tickets in person.

There are no reservations for parking and it’s first come, first serve. $3/vehicle.

It’s $25/person to snorkel at Hanauma Bay (12 and under, active military, and locals with HI ID are free).

The Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is open Wednesday through Sunday (CLOSED MONDAY AND TUESDAY) from 6:45AM-4PM. Last entry is at 1:30PM, the beach is cleared at 3:15PM and you have to leave the facility by 4PM.

Jellyfish patterns can also affect whether or not the bay is open so double check the day before/day of.

USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor (Oahu)

If you want to take the boat tour at Pearl Harbor out to the USS Arizona, it’s recommended to make advance reservations here.

Online reservations are guaranteed a specific boarding time to go out to the USS Arizona. If you’re unable to get an advance reservation, you can wait standby when you arrive. The line could be short (15 minutes or so) or long (hours) and it just depends on the day (if they’re having problems with the loading dock sometimes they don’t take many from the standby line) and the time of day.

Reservations are supposed to open up 60 days in advance, but keep an eye on your exact dates, because lately they’ve actually been opening up about 57ish days in advance???

They also release a small batch of tickets the day before.

The boat ride out to the USS Arizona is free, but it’s $1 to make the reservations online.

They recently started charging $7/vehicle for parking at Pearl Harbor.

Haena State Park / Kalalau Trail (Kauai)

If you want to hike Kauai’s famous Kalalau Trail, you must make advance reservations here.
You’ve got three options here:

1) Parking & Entry: This is the most flexible option and also the most limited. THESE RESERVATIONS SELL OUT IN LESS THAN A MINUTE. There are three time slots available: 6:30AM-12:30PM, 12:30PM-5:30PM and 4:30PM to sunset. You can purchase multiple time slots if you want to stay longer. It’s $10/timeslot (parking) plus $5/person and you have to reserve every person when you initially book. Everybody has to arrive in the same car and your ID needs to match the reservation.

2) Shuttle & Entry: If you can’t get parking at the trailhead, there’s also a shuttle option. Shuttle reservations are $35/person (16+), $25/person (ages 4-15), 3 and under can ride free. The shuttle runs every 20 minutes 6:20AM to 6:40PM.

3) Entry Only: If you’re a Hawaiian resident (with HI ID) or someone WITH a Hawaiian resident, you can purchase entry only for $5/person with no advance reservations. Also, if you’re walking or biking to the trailhead you can do this option. But there is NOWHERE to park in the area to walk in. So this really only works for those with bikes or who are staying close enough to walk. They will tow your car if you park outside the designated areas.

The reservation window opens 30 days in advance at 12AM HST. The parking & entry option usually sells out in a minute, but the shuttle availability will last longer.

There are a TON of FAQs here including the possibility of snagging a canceled reservation.

Other Things to Book in Advance

Hawaii is a busy place these days! Besides the state and national parks above, here’s a handful of miscellaneous things you should make reservations for in advance (if they’re on your radar):

Mama’s Fish House (Maui): The iconic spot is the most popular restaurant in Hawaii and dinner reservations usually start filling up about 6 months in advance (they open up bookings 18 months in advance). Make reservations through their website and if the dates you want are already booked, you can join a waitlist. Most people have pretty good success getting in on the waitlist (even if it’s for lunch).

Old Lahaina Luau (Maui): Honestly, any luau you’re planning to attend you should book early, but most people are usually shocked how far out the Old Lahaina Luau books out. Book it as soon as you know your dates (I think they open at the six month window). They also have a waitlist.

Kualoa Ranch UTV Tour (Oahu): Everybody loves Jurassic Park so getting to ride UTVs where they filmed the movies is very popular. The ranch offers a lot of different tours but the UTV tours usually book out a couple of months in advance.

Spa Reservations: If you’re staying at a resort with a spa (or planning on visiting one), don’t wait until you arrive to make your reservations. I’d make them at least a month in advance.

Tee Times: Same for golf, reserve your tee times well in advance.

Dining Reservations: Any “fancy” or resort restaurant is likely to be booked up these days so if you like having a nice dinner every night, make your plans in advance.

P.S. Thanks for sticking around and reading this whole post! If you have ANY questions about planning your trip to Hawaii, you can join my free Facebook group here. I’m there answering questions every day and there are 7500+ other friends who have a ton of Hawaii information to share!

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