Going to Hawaii for the first time inevitably involves going to a luau. Yes, I know it’s cliché touristy. Yes, I know that buffet food can be a hit or miss and maybe even mostly misses. But we’ve come all this way we might as well…right? Absolutely! Researching on the different luaus in Maui, there was one in Lahaina that is highly popular. However, we were staying in Wailea and driving to Lahaina would have been a 60-minute drive. I discovered one at the Grand Wailea Waldorf Astoria hotel just next door to where we were staying called the Grand Luau at Honua’ula, an ideal location if you are staying in central and south Maui.
When we walked into the Grand Wailea, it was mega spectacular. Mega huge and mega dizzying gorgeous views everywhere. We got lost a few times, but that was ok. It was a chance for us to explore the grounds. Check-in started at 4pm and the line was…long. The sneaky suspicion of lining up became an apparent theme since after that line up to get our wristbands, we had to line up once again to get inside the luau venue. However I was very surprised how quickly the queue moved and how organized it was. One person in the family lines up for check-in to get the wristbands while the rest of the family explored. The staff was friendly and even my fellow line-up mates were friendly. It’s the Hawaiian air and sun. I’m convinced of it. (note to self: figure out how to bottle it, make millions, and retire in Hawaii.) There are two types of seating: regular and premium. The difference is that premium seating includes a choice of an orchid or shell lei and your table is situated closer to the stage. There is opportunity to purchase a lei as well.
What to expect
At first, I thought it was a little unusual for a luau show to be on a hotel property. I thought the hustle and bustle from the hotel pools would be noisy and distracting. Not at all. Maybe even the opposite! The show is tucked to one side of this beachfront property and honestly I didn’t see a whole lot of curious passerbys. Maybe I was focused on the stage where there was live music as guests trickled in, or the local artists showcasing and selling their art, or the unearthing of the kulua pig from the underground oven known as an imu, or even getting to know our incredibly fun (and funny) group of tablemates while learning to hula on stage.
On the Menu
Unlimited drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) were included in the ticket price as well as the buffet dinner and show. The menu offerings were fairly extensive and had traditional Hawaiian food like poke (marinated cubed raw fish), fresh poi (pounded taro), potato mac salad, Maui Gold pineapples, sweet rolls with macadamia nut butter. Protein offerings included kalua pig (tastes really delicious with poi), Maui Cattle steaks with teriyaki sauce, shoyu chicken, and coconut lime Mahi Mahi and Island fried rice with Chinese lap cheong/sausage, stir fried veggies and rice noodles with char siu. Overall there was quite a selection of food if you like meat and carbs (which I do and there was salad to balance things out)! Remember, this is a buffet, not a fine dining restaurant so there may be some hits and misses. However, the stand outs for me were the poke, shoyu chicken, kalua pig, poi and the mahi mahi. Were there lineups for the buffet lines? Not really. The staff directed certain seating zones to specific buffet areas and everyone moved quickly. I didn’t even notice much of a line at the bar since waiters would take your drink orders (tip your waiter and he/she will ensure your drinks are always full!). Of course a meal isn’t complete without dessert! Chocolate brownies with macadamia nuts, pineapple upside down cake, coconut cake and traditional Hawaiian haupia (a Hawaiian creamy coconut pudding) rounds out your meal.
For us, the real reason for doing a luau is to see the show. The Grand Luau at Honua’ula show tells the story of how Polynesian explorers discovered Maui, and specifically to south Maui called Honua’ula, which means “sacred lands”. The history of Maui is captured in a series of scenes with traditional chants, hula, dance, fire and songs. I personally liked the cirque de soliel-esque performance of Lilinoe, the goddess of the mist that rains down from upper Honua’ula and acted out by a stunning aerial silk acrobatic performance way up in the trees that surround the venue. The love story of Naulu, goddess of the clouds, was pretty incredible too with her white billowing costume, but my kids loved the fire show, a crowd favourite for sure. The show was entertaining and engaging and definitely the highlight of the evening especially the fiery bow and arrows.
The Grand Luau at Honua’ula at the Grand Wailea is worth it if you’re in Maui and never been. The sunsetting behind us was the perfect backdrop to an evening in paradise. It gave us a snapshot of Hawaiian culture and history, which we do love! Mahalo for a great time Grand Luau!
~ Carol (aka @bakingzen)
*Full disclosure: I received discounted tickets for premium seating and opinions stated here are my own.