Last updated on December 2nd, 2019 at 08:24 pm
How to Choose the Best Oahu Luau
No trip to Oahu is complete without going to a Hawaiian luau. But, choosing the best Oahu luau option for your family really depends on what you want out of the experience.
For my family, we like the cultural component and are willing to travel a bit for a cooler experience. May contain affiliate links.
These are my top picks for kid-friendly Oahu luaus:
This is the newest luau on Oahu and they consider themselves the most “authentic.” I love it because it’s a small luau, so it’s perfect for families who don’t like huge crowds.
Oh, and when you purchase a ticket to Toa Luau, you also get free admission to Waimea Valley, a cultural park where you can swim under a waterfall!
They have a lot of cool cultural activities before the luau.
My favorite is their Kava Ceremony, which is something you don’t see everyday. Everyone sits in a circle and they explain why they do the ceremony and then all the guests have an opportunity to taste the drink.
And there are lots of opportunities for kids to get involved in this authentic Polynesian experience.
The luau at Polynesian Cultural Center is fantastic! What makes this one of the best luaus on Oahu is that it includes admission to the entire cultural park.
You can visit lots of Polynesian “villages” to see dancing, sample food, and participate in activities.
And they have a cool canoe pageant where performers dance on canoes through the park.
We like to spend the whole day at PCC and then end with the luau and Ha: The Breath of Life. This is a great option for families because you get the traditional luau PLUS a dramatic theatrical show that talks about voyaging to new islands.
If you have any Moana fans in your family, it’s a must do activity on Oahu!
Note: They don’t serve alcohol, but that’s a good thing! My husband thinks when guests aren’t tipsy, the luau has to try harder to impress!
This video gives a great overview:
If you are staying in Waikiki, you might not want to rent a car or hop on a shuttle to go to an Oahu luau. That’s why it’s nice there are a few Waikiki luau you can either walk to or take an Uber. And several are in fun locations!
What’s cool about this luau is that it’s the only Farm to Table luau in Hawaii! Plus, it’s located at the Waikiki Aquarium and they give you free admission to explore before this Waikiki luau begins.
So, if you are bringing kids, you can make a whole afternoon of it. And if you are staying in Waikiki, you can easily walk or Uber there.
Seating is limited to 250 people, making it a fairly intimate experience. Children ages 3 and under are free.
4. AHA`AINA LUAU
I admit, I’ve wanted to stay at the “Pink Palace” since I was a teen. This luau is held at the historic Royal Hawaiian Resort in Waikiki.
The experience sounds a lot like the Feast at Lele on Maui. It’s a gourmet, sit-down dinner with vignette performances throughout the evening.
It’s definitely on the pricier end and children of all ages need to purchase a ticket (albeit a greatly discounted price.) It sounds like a romantic date night in Waikiki and it’s currently on my Oahu bucket list!
5. WAIKIKI STARLIGHT LUAU
This luau bills itself as Waikiki’s only five-night-a-week luau under the stars. What’s unique about the Waikiki Starlight Luau is that it includes a fashion show!
It takes place at the Hilton Hawaiian Village (where many scenes from Hawaii Five-O are filmed.)
The show features dancing from Hawaii, Polynesia, and the Pacific. It also includes 4 acrobatic fire knife dancers. Children ages 3 and under are free.
6. TE MOANA NUI
This show is at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani hotel in the heart of Waikiki. It’s Waikiki’s newest indoor stage performance.
If you aren’t a fan of Hawaiian food, this luau offers prime rib and crab legs in addition to island cuisine.
There are also artists who will hand drawn temporary tattoos on your face or body, which is sure to be a hit with kids. Children 4 and younger are free.
So, this isn’t a traditional luau, but it includes Polynesian entertainment. The whole show features illusions, magic, vanishing acts in addition to hula and Tahitian dancing.
I saw their show on TV many years ago and it reminded me of a Vegas dinner show.
What’s cool is you can purchase tickets for just the show if you want to save a bit of money. Kids ages 3 and under are free.
This will definitely remind you of a Las Vegas show. It’s at the Royal Hawaiian Center, which is easy to get to from anywhere in Waikiki.
It’s a mix of pop culture icons and Hawaiian entertainment. You’ll be able to see Elvis from Blue Hawaii! The show was revamped in 2017 and now includes a journey from the 1920s through today.
They have some vegan options and they have a detailed menu that shows all the diet/allergy info. Kids ages 2 and younger are free.
Other Oahu Luau Options
If you are staying on the East Shore, North Shore or outside of Waikiki and are renting a car, you have even more options for Hawaiian luaus.
This is the only East Side Hawaiian luau. It takes place at Sea Life Park and your luau tickets get you admission to play at Sea Life Park before the luau, making it a cheap luau in Oahu for families.
Children can learn hula dancing, make leis, taste poi, play the ukulele and more before the show begins. Kids ages 3 and under are free.
10. KA WAA AT AULANI, A DISNEY RESORT & SPA
If you are staying at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, this is the most convenient luau since it’s right on property. But, it’s also open to people not staying there.
So, if you are curious about what Aulani is like, this is a great opportunity to check it out (plus you get 4 hours of free parking.)
Even though it’s run by Disney, it’s strictly a Hawaiian luau. Moana, Mickey and Minnie make a brief appearance, but that’s it.
It’s a 3 hour experience from start to finish and kids ages 2 and under are free.
This is another popular luau on Oahu and you’ll see advertisements for it in all the tourism magazines.
What’s cool about this one is you can participate in a Hukilau and learn about ancient Hawaiian fishing before the show. There’s actually a lot of time before dinner to explore their Hawaiian village and see the demonstrations.
Kids ages 3 and under are free.
So, this luau is located right at Wet N Wild, a Hawaii water park.
The luau is run by Chief Sielu, the original world champion fire-knife dancer and Polynesian comedian. He has 20 years of experience in the Samoan Village at the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu. He has appeared on Oprah Winfrey, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with David Letterman, Travel & Discovery Channels, BBC and MTV.
This luau also has a special needs menu featuring items that are dairy-free, vegetarian, gluten-free and peanut-free.
Kids ages 4 and under are free.
Germaine’s Luau on Oahu is one of the most popular Hawaiian luau near Waikiki.
They even have shuttles from many Waikiki hotels. This is smart because when we were here about 5 years ago for a wedding rehearsal dinner, they offered a refillable cup for alcoholic drinks.
It’s not my favorite luau. But, it’s right on the beach and children ages 3 and younger are free.
Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS TYPICAL LUAU FOOD?
At most traditional Hawaiian luaus, you’ll find the following items:
This is the most well-known Hawaiian luau food. It’s a whole pig that’s been roasted underground in an imu.
The pork is so tender that it falls right off the bone and shreds. Very flavorful!
So, at whatever luau you choose, they will probably make some sort of joke about poi tasting like wallpaper paste. That’s just to scare you away!
Poi is mashed up taro root that is fermented. It helps bring out the flavor of fish and meat, so be sure to combine them and use it more like a condiment!
Chicken Long Rice
If you have a picky eater in your family, chances are they will like Chicken Long Rice!
It’s long noodles with bits of chicken sprinkled in. It tastes a little like chicken soup, without the soup.
Huli Huli Chicken
If you like barbecue chicken with an island twist, you’ll love Huli Huli Chicken!
You’ll also see roadside stands selling Huli Huli Chicken or at fundraisers around Oahu.
This is a super traditional Hawaiian food, but not all luau menus have it. It’s usually pork or fish wrapped up in ti leaves and steamed.
Lomi Lomi Salmon
This is very similar to ceviche, where it’s chopped up raw fish mixed diced tomatoes and onions.
Yes, it’s just what it sounds like. Basically macaroni noodles with a lot of mayonnaise and usually some shredded carrots.
This is another option for picky eaters. Personally, I love mixing in a bit of Huli Huli Chicken when I eat it. So tasty!
These little white squares are like a creamy coconut jello. They are cold and make a refreshing palate cleanser! Plus kids usually enjoy eating it!
WHAT’S APPROPRIATE LUAU ATTIRE?
I know when people are packing for their trip to Oahu, they always ask about what to wear to a luau. So, here are my top picks:
Most luau will give you either a shell lei or a purple orchid lei as you arrive.
If you think you’ll be taking a lot of photos, you’ll want to keep in mind so the lei will stand out against your dress.
But, you don’t need to buy a new dress! Look in your closet for something brightly colored or a white dress always looks nice.
For shoes, I tend to always wear sandals. You probably won’t want to risk heels, especially if the luau is on grass or near the beach.
Men often get a shell lei, purple orchid lei, or sometimes they get a black kukui nut lei.
Men can easily pair Aloha Shirts with khaki pants or shorts. Or linen pants or slacks of any kind.
Hawaiian Clothes for Kids
And don’t forget about your kids! While they can wear anything they like, it’s so much cuter if they wear Hawaiian print!
Other Oahu Activities
Family Guide to Oahu with Kids
Polynesian Cultural Center Offers Family Activities on Oahu
Family Photos on Oahu is a Smart Idea
Honolulu Cookie Company Features Pineapple Shaped Cookies
Toa Luau is Oahu’s Newest Family-Friendly Luau
Oahu Travel Hacks + Budget Tips for Families