Dance, learn, celebrate, and most importantly - eat - plenty Hawaiian food at Honolulu's best luaus
By Jade Eckardt
Big Island, Honolulu, and Kauai Local Expert
Lu`aus are the classic Hawaiian vacation experience, and lucky for you, 10 Best has you covered for the best lu`aus and Hawaiian food on Oahu and in Honolulu. Traditionally called pa`ina, the feast and party combo was dubbed lu`au (pronounced loo-ow) in the post-contact period. Today the lu`au is still a widely practiced tradition, both on the local level and for visitors. Locals throw lu`aus for anything worth celebrating - birthdays, graduations, weddings, you get the idea. For visitors who want to experience the ultimate Polynesian feast and entertainment, lu`aus can be found all over the place.
For an amazing buffet on a private beach about a half an hour from the busy streets of Honolulu, drop into Germaine's Luau. Here you'll be treated to bottomless drinks and the ability to join in the dancing, if you're brave enough. Over at the Ali`i Luau on the eastern side of the island, you'll be treated to a happening luau on the grounds of the Polynesian Cultural Center when all kinds of Polynesian style entertainment can be found. For those that wish you travel on a budget and not rent a car, the Paradise Cove Luau is the place for you. The shuttle from Honolulu to the ocean side luau adds convenience to the fun, and you'll arrive in time to see games, crafts, and eventually the unveiling of the pig (cooked underground) and end the night with some wild dancing.
Let's also face the fact that sometimes you want to enjoy some Hawaiian grub on the go, so we've included the best Hawaiian food eateries. While on the windward side drop by Keneke's Plate Lunch and BBQ. The modest eatery is a local favorite for local food and is located near the sandy coast. At Ono Hawaiian Food, you'll find local staples like poi and fish, and it's the best around.
So get you're hula skirt and bring and empty opu (stomach) and hit up Honolulu's 10 best lu`aus for a local style experience.
10 Keneke's Plate Lunch & BBQ
Located in Oahu's countryside of Waimanalo on the east side of the island, Keneke's offers what the name says - plate lunch and BBQ. Keneke's is quite an interesting place, as it is very "local style." It's a quaint and simple eatery. You walk up to the window and order and wait for the meal which is served on disposable plates. You can take it to go or enjoy it in the eating area. This is where it gets interesting, it's a cement area with picnic tables surrounded in religious writings from the Bible. The food is always great, both the local and Hawaiian food as well as the barbecue, but portions can be on the smaller side. Give it a shot on the east side. ((808) 259-9811)
9 Moon Hoe Drive In
Tucked away in a modest shopping center in Aiea, this little local eatery is really a hidden gem. They have a unique selection of Asian and local foods, as well as barbecue dishes such as crispy roast chicken, which is one of the local favorites. The family run business is located in central Oahu in the Pearl Ridge Shopping Center, and is run by a very friendly couple. It's very modest, and "local style," no bells and whistles, but boasts a home style feel and great food. ((808) 486-9196)
8 Ono Hawaiian Foods
Authentic Hawaiian food � what real island folks eat! � is the amazing draw at this unassuming place. It's always crowded, and it's largely take-out, but it's worth searching out. Kalua (roast) pig is a favorite, as is lomi-lomi salmon (prepared with sweet onions and tomato), laulau (steamed pork and butterfish), and haupia (coconut pudding). You'll get large servings, and you won't pay an-arm-and-a-leg for great food. Plus, you'll learn first-hand the meaning of "ono." (It's delicious!) (808-737-2275)
7 Helena's Hawaiian Food
Honest, authentic, simply-prepared Hawaiian food is what you'll discover at this fine eatery, a throwback to former days. It boasts island cuisine par excellence, created with love and prepared in the old way. Such attention isn't lost on eager diners, who clamor for kalua pig, pipikaula shortribs, poke (raw seafood salad), and fried fish. There's no designer decor, but no one cares when they dig into these comfort foods, which come � la carte or as part of a set menu. Eat your fill, and revel in the experience. Just don't forget to finish up with a dish of silky haupia (coconut pudding). (808-845-8044)
6 Waikiki Starlight Luau- Hilton Hawaiian Village
Waikiki Starlight Luau at Hilton Hawaiian Village is the only outdoor luau in Waikiki with nearly three hours of spectacular entertainment and dining under the stars. Experience the colorful heritage of the Pacific Islands and join the excitement of the celebration with live music, drums and the drama of traditional Hawaiian, Tahitian and Samoan dance. Indulge in a feast of unforgettable tropical flavors created with traditional island ingredients. Immerse yourself in the truly unique island experience of a Hawaiian luau. Offering live entertainment, interactive games, and an unforgettable island feast this extraordinary tradition is an exhilarating form of entertainment for all ages. ((808)947-2607)
5 Polynesian Cultural Center Luau
Many say this is hands down the best luau on Oahu. They can feed up to 1,200 guests at one time, so get ready to party down! Except of course, since the Polynesian Cultural Center is part of the Mormon Church there's no alcohol in any drinks here. The dancing, fire acts, and other entertainment is fun and at times a little over the top. They'll probably try to get a lot of people at tables to come up and participate, so if you're shy you better hope it's not you! But there's a LOT of food, lots to see, and you'll leave so stuffed you won't want to eat for the rest of your vacation. If you're looking for a luau, this is you're best bet. ((808) 293-3333)
4 Ali`i Luau
On Oahu's windward coast, the Polynesian Cultural Center recreates a microcosm of Polynesia, preserving the culture of its many peoples. Its associated luau offers guests opportunity to explore the various traditions, ceremonies, and pastimes and to enjoy a sumptuous buffet as well. Entertainments and audience participation are featured, and folks are regaled by attractions of all sorts. A terrific experience for everyone who attends the extended event. A shuttle to the location from Honolulu is available for a fee. (808-293-3333)
3 Paradise Cove Luau
A seaside location capitalizes on incredible sunsets at this established luau. When guests arrive, they're treated to a display of crafts and games on the grounds and are then invited to watch traditional ceremonies. Following is the unveiling of the pig and a delectable buffet with all sorts of appetizing fare, including native island dishes. Finally, performances of song and dance add a festive note and provide a rounded experience of Hawaiian culture. A shuttle to the locale is included. (808-842-5911, 800-775-2683)
2 Germaine's Luau
Island hospitality reigns supreme at this popular luau. On a private beach located a half-hour from Honolulu, guests are regaled with song, dance, and performance beneath tranquil skies. Time-honored ceremonies accompany the event, from unearthing the roast pig to processing in authentic costume. An amazing buffet of pork, poi, seafood, and other dishes ensures that you're sated, and bottomless drinks are abundant. You'll also have the opportunity to dance with performers. The shuttle ride from town is included in the experience. (808-949-6626, 800-367-5655)
1 The Royal Hawaiian Luau - Aha'aina
One of the few luaus offered within the city, this delightful event takes place along the ocean at one of Honolulu's most recognizable landmarks, the Pink Palace. The luau begins with the presentation of leis, drinks and pupus, then moves to hula dancing and the extravagant dinner itself. Afterwards, guests are privy to elaborate performances of song, dance, and more beneath the Waikiki stars. Plan ahead for this spectacular event, which is offered every Monday evening. (808-921-4600, 808-923-7311)
About Jade Eckardt
Raised on the Big Island of Hawaii, Jade has traveled the world and doesn't intend to stop, yet the Hawaiian Islands are still her favorite place. She spent seven years living on Oahu and exploring the island. A regular visitor to Kauai, Jade recently authored a full-length Kauai guide book. She is a writer and photographer, whose work has been published in numerous regional and national magazines. When she's not writing, Jade enjoys a good beer, a good surf, and time in her garden with her son.
Read more about Jade Eckardt here.
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