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Is the Smith Family Luau the Best Luau on Kauai for Families?

Is the Smith Family Luau the Best Luau on Kauai for Families?

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I think the best luau on KauaiHawaii is the Smith Family Luau! From the lei greeting and imu ceremony to the delicious food and Polynesian entertainment, this Kauai luau has everything! Especially if you’re looking for a more authentic luau experience, keep reading.
This post on the best luau on Kauai was written by Hawaii travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

With so many options, it can be hard to figure out the best luau on Kauai for your family. There are so many amazing Kaui luaus to choose from, and each one is unique.

And of all the Hawaiian Islands, I think that Kauai has the most intimate and authentic luaus! It’s also a great place to find a traditional luau, with a dinner buffet, a welcome cocktail, luau dancers, and oceanfront views.

But if you’re looking for a more authentic Hawaiian luau with all the classic elements, definitely go with the Smith Family Garden Luau.

I’ve been going to the Smith Family Luau for the past 25 years. I’m always impressed with the food, entertainment, and the gorgeous grounds!

Below, I’ll give you all the details on the Smith family luau so you can see how it’s one of the best luaus in Kauai for yourself! Or book your tickets here!

Want a Hawaii travel guide? I’ve got detailed guides and 7-day itineraries!

Smith Family Luau is One of the Top Luaus in Kauai

When I was a child, my grandma lived half of the year in Kauai and the other half in Seattle. One of my favorite memories was when we visited her in Kauai, and she took us to Smith Family Garden luau on Kauai.

I was totally captivated by the hula dances! I was 10 years old at the time and I still remember the music and getting a taste of the cultures that make up present-day Hawaii culture.

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

As a lover of hula dancing and Hawaii luaus, I’ve been to many different ones. And I encourage you to try different luaus for yourself!

But if you’re planning your Kauai vacation and feel overwhelmed, I’ve got you covered. Keep reading for all the details about what I think is one of the very best luaus in Kauai, Smith Family Luau.

About the Smith Family Luau

They Have a Deep Roots on Kauai

If you ask a local for recommendations on Kauai luaus, Smith Family Luau will most likely be at the top of the list. That’s because it’s been around since the 1980s.

Smith’s Kauai was started by a local family more than 50 years ago! All they had in the beginning was a rowboat and borrowed outboard motor.

The Smith Family has been in business for more than 50 years! They run the Smith Family Garden Luau, the best luau on Kauai
The Smith Family has been in business for more than 50 years! Photo credit: Darren Cheung

Today, it’s expanded to include the Fern Grotto Wailua River Cruise, Smith’s Tropical Paradise, Smith’s Weddings In Paradise, and the Smith Family Garden Luau.

Located in Kapa’a

You’ll find Smith’s Tropical Paradise and the Fern Grotto Tours inside the Wailua Marina State Park on the Royal Coconut Coast. (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. The Smith’s Family Luau is held inside of a lush 30-acre botanical garden along Wailua River!

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.

And there’s plenty of free parking available.

Smith Family Luau Prices

With taxes and fees, here are the luau ticket prices through their website. You can always check the latest rates and availability.

  • Adults (14-99): $140
  • Kids Ages 7-13: $35
  • Kids Ages 3-6: $25
  • Kids Ages 0-2: Free!

Kamaaina rates are also available.

Looking for more family-friendly activities in Kauai? Check out Our Kauai Mountain Tubing Experience!

Find out why the Smith Family Garden Luau is the best luau on Kauai for families!

What to Expect at Smiths Garden Luau on Kauai

Explore the Smith’s Tropical Paradise Garden

I’m all about luaus that set themselves apart. The Smith Family also runs the Smith Tropical Paradise Garden, where the luau is located!

After you check in, you’ll receive a lei greeting and board a open-air tram for a narrated tour through the botanical gardens or enjoy a walk at your own pace. Your guide will tell you about the area and Hawaiian culture.

This botanical garden is stunning. I loved 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 in 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.

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

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

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

Can’t make it early? You can also just visit the garden anytime 8:30 AM-5 PM. It’s $10 for adults, $5 for kids 3-12, and free for kids 2 and younger.

Insider Tip: You could also book the 3:30 PM Fern Grotto Boat Ride and arrive just in time for Smith Family Garden Luau.

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Traditional Imu Ceremony

One of the best luaus in Kauai, the Smith Family Luau features a variety of authentic elements from different parts of Polynesian culture.

To start, the Smith’s Tropical Paradise has 2 imu pits. An imu is an underground oven where they cook the Kalua pig as part of a traditional ceremony.

The emcee comes out and gathers luau guests around one of the imu pits. He talks 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 come over and rake the gravel off the top of the underground imu. They open up the imu and raise the cooked pig out. (There’s a bit of smoke, but not too bad)

The emcee talks 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 traditional imu ceremony. My 5-year-old had a lot of questions about how the oven worked!

After the imu ceremony, they leave the Kalua pig on display so people can get a closer look and take photos.

Food & Dinner Entertainment

When you arrive at the luau, there’s 15 minutes with live music where you can enjoy an open bar with mai tais, beer and wine. There’s also fruit punch and soft drinks.

Then there’s a buffet dinner, which lasts about 90 minutes. You’ll sit at long, family-style tables. Here are the food options:

Kalua Pork

If you go to any luau in Hawaii, you’ll have the opportunity to eat kalua pig! And this is the pig from the imu ceremony.

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.

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

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

Smith Family Luau features coconut cake, fresh fruit, and rice pudding. I don’t normally like rice pudding, but their version is incredible!

Drinks

Like I mentioned, they have an open bar with mai tais, beer and wine. You can also order fruit punch, soft drinks, and water.

I might be missing a few items, but that’s the gist of the Smith Family Luau dinner menu. And the food is another reason I consider this one of the best luaus in Kauai!

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, including 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 the hula lessons! It was awesome!

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The After-Dinner Luau Show

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

This 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.

Another reason Smith Family is the best luau on Kauai? It’s the ONLY Kauai luau that showcases Asian cultures in addition to Polynesian cultures! Check the latest rates and availability.

Here’s how the entertainment breaks down by culture represented:

Hawaii

You’ll get to see both traditional (hula kahiko) and modern (hula auana) styles of Hawaiian 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 fire poi ball twirlers. The women swing the balls over their heads and crisscross them. And they even light the poi balls on fire!

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

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 do this for all their shows.

Tahiti

You’ll get to see two styles of Tahitian dancing. Dancers 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 awe-inspiring Samoan fire knife dancing! The dancer uses 2 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 stand up. 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 $25 for adults, $12.50 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 come early and explore the gardens on foot or book a Fern Grotto boat ride!

You can come early and ride the tram around the garden. Then watch the imu ceremony, head into dinner, and then watch 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!

This is really helpful if you have younger kids that won’t last the full 4 hours of the luau. And if you have older kids, you can make a full day of your trip to Smith’s Tropical Paradise.

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.

And 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 a Luau for the 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

This is an interactive luau. You can 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 this might help them appreciate the show a bit more.

3. Save Money and Just See 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: $25
KIDS (3-12): $12.50
AGES 0-2: FREE

If you skip dinner, this makes it the cheapest luau on Kauai! Just be sure to book HERE.

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.

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’re 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.

See Smith Family Luau, One of the Best Luaus in Kauai

I hope this helps you decide if the Smith Family Garden Luau is the best luau on Kauai for your family! When it comes to luaus on Kauai, you have a variety of options.

Another excellent luau for kids is Luau Kalamaku, set on beautiful plantation grounds in Lihue. And the Auli’i Luau at the Sheraton Kauai Resort is the only oceanfront luau in Kauai!

Whichever Kauai you choose, you can’t go wrong with Smith Family Luau. See a show and decide for yourself!

Looking for more Kauai travel resources? Check out the best things to do on Kauai with kids, 10 Must-Read Kauai Travel Tips, baby-friendly Kauai activities, Kauai family resorts, and the most Instagrammable spots on Kauai!

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Rachel

Tuesday 26th of March 2019

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.

marciecheung

Wednesday 27th of March 2019

I hope you get to experience one!

Sharon

Tuesday 26th of March 2019

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.

marciecheung

Wednesday 27th of March 2019

Haha! I'm definitely detailed because I want people to feel like they are fully prepared!

Paula @ I'm Busy Being Awesome

Monday 25th of March 2019

It sound so fun, a must see definitely

marciecheung

Monday 25th of March 2019

They do a really nice job!

Mimi

Monday 25th of March 2019

I've never seen it but I'd love too

marciecheung

Monday 25th of March 2019

It's such a fun experience, especially with kids!

Melanie

Monday 25th of March 2019

I have still never been to a luau, but it is high on my list!

marciecheung

Monday 25th of March 2019

I hope you make it to one soon!

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