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Last updated on April 9th, 2019 at 08:33 pm

“Are we going to ride the Kilohana Plantation Railway train today?” This is a question my 3.5-year-old has asked me nearly every day for the past year.

My Mom lives on Kauai and took my oldest there for a special trip after my youngest was born. They rode on the train several times during the trip and it was the ultimate experience for him.

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When I announced that we’d be visiting Grandma on Kauai this July, he pleaded to ride the train.

So, I pulled up their website and that’s when I realized that they offer a train ride that is followed by one of the best Kauai luaus. This sounded perfect for my family!

So we quickly got our Kauai luau tickets for Luau Kalamaku in Lihue.

Luau Kalamaku in Lihue offers the only Kauai Luau with a Train Ride.
We were greeted with fresh orchid leis when we arrived at Luau Kalamaku at Kilohana Plantation. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

For those who don’t know, I’ve been a professional hula dancer for the past 20 years. I’ve recently taken a break from performing to focus on my family.

Because of my background, I tend to look for hula experiences that are unique or out-of-the-ordinary.

I was drawn to Kilohana Plantation since it offers a train ride and a theatrical storytelling during the Luau Kalamaku show.

READ  Kid-Friendly Guide to the Best Kauai Beaches, Hotels, Activities + More!

Kilohana Plantation Railway Tour

Ok, so let’s talk about the Kauai train ride first.

I’m always curious about what life was like long ago. This 40-minute narrated tour let me step back to the plantation era a bit.

KILOHANA PLANTATION HISTORY

Kilohana Plantation is a 105 acre plantation estate built in 1935 by the Wilcox family. When it was built, Kilohana Plantation was the most expensive home on Kauai.

In its heyday, Kilohana was the site of many extravagant parties and ceremonies. It remains a Historic Landmark and one of the finest examples of plantation era architecture in Hawaii.

We boarded the vintage train and sat down in one of the mahogany passenger cars. There are windows that we could open and close.

Kilohana Plantation Railway and Luau Kalamaku (one of the best luaus on Kauai) are fun things to do on Kauai with kids.
My 3.5 year old was thrilled to get to ride the Kilohana Plantation Railway again! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

My family rode through a tropical forest, and near historic homes and outbuildings.

We saw working orchards and fields with more than varieties of fruit trees, vegetable gardens, rare and exotic tropical flowers, and hardwood trees.

For things to do in Kauai, Kilohana Plantation Railway and Luau Kalamaku (one of the best Kauai luau experiences) are fun things to do on Kauai with kids.
We loved seeing the animals grazing in the fields as we chugged along Kilohana Plantation near Gaylord’s on Kauai. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

As I mentioned earlier, my preschooler had done this train ride before and he was really looking forward to it. Part of it had to do with seeing animals.

I admit, my oldest isn’t usually interested in animals, so I was surprised that he was so into seeing animal pastures with donkeys, goats, sheep, horses, cattle, ducks, geese, and their fun loving herd of wild pigs.

Photo of the Kauai train ride at Kilohana Plantation, which is a fun thing to do in Kauai with kids.
My Mom and baby stayed on the train while I took my oldest to feed the pigs at Kilohana Plantation. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

This time, he sat on the right side of the train and got a great view of the animals.

From the left side, my Mom and baby saw more of the plants.

FEEDING ANIMALS

About 2/3 into the Kauai train ride, we stopped so people could get off and feed the goats and pigs.

This part was a bit overwhelming for me as families grabbed bread and hot dog buns and rushed to get close to the animals.

I thought I’d be able to get some cute shots of my preschooler feeding the animals. Reality sunk in and I ended up squeezing through people and lifting him up so he could see the pigs.

But, he had an absolute blast! It’s the first time I’d seen him really engage with animals.

Oh and don’t worry. The bits of bread aren’t the only thing the animals eat.

In fact, they get all the leftover food from Luau Kalamaku! It’s one of the ways Kilohana Plantation tries to reuse, reduce, and recycle.

When we arrived back at the station, we took a few photos in front of the train because I knew my oldest would ask to see photos of the train after we got home. We quickly scurried into the dining area for this Kauai luau.

At our table, the rest of the Hawaiian luau guests were already eating salad and fruit.

If you are looking for a luau with a boat ride, check out Smith’s Tropical Paradise.

READ  Warehouse 3540 on Kauai is a Millennial Mom's Paradise

Luau Kalamaku: One of the Best Luaus on Kauai

Luau Kalamaku is a theatrical Kauai luau that gives guests an intimate look into the heart of Kauai’s Hawaiian heritage.

A cast of characters performing traditional music and song tells the story of the original Tahitian voyage to the Hawaiian Islands.

Their music is so authentic that even the drums are made by hand by the musicians themselves. How awesome is that?

PRE-LUAU ACTIVITIES

When you arrive, you will be greeted with a fresh flower lei. And you’ll have an opportunity to take photos with the cast.

But, you’ll also be able to walk around a craft fair and see artisans working on cool projects, check out the boutique shops at Kilohana Plantation, and experience a traditional imu ceremony. That’s where they pull out the pig that has been roasting in the underground oven.

Photo of a Hawaiian artisan at Luau Kalamaku near Gaylords at Kilohana Plantation on Kauai
This artisan carved wood right in front of us on the grounds of Kilohana Plantation on Kauai. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

DRINK OPTIONS

Luau Kalamaku offers complimentary unlimited beverages. I really appreciated the assortment of tropical juices available for my family. And they were really quite tasty.

They also had the usual beer, wine and cocktails available, too.

Guests could only get one alcoholic drink at a time, so keep that in mind if you send someone else to pick up some drinks.

There was unlimited drinks at Luau Kalamaku, one of the best luaus in Kauai.
The fruit juices at Luau Kalamaku were super tasty! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

FOOD AT LUAU KALAMAKU

The food at this Kauai luau is definitely worth mentioning.

Luau food usually doesn’t impress me and I have lowered my expectations about it. That being said, I really enjoyed the food at this luau on Kauai.

READ  The Ultimate Kauai Food Tour of the North Shore
Luau Kalamaku is one of the best luaus on Kauai and has so many Hawaiian food options.
The purple mashed potatoes featured coconut milk and they were amazing! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

They offer a lot of vegetarian options, including mashed purple potatoes with coconut milk that was super tasty. Plus, they had green salad, macaroni salad, fresh fruit, etc.

But, I’m not a vegetarian. My personal favorite was the kalua pig and poi. I regretted not going back for more (even though it was encouraged.)

Luau Kalamaku is one of the best luaus in Kauai.
The hula auana was a great treat during dinner before the full show at Luau Kalamaku. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

DINNER ENTERTAINMENT

Something cool about this Kauai luau is that they do contemporary hula dancing during dinner, then take an intermission before the theatrical show.

I enjoyed watching the modern hula to familiar Hawaiian music. It’s like what you’d see at any hula show in Hawaii, only this one featured songs about Kauai.

The stage is round and located in the middle of the room. The performers face different directions so it brings the stage a bit closer. There really isn’t a bad seat in the house.

Our table was in the second row off to the side and we had a fabulous view with a bit of chair shifting.

Luau Kalamaku offers the only theatrical luau on Kauai.
This Luau Kalamaku theatrical show kept my boys’ attention for the whole time! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

THEATRICAL SHOW

When the show started, I could tell we were in for a whole new experience!

Both my kids were MESMERIZED by the theatrical component and it’s no wonder why Lonely Planet named it the Best Luau on Kauai..

My 3.5 year old sat on my lap after dinner. After the first number, my son asked if it was over.

Worried that he was getting tired, I told him that it was the first of many number. He responded with a resounding “Good! I like this show!”

I was actually pretty surprised that my 9 month old and 3.5 year old stayed engaged for the majority of the show.

My baby fell asleep in Grandma’s arms during the second-to-last song. My oldest was so enthused about the show that he asked to take photos with the dancers.

READ  Kauai with Kids: the Best Baby Friendly Activities and Experiences

6 Reasons Why Your Kids Will Love Luau Kalamaku

I know it can be overwhelming to figure out the best Kauai luau for your family. There are tons to choose from.

But Luau Kalamaku really is one of the most unique luaus on Kauai for kids.

Luau Kalamaku is a fun thing to do in Kauai with kids.
My son begged to get his picture with these Luau Kalamaku performers.

1. THEY GET TO RIDE A TRAIN

Do your kids love trains as much as my boys do? The ride is just long enough that kids feel like they are on an adventure. But, it’s not too long where parents get bored.

It’s a pretty budget-friendly Kauai activity for kids and you can do it in addition to the luau or as a separate activity.

ADULTS: $19.50
KIDS 3-12: $14.00
KIDS UNDER 3: FREE

The Plantation Railway is open 7 days a week and departs at 10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm and 2pm with additional tours on Tuesday and Fridays at 4:30pm, right before the Luau Kalamaku.

Insider tip: Grab a free mai tai and enjoy it on the train!

2. IT’S KIND OF LIKE MOANA

Luau Kalamaku’s theatrical show focuses on the journey to Hawaii. If your kids like the story of Moana, they will be just as into the story of Luau Kalamaku.

There is a bit of drama, lots of music and tons of dancing!

And there’s even a real canoe that’s used as decoration. My son completely believed that it was Moana’s canoe and he was in awe of it!

3. TONS OF HAWAIIAN FOOD

There are tons of food options for even the pickiest of eaters. My kids tried a little of everything, but mostly ate a lot of macaroni salad, potatoes, bread, and fruit.

The mini dessert bar was also a big hit at our table!

I’d say that for a Kauai luau, the food here at Luau Kalamaku is a cut above others.  It’s flavorful and more than what you’d expect from buffet food.

Insider tip: Put a little bit of everything on a plate so your kids can see what they like and then go back for more of what they’ll eat!

4. CHILDREN’S ACTIVITIES

During the train ride, your children will have the opportunity to feed pigs, goats, and sheep. You won’t find this at any other Kauai luau! Or maybe any luau in Hawaii!

Staff members cut up lots of bread so your kids can feed the animals as much as they like and kids get such a kick out of it.

There’s also the imu ceremony where they can see the pig lifted out of the underground oven. And families are treated to Hawaiian games, music and dancing in the tropical gardens.

5. INTERMISSION DURING THE LUAU

Intermission offers the perfect break for kids to run to the bathroom. This is essential if you are potty training or have recently potty trained your toddler.

It’s also a great opportunity to leave early if you need to.

Sometimes younger kids just can’t sit still or they are overly tired and it can be stressful. It’s nice having a built-in “out” where you can re-evaluate whether or not to stay.

6. IT’S A KID-FRIENDLY KAUAI LUAU

Even though it’s a theatrical show, families will still see graceful hula dancers, traditional fire knife dancing, fire poi ball exhibition, and dramatic torch lighting.

Your kids will be awed.

Plus, as a Mom of two little kids still adjusting to the time zone, I appreciated that Luau Kalamaku ends earlier than other luaus on Kauai. This show finished at 8:30pm.

Also, since it’s centrally located in Lihue, it’s easy to drive North, South, or East.

How to Book this Kauai Luau:

The easiest way to reserve your luau on Kauai is to book online. They guarantee the lowest price available.

If you are planning on also doing the train ride, you can get tickets when you arrive or can book online directly through Kilohana Plantation.

Kilohana Plantation offered us complimentary train tickets and Luau Kalamaku offered us discounted luau tickets. All opinions are my own.

More Fun Things to Do in Kauai:

Kid-Friendly Guide to the Best Kauai Beaches, Hotels, Activities + More!
Warehouse 3540 on Kauai is a Millennial Mom’s Paradise

What I Pack in my Carry On Backpack When Traveling to Hawaii with Kids
Smith Family Garden Luau: The Best Luau on Kauai for Kids
The Best Shave Ice in Kauai: Top 5 Mouthwatering Spots to Visit

Kauai's Only Luau with a Train Ride is Luau Kalamaku in Lihue, Hawaii.Luau Kalamaku is the best Kauai luau with a train ride and is a fun thing to do in Kauai with kids #bestkauailuau #kauai #hawaii #familytravel #hawaiiwithkids

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.

80 Comments

  1. vivian kwan Reply

    looks like a lot of fun!! hopefully, we’ll get stationed in Hawaii soon!

  2. Looks like you and your toddler had a great time. I’ve only ever been to Hawaii for a short stopover. I hope to get there for a proper look one day.

    • marciecheung Reply

      I hope you get to go over for an extended trip, too!

  3. Luau’s are always one of my favorite parts of visiting Hawaii! This looks like such a fun option for families!

    • marciecheung Reply

      It’s definitely a great activity for families with small children!

  4. Abhinav Singh Reply

    This seems like a perfect vacation for adults and kids alike. I loved the turtle carved out of a wood. I love collecting local crafts during my travel. Mashed potatoes tempt me. Would love to visit this with my family.

  5. This sounds like such a unique experience. I would love to go to Kauai someday and do it. My kids would love it too. And I know that I would enjoy those purple mashed potatoes with coconut milk!

    • marciecheung Reply

      I hope you and your family are able to visit Kauai!

  6. I’m in my 20s and a Moana fan. haha! This is something I would definitely enjoy too! Food looks great as well 🙂

    • marciecheung Reply

      The train ride is just the right length for small children.

  7. Our family has been to Kauai several times, and we love it there. But, I never knew about this train, what a great idea for kids! For a relatively small island, it just shows how much it has to offer. Thanks for the new place to add to our Kauai list!

    • marciecheung Reply

      Traveling with small kids has encouraged me to always check to see if there’s a train ride 🙂 Yes, Kauai has so much!

  8. This place looks perfect for complete family but kids will love it most. My son too loves train rides.

  9. Wow, super fun outing for you and your little ones, Marcie!
    What an experience it would to experience the Kilohana Plantation Railway first hand. Being a heritage enthusiast I would love to get a peek into Kauai’s Hawaiian heritage. Someday, for sure!

    • marciecheung Reply

      Hawaiian culture is alive and well on Kauai! I think you should definitely plan a visit there someday!

  10. Aww, this sounds like so much fun! I need to visit Kauai asap!!

    • marciecheung Reply

      Yes! Kauai seems to change every time I visit.

  11. Renee Smith Reply

    We just got back from Kauai and went to this very Luau. It was beautiful! I didn’t know about the train ride though. Wish I’d seen this post before we went. I know my 4 year old would have loved a train ride.
    Kauai is our favorite island. Can’t wait to go back some day!

    • marciecheung Reply

      I’m glad you enjoyed it as much as we did! You’ll just have to go back soon! You can do the train ride on it’s own throughout the day. Kauai is a gorgeous island!

  12. This train ride seems amazing. Just like a perfect family outing where you ride on train, step down at stops, feed animals, eat and dance. I love Moana too and would love to take this train ride some day.

  13. How fun! My guys totally would have loved this when they were smaller-they will probably love it now too;). We still haven’t been to Kauai but I totally want to visit!

  14. The train ride looks super fun! And the views with animals grazing are stunning. I’ve never heard of this fun train ride for kids so thanks for the suggestion!

  15. Getting a fresh lei and a train ride sounds like fun. The wood carving to watch is wonderful and such talent. Sounds like a day we would totally enjoy.

    • marciecheung Reply

      It’s a really fun way to experience Hawaiian history and culture on Kauai!

    • marciecheung Reply

      Haha! Do it! You can take your mai tai on the train!

  16. This is exactly what I needed to see! The family and I have been to the Big Island, but we were thinking of changing it up and going to Kauai next year instead. We live in the Pacific Northwest, so Hawaii is our closest escape to paradise!

    • marciecheung Reply

      We live in Seattle, so I love that we have so many direct flights to Hawaii! And I’ve heard Southwest is launching direct flights soon, so it may be even cheaper 🙂

    • marciecheung Reply

      I’ve been learning SO much about trains lately 🙂

  17. I don’t know about kids but this seems the sort of activity even I would love going for! The train ride, the views, the food and the luau of course, look absolutely stunning. Thanks for sharing, this is pretty informative!

  18. How great that you’re a professional luau dancer. This train ride seems really entertaining as an adult. And the luau at the end is just a really neat bonus. No wonder your little one has been asking to go back.

  19. Taking a train through the countryside in Hawaii would be so perfect. Beautiful vistas, super relaxing, and looks like there was good food as well. Amazing trip!

    • marciecheung Reply

      It was great to see Kilohana Plantation from a train!

  20. How interesting! Sounds like it was such a great time for you and your family. I love that your children enjoyed the experience with you. Always a plus for a mama.

    • marciecheung Reply

      I thought they’d melt down during the luau, but they were both so engaged!

  21. As if the train ride was not cool enough on its own…the luau at the end looks like a blast! What a great trip!

    • marciecheung Reply

      I hope you can check this one out if you make it to Kauai!

  22. Hawaii is one of the places on my bucket list for sure. I’d love to have the same luau experience as you did! I know the train ride is geared towards kids but I think that would be amazing to try. I love how happy everyone looks!

    • marciecheung Reply

      It’s actually fun for adults, too! Plus, if you’re also doing the luau, you can take your mai tai on the train!

  23. As I was reading your post, I have my nephew on my mind. He would definitely love this kind of adventure. He’s 4 yrs. old by the way,. Like your son, he loves watching theatrical shows and feeding animals.

    • marciecheung Reply

      I’m sure your nephew would love this experience! Sounds right up his alley!

  24. Your trip looks like it was so much fun. I think it was so cute that your 3.5 year old kept nudging about it and that you finally got to go. Annnd that ube potatoes??? Yes puh-lease!

    • marciecheung Reply

      Right? They were soooooo yummy! I’m glad he persuaded me to take him!

  25. Blair villanueva Reply

    That smile on his face – precious!
    Obviously, he had fun riding the train and the performances. I wish to partake too!

  26. Wow, what a great way for the little ones to enjoy a fun filled day trip. Your toddler clearly seems enthralled with the views outside during the train ride. The purple potato mash is something I have never had, sounds pretty interesting.

  27. Kilohana Plantation looks like a magical place. Looks like fun was had by all; the food and the train ride look like the best parts to me:)

    • marciecheung Reply

      It’s a fun place for adults, but truly magical for kids!

  28. Oh this place would be perfect to take my goddaughter and her friends. Have never actually been to that region so it would be a memorable trip. The food looks delicious too!

  29. This looks like an amazing family adventure! I would love to take my kids on something like this. We don’t have a lot of options for train rides here, but if I ever make it to Hawaii, this would be something I’d plan on doing with them.

    • marciecheung Reply

      Train rides are fun for kids of all ages! I hope you’re able to visit Hawaii someday!

  30. Hula dancing and experiences sound interesting. I am sure I will love this train ride too.
    Authentic music sounds amazing. This food platter looks yum. I am sure your kids had a great time.

    • marciecheung Reply

      My kids loved it much more than I anticipated!

  31. Seems like such a unique experience! I would love to attend an authentic luau one day, that’s so cool that you were once a professional luau dancer. Do you think you’ll ever return to it? The food and drinks all look and sound amazing. Purple mashed potatoes? Yum!

    • marciecheung Reply

      I’m taking a bit of a break from hula dancing at the moment, but you never know 🙂

  32. This looks like a fun thing to do, especially with younger children! Would love to check it out 🙂

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