If you’re looking for the best luau in Hawaii, you can stop looking. This is it. Maybe a bold statement, but I’ve been to a lot of luaus in Hawaii and I know when I’m impressed. And I’m impressed.
Before attending this luau, I’d long heard that it was the best on Maui. The Old Lahaina Luau has the reputation for being the most authentic (but still crowd pleasing) luau in the islands, so I had pretty high expectations. Watch the video below to see what I thought…
Since this luau is the most popular one on Maui, it often books up months in advance, so I recommend making reservations as soon as you know your travel dates. I booked our tickets about 3 months in advance and we had great seats (your seating assignments are made in the order that tickets are reserved).
The Old Lahaina Luau grounds are right on Front Street in Lahaina (west Maui) and while there’s a tiny parking lot right by the entrance, there’s plenty of free, overflow parking across the street at the Lahaina Cannery Mall. We were told to arrive at 5:15 (depending on the daylight at different times of the year, it may be later) and although many people were streaming in, we got checked in and seated right away.
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We were greeted with fresh flower leis and mai tais, which made a great first impression. I’ve been to other luaus where you get a shell lei (or have to pay to upgrade to a flower lei) so this was a nice touch. It’s also worth mentioning that the mai tai (which had plenty of rum in it) was served in an actual glass (imagine!) with a pineapple slice and orchid on top. Every other luau I’ve been to in Hawaii (including some of the “best”) usually just hands you some sort of fruit punch in a tiny plastic cup so this set the stage for a nice evening.
Next we were shown to our table. The tables are arranged in a tiered semi circle around the stage and everything overlooks the ocean. The bottom tiers feature traditional seating on cushions at low tables while the upper tiers have tables and chairs. You choose your seating category at the time of booking, but your spot within that category is assigned based on a first come first serve method (when you book) as I mentioned above.
After we got settled in to our table, we wandered around the grounds a bit to take photos. There were also several activities/games set up that you could participate in.
You’ll want to stake out a good spot around the cooking pit for the Imu ceremony (the unearthing of the luau pig). It started at six, but by the time they announced it, it was already pretty crowded. I think this is always a highlight of any luau.
As the sun was setting, the dancers came out and danced a hula that was SO PRETTY against the silhouette of the palm trees.
We were one of the first tables called up for the buffet, and I was pretty impressed by the offerings. The food is very traditional and you’ll find all of the classic luau staples present (kalua pork, teriyaki chicken, mahi mahi, poi, lau lau, an assortment of poke and cold salads as well as mashed purple sweet potatoes. I’ve heard locals talk about how much they enjoy the food at this luau, which I take as high praise. And I will say, it’s by far the best traditional food I’ve had at a luau (the Ka Wa’a Luau had mighty tasty food, but I think that was in part due to the chicken fingers and mac and cheese at the kids buffet ; ) I do think you have to temper your expectations here though, because while it is the “best,” it’s still a buffet, so don’t expect a gourmet meal.
This is where I have to say something about the service. Unlike other luaus I’ve been to where once you’re shown to your table, you’re pretty much on your own, the service here was excellent. There’s a drink menu with specialty cocktails (although there’s also a full bar), and all drinks are included. Our server stopped by our table numerous times to clear plates, refill drinks, ask if we wanted drinks from the bar, etc. It’s the best service that I’ve ever had at a luau or a buffet in general. Dessert is also served at the table and there was a tray of sweets presented (as well as all of the fresh fruit and haupia at the buffet) as well as coffee. Be sure to bring cash for a tip, because it’s not included in your ticket and these servers definitely earn it.
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Once dinner was finished, the show began. Wow. I’ve never seen such beautiful hula in such a wide range of styles. I was sitting so close to the stage there were times it felt like I could’ve reached out and touched the dancers. The show truly was the best I’ve ever seen at any luau by a long shot. There was some narration and it told the story of the evolution of hula, but it never felt overly produced. The focus truly was on the dances. The pacing was great and I never felt bored at all.
It’s worth noting that since this is a traditional luau, it’s only the hula that’s performed (traditional dances from the Hawaiian Islands) so there is no Samoan fire dancer as there often is at other luaus where it’s a celebration of dance styles from different Polynesian islands. I didn’t miss that part of the show, but there was a little boy at our table who was pretty bummed that there was no fire dancer.
The show wrapped up by 8:30 and it felt like a nice length of time for the luau without it being rushed or dragged out. And as the show was ending, our waiter brought by packages of banana bread as a parting gift!
Is it worth it?
This is a question I get asked a lot when people see the price tag of a luau in general (and this one is at the higher end of the spectrum). In a word, yes. It is worth it. This is by far the best overall luau in Hawaii, and it has a very first class feel. The flower leis, real plates and silverware (it seems silly, but it’s a big step up from plastic ware), traditional seating, Oceanside setting, authentic food, and outstanding service besides the top notch show make this a high end evening. There’s nothing tacky or touristy going on here. If you’re going to do a luau on Maui, make it this one.
99% of the dissatisfied reviews I see for this luau usually involve the price. It’s $125/person, and it seems that some people expect $125 worth of gourmet food for that price. While the food is very good, it’s still just a buffet. I think to enjoy this luau, you have to reframe your perspective that you’re paying for over three hours of a don’t miss experience which includes dinner and a show.
Read more reviews of the Old Lahaina Luau here.
Special thanks to Cameron White for taking most of the beautiful photos featured in this post!
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