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Last updated on September 18th, 2019 at 05:09 pm

With so many options, it can be hard to figure out the best luau on Kauai for your family. I’ve been going to the Smith Family Luau for the past 25 years and I’m always impressed with the food, entertainment, and the unbelievably gorgeous grounds!

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My grandma used to live half of the year on Kauai and the other half in Seattle. It was awesome because every time she came home to Seattle, she’d bring Kauai Kookies, cool gecko shoes, Hawaiian stickers, and all kinds of souvenirs.

I remember one year, she showed me a VHS of hula dancing because she thought I’d like it. It was a video of the Smith Family Luau on Kauai and I was totally captivated!

It was the first time I’d seen Tahitian dancing, Maori dancing with poi balls, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of Pele when she danced inside a volcano! I just had to see it in person!

A few years later, my family was able to visit and she took us to Smith Family Garden luau on Kauai. It was even better than the video! I was ten years old at the time and I still remember the music and seeing glimpses of so many cultures that make up present-day Hawaii.

Experiencing Smith’s Tropical Paradise is the main reason I became I hula dancer as a teen.

The Smith Family has been in business for more than 50 years! They run the Fern Grotto boat ride and Smith Family Garden Luau on Kauai.
The Smith Family has been in business for more than 50 years! Photo credit: Darren Cheung

Smith Family Luau

HISTORY

If you ask a local which luau they should attend, they will probably suggest the Smith Family Luau. That’s because it’s been around since the 1980s.

Smith’s Kauai is a family-run business that began with just a rowboat and borrowed outboard motor more than 50 years ago.

Today, it’s expanded to include the Fern Grotto Wailua River Cruise, Smith’s Tropical Paradise (a 30-acre botanical and cultural garden), Smith’s Weddings In Paradise (a wedding site) and the Smith Family Garden Luau.

SMITHS FAMILY GARDEN LUAU LOCATION

Smith’s Tropical Paradise and the Fern Grotto tour are located in the Wailua Marina State Park on the east side of the island (3-5971 Kuhio Highway, Kapaa, HI 96746.)

Once you’ve turned off the highway, just follow the drive all the way back to the parking area.

From the North (Hanalei, Princeville, Kapaa): Take Hwy. 56 South through Kapaa to the Wailua River. Go past Kuamoo road, over the river, and take the first right into the Wailua Marina State Park.

From the South (Waimea, Poipu, Lihue): Take Hwy. 56 North from the Lihue airport. A mile after the Wailua Golf Course, watch for Marina signs and the beach on the right. Just before crossing the Wailua River bridge, turn left into the Wailua Marina State Park.

There is plenty of free parking available.

SMITHS FAMILY GARDEN LAUAU PRICE

With taxes and fees, here are the luau ticket prices through Viator:

ADULTS (14-99): $103.44
KIDS AGES 7-13: $31.67
KIDS AGES 3-6:
$20.06
KIDS AGES 0-2:
Free

Kamaaina rates are also available.

Buy your refundable tickets to Smith Family Luau on Kauai.

What to Expect at Smiths Garden Luau on Kauai

FERN GROTTO BOAT RIDE

I’m all about luaus that set themselves apart from the other luaus on Kauai. The Smith Family also runs boat tours that take guests to the hidden Fern Grotto on the Wailua River.

You’ll climb aboard a large river boat and slowly float down to Fern Grotto, one of Kauai’s most popular attractions and destination wedding site. Your guide will tell you a bit of history about the area and Hawaiian culture.

When you get there, you walk through the jungle until you get to the viewing platform.

There, you’ll watch hula dancers perform as musicians play the Hawaiian Wedding Song.

Then, you’ll hop back on the boat where there’s more hula dancing and live music.

Insider Tip: Book the 3:30pm boat ride and arrive just in time for Smith’s Tropical Paradise Luau!

SMITH’S TROPICAL PARADISE GARDEN

As part of your luau admission, you’ll have access to the beautiful Smith’s Tropical Paradise Garden.

What’s cool about it, is that it’s sectioned off to highlight lots of Polynesian and Asian plants and displays.

Explore the grounds of Smith's Tropical Paradise Garden before heading into one of the best luaus on Kauai.
There are so many different types of tropical flowers at Smith Tropical Paradise Garden on Kauai. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

It’s kind of like a mini Polynesian Cultural Center! In fact, that’s what the original owners were going for when they designed it in the 1960s.

You can hop on the open-air tram (my kids LOVE it) or walk around at your own pace. And bring your camera because there are so many amazing photo opportunities and stunning backdrops.

They have more than a mile of pathways, which are stroller-friendly. You’ll see more than 20 types of tropical fruit, like breadfruit, star fruit, jackfruit, soursop and even macadamia nuts!

And there are replicas of Polynesian and Filipino huts and a giant Easter Island Moai replica. Plus, a cute Japanese-themed garden island.

There are also peacocks roaming around, which is always fun!

Insider Tip: You can just visit the garden anytime 8:30am-4:pm. It’s $6 for adults, $3 for kids 3-12, and free for kids 2 and younger.

IMU CEREMONY

Smith’s Tropical Paradise has 2 imu pits. An imu is an underground oven where they cook the pig.

The emcee came out and gathered guests around one of the imu pits. He talked a bit about how they cook the pig with hot rocks and ti leaves.

At Smith's Tropical Paradise luau, you'll learn all about how Hawaiian used an imu to cook their food.
My family loved learning about why Hawaiians used an imu to cook food. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

Then, a couple of guys came over and raked the gravel off the top of the underground imu. Then, they opened up the imu and raised the cooked pig out.

There was a bit of smoke, but not too bad.

The emcee continued to talk about the story behind this style of cooking and why they still do it today. I think he said they go through about 3 whole pigs every night!

My kids were fully immersed in the whole experience and my 5 year old had a lot of questions about how the oven worked. I love it when they want to learn more about what they see!

After the ceremony, they left the pig on display so people could get a closer look and take photos.

FOOD & DINNER ENTERTAINMENT

Here are the food options:

Smith's Garden Luau has some of the best luau food on Kauai! We at kalua pork, lomi lomi salmon, chicken adobo, poi, mahimahi, and more!
We were so stuffed after eating our buffet dinner at the Smith Family Luau on Kauai. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Kalua Pork

If you go to any luau in Hawaii, you will have the opportunity to eat kalua pork!

It has a nice, smoky flavor and is much juicier than pulled pork you’d find at barbecue restaurants.

Chicken Adobo

This is one of my favorite Filipino dishes. It’s got a vinegar-base which makes it tangy and delicious!

Mahimahi

The Hawaiian mahimahi was served with a sweet sauce. It’s a nice option if you aren’t a big meat eater.

Teriyaki Beef

This is a solid entree option. It’s like what you can get from teriyaki places and it’s usually a hit with the kids.

Poi

Like most luaus, the emcee made a big show about how people aren’t going to like poi. He suggested people put it in a little cup away from the rest of the food.

I think their poi is pretty good and tasted great with the kalua pork and lomi lomi salmon.

Potato/Macaroni Salad

One of my favorite things about plate lunches in Hawaii is the scoop of macaroni salad. But, when it’s mixed with potato salad, it’s next-level yumminess!

Mashed Potatoes

This is a great option if you’re more of a meat and potatoes type of person. It’s also a bit hit with kids!

Purple Potatoes

I love their purple potatoes! They serve them baked and sliced, so you can just take a little if you want to try. They taste like regular potatoes, but prettier!

Bean Salad

I didn’t try this, but they had a multi-bean salad available.

Green Salad

They had a basic green salad at the front of the buffet line with a few different types of dressing.

Personally, I never do salad because it takes up too much space on my plate and I can eat salad anywhere.

Bread

There are a few different types of bread in a variety of colors. When we were there, we had taro bread (which was purple) and guava bread (which was pink.)

Out of all the luau food, my kids ate the bread the most.

Dessert Options

They feature coconut cake, fresh fruit, and rice pudding. I don’t normally like rice pudding, but their version is incredible!

Drinks

They have an open bar with mai tais, beer and wine. Plus, fruit punch and soft drinks.

I might be missing a few items, but that’s the gist of the Smith Family Luau dinner menu.

Enjoy dinner entertainment of hula dancing, Hawaiian music, and even learn how to hula dance to the Hukilau!
We enjoyed dancing and listening to Hawaiian music while we ate dinner. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

There’s also entertainment during dinner. There’s a live band, several hula dancers, and some audience participation.

What I like about how Smith Family does their audience participation is that it’s all positive. They aren’t trying to make fun of anyone or only bring up guys.

Instead, they encourage anyone who’d like to learn hula to come up on stage and learn the very simple Hukilau.

My 2 year old sat on my lap and did all the hand motions while we watched! It was awesome!

LUAU SHOW

What I really appreciate about Smith’s Tropical Paradise Luau is that you head to a separate space to watch the show.

That means, you aren’t craning your neck at a long table, or looking at dirty dishes.

After dinner, you’ll walk over to an outdoor theater. There are lots of rows of bench stadium seating and there isn’t a bad seat in the house.

This luau is the only luau on Kauai that showcases Asian cultures in addition to Polynesian cultures.

If you like Tahitian dancing, you won't want to miss the Smith Garden Luau, one of the best Kauai luaus.
Smith’s Tropical Paradise has an extensive Tahitian section of their luau show on Kauai. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

Hawaii

You’ll get to see both traditional (hula kahiko) and modern (hula auana) styles of hula dancing.

And they even use hula implements like feather gourd rattles (uli uli,) split bamboo (pu`ili), and gourd drums (ipu.)

New Zealand

 My kids always like seeing the poi ball dancing. The women swing the balls over their heads and criss cross them and it’s pretty mesmerizing.

And they even light the poi balls on fire! Definitely cool for the kids!

Philippines

Dancers will perform a traditional dance where they jump over and in between two large sticks, called Tinikling.

Japan

You’ll see women wearing kimonos dancing with boughs of cherry blossoms and with fans.

In the past, they’ve also done a parasol dance that’s really pretty. I’m not sure if they still do it for some shows.

Tahiti

You’ll get to see two styles of Tahitian dancing. And they even come right in front of the stage to dance on the ledge near the water.

During the Tahiti section, you’ll also watch a captivating dance by Pele (goddess of fire and volcanoes) as she beckons the people of Tahiti to set sail for Hawaii.

There’s an elevator inside the volcano so she rises up and lowers back into the volcano, which is fun!

Samoa

And this Kauai luau ends with the awe-inspiring Samoan fire knife dance! He even uses two knives, which always impresses my kids!

This show has had minimal updates in the past 25 years, but that’s one of the reasons why I like it. The music and the dancing still stands up and it’s fun whether this is your first luau or you go every trip!

Insider Tip: You can also skip dinner and just go to the show. It’s incredibly affordable at $15 for adults, $7.50 for kids ages 3-12, and free for kids ages 2 and younger.

Why I Think Smiths Family Garden Luau is the Best Luau on Kauai

I love how families can really customize this luau on Kauai.

You can make it an half day excursion by exploring the gardens on foot, taking the Fern Grotto boat ride, riding the tram around the garden, watching the imu ceremony, heading into dinner, and then watching the full show.

Smith's Tropical Paradise Luau is the only luau on Kauai with a working volcano!
Pele rises up in a fiery volcano during the Smith Family Garden Luau on Kauai. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

Or, you can just do the show. Or just explore the garden. There’s a lot of wiggle room.

I also love that it’s located on the East Shore. It’s close to lots of hotels and vacation rentals. Plus, it’s not too bad of a drive from the North Shore or South Shore.

I like that it isn’t at a resort, so you can really immerse yourself in the luau experience.

5 Top Tips for Smith Family Garden Luau on Kauai:

1. SCHEDULE FOR END OF YOUR TRIP

If you are worried about the time difference, consider scheduling this Kauai luau for the end of your trip.

That way, your kids will still be awake to enjoy the show (and you won’t have to carry sleeping kids across the grounds and parking lot to your car!)

2. GO ON STAGE

Encourage your kids to go on stage to learn how to hula dance.

Or, stand up near your table if they have stage fright. It’s a great way for your kids to learn about another culture and they might appreciate the show a bit more.

3. YOU CAN SAVE MONEY AND JUST DO THE SHOW

I think the food at Smith’s is great and highly recommend doing the full luau, but there’s a budget-friendly option if you’d like.

If you don’t think your kids will eat any of the food, or you already have dinner plans, you can just buy tickets to the show.

And it’s incredibly affordable!

ADULTS: $15
KIDS (3-12): $7.50
AGES 0-2: FREE

If you skip dinner, this makes it the cheapest luau on Kauai! Just be sure to book directly through the Smith Family website.

4. WEAR BUG SPRAY

The luau show takes place on a stage surrounded by water. This makes it a spot bugs like to hang out near.

My husband got a bunch of bug bites while we were there (he has that sweet, sweet blood mosquitoes love!) and we regretted not bringing bug spray with us.

5. BRING A BLANKET

If you are going in the winter months, you might consider bringing a blanket or large beach towel for the show.

It can get cool at night and we saw a lot of families snuggling under a blanket.

This also helps if you think your kids might fall asleep during the show.

I hope this helps you decide if this is the best luau on Kauai for your family. Buy your tickets to Smith’s Tropical Paradise luau.

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Author

Marcie writes the family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. When she's not traveling the world, she's home in Seattle with her husband and two little boys.

11 Comments

  1. What an amazing experience this was for you! I love how detailed you are, makes me want to look up my own trip to this luau.

  2. I have heard such great things about luaus in Hawaii. We have never gone but I am definitely going to try to make it there some day.

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