10 Best Luaus and Places for Traditional Hawaiian Food on Kauai
By Jade Eckardt
Big Island, Honolulu, and Kauai Local Expert
Hawaiians are known for a love of food and for great celebrations including dance, entertainment, and yes, tons of food. Luckily for visitors looking for an ono (delicious) meal and awesome entertainment, Kauai is home to some wonderful luaus that take place all over the island. Those who want to get a real taste of Hawaii can do so by trying succulent kalua pig, fresh spiced lomi lomi salmon, thick and fresh poi, or a sweet and firm piece of coconut haupia, all while watching hula dancing and fire show.
Visitors staying on the North Shore will find the Mediterranean Gourmet Luau and Luau Paina O Hanalei to be convenient options. Both provide an abundance of traditional Hawaiian food and dancing. While the former is near the end of the road on the ocean, the latter takes place high on the bluff of Princeville.
On the east side is Smith's Tropical Paradise Luau, one of the best options on the island for Hawaiian food and culture. Nearby in Lihue is the Grand Hyatt Luau is one of Kauai's longest standing, and is renowned for its extravagant display of culture and food.
Remember that luaus aren't just about wonderful and very filling food - a night at a Polynesian luau is about entertainment and celebration. Dancing, fire swinging, song, and other celebratory methods are found at each and every luau. A local staple even for birthdays and graduations, the luau is a not to miss activity.
10 Mediterranean Gourmet Luau
A wonderful luau offered my Mediterranean Gourmet, which also serves up renowned food in their restaurant, takes place Tuesday from 6 to 8:15 p.m. Taking place at an ocean front location, and offers a huge traditional Hawaiian food buffet. You'll enjoy Hawaiian entertainment such as hula dancing, fire knife dancing, and local music. On the buffet you'll find lomilomi salmon, kalua pork, haupia, coconut cake, and of course, poi. The event is limited to 80 guests at a time so reservations are required. It is $69 for adults which includes an alcoholic beverage and $59 for those 12 to 20, and $34 for children under 11. ((808) 826-9875)
9 Koloa Fish Market
This is a local style spot that serves up fresh fish and seafood to take home and cook as well as eat there and take out dishes. Very local and Hawaiian food like lau lau, kalua pig, and other local favorites that can be pretty darn good. There's a good chance you'll be the only visitors in line here, but there's nothing wrong with that. You know the the quality of the seafood is good for locals, it must be good. A great place for a plate lunch to eat on site or take home a slab of fish if you have a kitchenette at the hotel. (808.742.6199)
8 Kilauea Fish Market
There's a whole lot more than fish in store is the market's motto, and they're right! In addition to fresh local fish, they have Hawaiian food, an ahi fajita burrito, fish tacos, salads, plate lunches and great specials, along with grass fed beef. Seating is outdoor picnic table style, and you'll find a mix of locals and visitors enjoying fish. Price can vary depending on market price, but you can get a great meal for a generally affordable price. Very casual and ideal for lunch or to pick up a fresh slab of fish to cook back at the condo. (1 808.828.6244)
7 Hanalei Taro & Juice Co.
A hit with locals and visitors, the Hanalei Taro & Juice Co. is a spot that all visitors need to stop at and enjoy. Very local style, the restaurant is a local style lunch wagon resting roadside in Hanalei. Serving traditional Hawaiian food, but with a modern twist, this is your best bet to fill up on taro, the root crop that sustained Hawaiians for generations. Here you can find taro and many other healthy ingredients prepared with a modern twist, such as a taro smoothie, Hawaiian plate lunches, taro hummus, taro veggie burgers, and even taro acai bowls- the list goes on. A perfect place for those who enjoy a traditional diet and vegetarians too, the wagon will give you a taste of Hawaii's unique array of food. The lunch wagon run by the same family who runs the historical Haraguchi rice mill and their farms, and the taro and other ingredients are locally grown. ((808) 826-1059)
6 Gaylord's at Kilohana
The flavor of old Hawaii runs strong at this circa-1930 Tudor estate, which was once the home of a sugar plantation executive. These days, the mansion and its surrounding 35 acres have been opened to the public as a series of quaint shops and this delightful restaurant. The dining room affords wonderful views and also allows diners to indulge in such fare as fresh seafood, steaks, lamb, and kalua pork. Lunch adds in lighter dishes, including sandwiches and salads, and the courtyard makes an ideal place to relax with a cool drink and good company. As one of Kauai's more upscale eatery, Gaylord's is perfect for a date night or nice family dinner. (808-245-9593)
5 Luau Kalamaku
Luau Kalamaku is an unforgettable experience that is a "must-see" for any visitor to the islands. Your cultural journey begins with craft demonstrations and Hawaiian games followed by the traditional Imu Ceremony. While enjoying your sumptuous buffet, hula dancers and musicians will delight you with an exciting luau show. The skies darken and lights dim as dancers take the stage to share an ancient Hawaiian legend. The legend, Kalamaku, expresses the Polynesians' amazing and dangerous journey from Tahiti to Kauai. Guests can choose between just watching the show or the show and meal combo. Located on the east side, so it's close to many of Kauai's hotels. (808-245-5247)
4 Surf to Sunset Oceanfront Luau
Partaking of a luau is de rigueur for first-time Hawaii visitors, and this oceanfront extravaganza on Poipu Beach is an ideal introduction to traditional Polynesian food and culture. As guests arrive, they're presented a lei and invited to view artisans at work. Then, the blowing of a conch shell marks the beginning of the festivities, and a royal processional kicks off the spectacle and the entertainment. Of course, the highlight is the food: kalua pig, poi, pineapple, poke and all the other authentic dishes. Plenty of song, dance, and exotic demonstrations also conspire to make the evening an unforgettable event. (808-742-8200, 808-742-1661)
3 Smith's Tropical Paradise Luau
The beautiful gardens surrounding this luau make for a magical setting, and one that you'll want to explore before the night kicks in. When the conch is blown and the roasted pig set out, the feast begins. The buffet ensures that you won't go hungry and includes lomi salmon, mahimahi, chicken, beef, macaroni salad, and plenty of vegetables and desserts. A full bar is available throughout. The dramatic production that follows features a wealth of color, music, dance, and spectacle that represents the whole of the Pacific world. A wonderful environment, and Hawaiian culture and tradition can be explored via the luau, Hawaiian village and other resources. (808-821-6895)
2 Pa'ina o Hanalei
From their position along the shores of Hanalei Bay, visitors give themselves over to the charm of this delightful luau. Festivities begin with the call of the conch, at which point the kalua pig is premiered in ceremonial style. It headlines the buffet, which also features grilled fish and chicken, fresh salads, local vegetables and fruits, and great desserts like pineapple cake and coconut pudding. The Polynesian review that succeeds it includes fire dancing, along with music and spectacle based on a variety of Hawaiian traditions. The views from the bluff are spectacular and this is the only luau in Princeville. (808-826-9644)
1 Grand Hyatt Kaua'i Luau
This hotel-sponsored luau provides a healthy dose of spectacle, music, and authentic Hawaiian foods. The evening show, Havaiki Nui, begins with a torch-lighting ceremony on the edge of the ocean, heralded by the call of the conch shell. As it progresses, the luau showcases native crafts and costume, along with music and dance performances from cultures throughout the Pacific. The menu includes traditional fare like kalua pig, fresh fish, lomi salmon, and haupia (coconut pudding). Centrally located in Lihue, this is easily reached by a short drive from visitors staying on the east, south, or west sides of the island. (808-742-1234)
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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