What makes a resort luau experience great? In 2017, tiki torches and hula dancers just aren’t as exotic as they used to be. And if we’re being honest, luau food and entertainment can all feel the same. Cue collective eye rolling; cue the sighs. Even if going to a resort luau is what your grandparents did when they came to Hawaii in the 1960s—or danced for one in the '70s, like my dad did—there’s a reason why Hawaii’s campy take on dinner and a show has stood the test of time: it’s a lot of fun.
Here are our readers’ top 5 luau on Hawaii Island, as voted on in our 2017 Readers’ Choice Awards.
5. Sunset Luau at Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa
What can be said about the Sunset Luau at the Waikoloa Beach Resort that can’t be said about the others? For starters, the resort is located at Anaehoomalu Bay, which has some of the best silhouetted-palm sunsets on the island of Hawaii. The entertainment is first-class and the drinks flow freely. Though each seat offers a good view of the stage, premier seats will get you center-front seats, early entrance, a lei and phenomenal service. Like the Royal Kona Luau, its price tag makes it a good choice for larger families.
Pricing: $102 adult; $48 children (ages 5 to 12); children 5 and under are free. For premier seating, add $25. 69-275 Waikoloa Beach Dr, Waikoloa Village, waikoloabeachresort.com
4. Royal Kona Luau, Voyagers of the Pacific
The Royal Kona Luau, Voyagers of the Pacific is great for families. Like the Island Breeze, it’s located in the heart of Kailua-Kona and within walking distance of many attractions. The many cultural activities for kids, the open bar for parents and the overall friendly service, all make the Royal Kona Luau a fun and relaxing night for the whole family, and at half of the cost the other luau, a no brainer.
Pricing: Select Days: $66 adults; $30 children (ages 6 to 11); children 5 and under are free. General Seating: $91 adults; $45 children (ages 6 to 11); children 5 and under are free. 75-5852 Ali’i Drive Kailua-Kona, konaluau.com
3. Legends of Hawaii Luau by Hilton
What’s not to like about the Legends of Hawaii Luau at the Hilton Waikoloa Village? The show tells the stories of some of Hawaii’s most incredible legends and people through mele (song) and hula. Though a bit pricey, it’s worth considering buying Alii seats, which gets you early entry, an open bar, great service and amazing show seats.
Pricing: General Seating: $128.00 adults; $70 children (ages 5 to 12); children under 4 are free. Alii Seating: Adults: $158.00 Children: $100.00 (ages 5 to 12) & children under 4 are free. 69-425 Waikoloa Beach Drive, Waikoloa, hiltonwaikoloavillage.com
2. Island Breeze Luau at the King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel
If it’s your first time to Hawaii or your first time attending a luau, the Island Breeze Luau at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel is a great place to start, especially if you’re staying in Kailua-Kona. Located on the edge of Kamakahonu Bay, on the site of King Kamehameha’s former estate, the Island Breeze Luau has an open bar and plenty of Hawaiian and Polynesian activities beyond on the main show. It also features the only luau where the royal court arrives on a double-hulled canoe.
Pricing: $100.96 adults (ages 13 and older); $51.59 children (ages 5 to 12); toddlers (ages 4 and under are free). 75-5660 Palani Road Kailua-Kona, konabeachhotel.com
1. Mauna Kea Beach Resort Luau
The Mauna Kea Beach Resort Luau, the oldest luau show on the island of Hawaii, might also be the island’s most stylish. It’s location on the grounds of the iconic Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in South Kohala only adds style points—mid-century modern architecture and the goldenest sunsets. It’s also smaller than most, which can feel more like an evening with friends and family, and not your local tiki-themed all-you-can-eat buffet.
Pricing: Premium Seating: $135 adults, $77.50 children (ages 5 to 12); General Seating: $115.00 adults, $57.50 children (ages 5 to 12); Show Only: $50.00 Adults, $30.00 Children (ages 5 to 12). 62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Drive, Kohala Coast, maunakealuau.com