“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.
May contain affiliate links.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.
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.
Want a Hawaii travel guide? I’ve got detailed guides and 7-day itineraries!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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?
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.
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.
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.
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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.)
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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