With the sand tickling your toes, a cool tropical drink in hand, and the warm breeze fanning the tempting scent of Kalua pig across the air, you’re ready to enjoy your first luau. This ancient tradition is a staple of any trip to the Hawaiian Islands. As you prepare, it’s important to know what to expect to help you make the most of your experience.Understanding the Hawaiian Luau
Long before Hawaii became a state in 1959, islanders gathered regularly to celebrate many occasions. From the accomplishments of a noble warrior, to a bountiful harvest, or the birth of a child the islanders held special feasts to honor them.
The feasts featured food, music and hula dancing, as they still do today. Eventually, these feasts came to be known as “luaus,” a Hawaiian term that refers to the edible leaves of the taro plant used to make the famed dish, poi. Islanders used these leaves to wrap food before placing it in a traditional underground oven, or “imu“. The imu has withstood the test of time and is still an engaging part of contemporary luaus.
As curious tourists began to travel to Hawaii with greater frequency in the 1960s, it didn’t take long for islanders to see that luaus were hugely appealing and provocative – a form of entertainment no other state in America offered. Luaus vary by host, with some featuring more rituals and Hawaiian dances than others. However, there are universal elements to every luau, including:
- Pre-dinner entertainment.
- Demonstrations of Hawaiian arts and crafts.
- Dinner dishes prepared in an imu such as pua'a kalua (roasted pig), poke, lomilomi salmon (salmon with onions and tomatoes), chicken luau (chicken with garlic, onions and spinach), chicken long rice, sweet potatoes, haupia (coconut pudding), kulolo (taro pudding) and poi.
- An after-dinner show set to music featuring Polynesian costumes and dancing. The most popular dances include the Hawaiian hula (hula auana), Tahitian hula, and Maori haka.
Expect the Unexpected
Hawaiians are warm, gracious people who go out of their way to make visitors feel at home. Still, you may feel even more at ease if you follow these tips:
- Dress comfortably and casually.
- Prepare to be covered in leis. You’ll love them as much as the personal greeting you’ll receive at the beginning of the luau.
- Get ready to take the best pictures of the evening at the grand finale, which usually features a Samoan fire dancer.
- Expect to sit at a long table with people you don't know – who probably won't be strangers by the end of the night.
Connect with the Island
Nothing makes you feel more connected to Hawaii like understanding and taking part in its culture. Luaus are unique because they bring people together in celebration of the beautiful islands of Hawaii and their history. To experience Hawaii in an even more personal way, take a helicopter tour. You can see beautiful landscapes such as the Haleakala Crater, or Iao State Park, and enjoy a landing beneath the rainforest canopy with the Hana Rainforest Experience. Contact Maverick Helicopters at 1-800-978-0266 to book your tour today!