Here’s my disclosure: I’m not your typical cultural performance and buffet dinner type of guy, and a luau is a typical cultural performance and buffet dinner type of deal. I feel like they are reserved for families and couples on their honeymoon. Nothing wrong with that, I just don’t fit the profile.
But it got me thinking, could I have fun at a Luau on my own? I’d be surrounding myself with groups of families, couples and probably not one other single party person. I love a good challenge and at the very least, I’d enjoy some Kalua pork, fresh poke and a few Mai Tais. So I reached out to the Old Lahaina Luau on the recommendation of a friend and asked for a table for one. Yes, I had to confirm, party of one.
Of course you can’t really get a table for one. In Hawaii, it’s all about family and community, and this was a communal type affair, so I was put at a table with two other families. Let’s start at the beginning.
A Tasty Welcome To Old Lahaina
I arrived a little before 5:45, just as a crowd started to form around the entrance. Checking in was quick and not long after, I had a tropical drink in my hands and a fresh lei around my neck.
The experience started as soon as we arrived with the music and greeters. Each party was personally met and taken to their tables by one of their performers.
My server was a jovial guy who surprised me because I half expected someone to greet me with a canned speech with some Hawaiian words thrown in for good measure. He did not and I didn’t have to roll my eyes. Bonus points. He also told me the bar was open. Extra bonus points.
There was about an hour to kill before the dinner started, so I grabbed my drink and walked around to enjoy the festivities set up around the main stage. The sun was starting to set beautifully and I couldn’t feel more relaxed.
There were performers teaching guests how to dance and showing other the art of Hawaiian craftsmanship. One guy was even making some fresh poi, a paste made from grinding down the root of a taro plant.
Need I mention again how beautiful a setting we were in? Draping fronds from pineapple trees, lush green tropical plants and the most colorful flowers surrounded an evenly spread out array of tables.
The Kalua Pièce de Résistance
About 20 minutes before dinner, we were invited to gather a pit that was housing a precious part of tonight’s delight. The children were invited to get right up close and everyone had their cameras out for the big reveal.
After a dramatic build-up, a large canvas tarp was unrolled to reveal a whole split roasted pig wrapped in taro leaves. The smell was unbelievable and the meat was falling off the bones, if it hadn’t already.
As the sun began to set, so began the feast and I made sure to pile my plates nice and high with a bit of everything starting with that pork. I reserved a whole plate just for the poke, a mix of raw fish and octopus flavored with soy sauce and an assortment of other flavors.
What’s For Dinner?
Skip this part if you hate food and don’t want to read about some of the things that were offered at the buffet.
Pua’a Kalua – imu roasted pork
Laulau – tender roasted pork wrapped in taro leaf
Pipi Ko’ala – grilled beef steak
Chicken Long Rice – local version of chicken noodle soup
Moa – island style grilled chicken
I’a – Maui style fish
Poke Ahi – raw yellow fin tuna with green onions, seaweed and Maui onions
Poke He’e – bite sized pieces of octopus mixed with Maui onions and ‘Alae salt
Lu’au Kalo – taro leave stew
Poi – steamed and mashed taro
‘Uala – sliced sweet potatoes
Stir Fry Vegetables – seasonal fresh stir fry vegetables
Local Style Fried Rice – vegetarian fried rice
Island Crab Salad – crab, shrimp, peas and water chestnuts salad
Pohole Salad – fern shoot salad
Lomilomi Salmon – salted salmon mixed with tomatoes and onions
Banana Bread / Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
Assorted Island Dessert – Look at the pictures
Let The Show Begin
Timed perfectly with the last fading bit of light, the sound of drums and a tiki torch procession brought out dancers to tell the story of Hawaii’s history and mythology, starting with a story about the island of Tahiti.
I’m not going to be able to tell you if the costumes are authentic or not, but they sure looked vibrant and decorative and the dancers looked like they really enjoyed their performance. I’m also not going to give away the whole thing, so enjoy some of these photos from the performance.
Here’s what I can tell you. I came ALONE and had a lot of fun. The food was delicious and the view was great from every seat. I know because I moved around at one point to get photos from different angles. The VIP seats up in front are really immersive and you’ll be sitting on the floor on cushions. If you don’t mind that, I think those are best seats in the house. The drinks were flowing and the service was perfect. I was never without a drink in my hand. But now here’s the best part and I saved it for last. The Banana Bread. DO NOT FORGET to eat as much banana bread as you can and then treasure the cute little loaf they gift you with at the end.
I highly recommend this if you happen to be in Maui.