The Top 5 Luaus in Kailua-Kona

What’s a Big Island vacation without a luau?

The island itself may evoke plenty of wonder, but nowhere else will you find heart-pumping drums, Polynesian dancing, and heaps of delicious food. The question is less should I go to a luau when visiting Hawaii, but which one should I choose—particularly when deciding between those performed in Kailua-Kona?

With this in mind, we’ve pulled together our top 5 picks for the best luaus on the Big Island’s sunny West Side:

LUAU WHY WHERE
Voyagers of the Pacific LuauBest Fire Dancing Royal Kona Resort BOOK NOW
Island Breeze LuauHistorical Setting Kona Beach Hotel BOOK NOW
Hawaii Loa LuauBest Buffet Fairmont Orchid BOOK NOW
Haleo LuauMai Tai's Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa Currently Closed
Sunset LuauGourmet Cuisine Waikoloa Beach Marriott

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1. Voyagers of the Pacific Luau – Royal Kona Resort

Kona Luau Fire Dance
Situated at the Royal Kona Resort—an idyllic piece of Hawaii real estate—the Voyagers of the Pacific Luau is consistently named one of the leading luaus on the Big Island. For a good reason, too: A shell-lei greeting starts the immersion into the ancient Hawaiian way of life, where hula and tattoos were ubiquitous. You can partake in all of this before sitting down for a dazzling show as the sun slips behind Kailua Bay. The eat-to-your-heart’s-desire buffet begins with a traditional imu ceremony—in which a roasted pig is unearthed from the ground—followed by fare that celebrates Hawaii’s diverse heritage. (Think: fresh island fish, honey and soy-braised beef, lomi lomi salmon, and the quintessential poi.) An open bar keeps it lively, with the whole affair culminating in a striking Samoan fire dance.

Know before you go:

• Vegetarian, gluten-free, and/or both? Rest assured that the chefs behind Voyagers of the Pacific will be pleased to prepare a special entrée for you.

• Part of the luau takes place in the open sun so be sure to pack shades—and to wear sunblock.

• While general seating is first-come, first-serve, premium seats—located near the stage—are available for a nominal $7 per person.

RESERVE YOUR TICKETS

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2. Island Breeze Luau – Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel

best Big Island Luau

TripAdvisor gave it a Certificate of Excellence in 2019, while it’s won West Hawaii Today’s Best of West Hawaii award every year since 2000. Those two decades of praise are due to a number of reasons—the first and foremost being that it’s the only luau in Hawaii to feature the “royal court” arriving in an outrigger canoe. The spectacle propels the drama and magic that follows, from the passing boats to the lights of Mount Hualalai. Located on the beachfront of the historic Kamakahonu Bay and Ahu’ena—Kamehameha the Great’s former estate—the celebration honors Hawaii’s ali’i (or royalty) and features a Polynesian revue, a 22-dish buffet that presents everything from Kona-style poke to Waimea garden greens, and dances from Fiji, Maori, Hawaii, and more.

Know before you go:

• Star-struck? You’ll have the opportunity to meet the performers before the show.

• Do some good while feeling good: A portion of ticket sales are donated to the restoration of the historic Ahu’ena Heiau Inc.

• Bonus points: The luau is within walking distance of several accommodations.

RESERVE YOUR TICKETS

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3. Hawaii Loa Luau – Fairmont Orchid

Hawaii Loa Luau Canoe

The stunning Kohala Coast serves as the backdrop to this equally stunning luau. Based in Kalahuipua’a—a region, known as “the gathering place,” that served as a significant site for Hawaiian royalty—the Hawaii Loa Luau urges guests back in time with the special tribute it pays to island culture. The spirited beat of the traditional Tahitian toere drum sets the tempo as the story of Hawaii’s first settlers comes to life on the stage. The Polynesian performance is accompanied by a buffet that’s just as decadent; miso-glazed Hawaiian butterfish, ahi avocado, and Hawaiian Dark Chocolate Lava Cake are just a few of the extensive menu’s offerings.

Know before you go:

• Ali’i seating is available for those willing to hand over $25 more. With it arrives a keepsake lei greeting, reserved seating, and a pupu plate that includes fresh pineapple and li hing mui macadamia nuts, among other options.

• Have keiki in your crew? A children’s buffet is also available, with menu choices ranging from mini hot dogs to macaroni and cheese.

• Plan ahead: The Hawaii Loa Luau is only presented on Saturday nights.

RESERVE YOUR TICKETS

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4. The Haleo Luau – Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa (Currently Closed)

Haleo Fire

(This Luau closed due to COVID-19 and a re-open date has not been set.) A large part of the modern luau’s allure is the reverence it pays to the Polynesians who first landed in Hawaii. The Haleo Luau is no stranger to this, taking it a step further by specifically celebrating the ahupua’a—or subdivision of land—upon which their feast takes place. The story of The Haleo’s Luau region, Keauhou, is a significant one, going down in history as the bay in which King Kamehameha III was born and turning into a haven for manta rays at night. As the sun sets, it also becomes a dreamland in which bygone Hawaii is conjured—at least at the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa, where talented dancers and skilled chefs work together to create a night you may never forget. The menu is both tantalizing and filling—slow-cooked Kalua pork, taro rolls with lilikoi butter, and island-style fern shoot salad are just a few of the options—while the 22 acres on which the fete is held will leave you just as sated.

Know before you go:

• The desserts are as tempting as the dinner: options range from pineapple upside-down cake to Kona coffee chocolate cake to haupia—a traditional Hawaiian coconut pudding.

• Keep in mind that you’ll have to hold off on that G & T: The bar only serves beer, wine, and Mai Tais.

• Bring a light cover-up—such as a pareo—if you’re vulnerable to the cold.

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5. Sunset Luau – Waikoloa Beach Marriott

Sunset Luau Paddlers

Executive chef Jayson Kanekoa—a Big Island original who was taught and influenced by his legendary farmer of a grandfather—creates a lavish banquet for guests at the acclaimed Sunset Luau at Waikoloa Beach Marriott, dishing out plates such as kiawe-grilled steaks with a teriyaki-mango glazes, breadfruit potato salad, and Asian-style ginger soba salad. The entertainment, which contributed to the luau ranking as one of Hawai’i magazine’s 5 Best Luaus on the Big Island (2019), is also inspired, with performances that honor the cultures of Hawaii, New Zealand, Samoa, and Tonga. Hawaiian games and activities round out the festivities, leaving patrons that much more appreciative of Hawaii and its culture.

Know before you go:

• Happen to be kama’aina or military? Be sure to mention it—discounts are available.

• The Sunset Luau at Waikoloa Beach Marriott is smaller in scale than others, which may be just right if you’re hoping for an intimate experience.

• Plan on imbibing? Order the Pele’s passion at the open bar. It’s liquid aloha—which is what all of these luaus, and the Big Island itself, is all about.

lineWhat to do before the luau?

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