I was of two minds about going to a luau before leaving on our trip to Oahu as I had visions of Fred Flintstone asking me to “pass the poi” and fat tourists in grass skirts and coconut bras. While I wouldn’t mind hanging out with Fred, no way am I going to wear a coconut bra!
Even so, I thought I had to go to a luau at least once, so Paul and I booked a reservation at the Royal Hawaiian’s Royal Luau. They call their luau a Aha ‘Aina, which translates to a gathering for a meal. In this case, it’s an oceanfront, sit-down dinner show based on Waikiki’s history. It covers the unification of the Hawaiian islands by King Kamehameha, the fall of the Hawaiian royals, World War II, the ‘60s surf era, and a celebration of contemporary Polynesian culture. (If you’re interested in learning more about Hawaiian and Polynesian history, make sure to visit the Bishop Museum, too!)
The Aha ‘Aina is held every Monday evening on The Royal Hawaiian’s Ocean Lawn, so you can enjoy a backdrop of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head. As you enter the area, you’re given leis and a tropical drink. You find your table, sit down, and introduce yourself to your neighbors. (Ours were a young, charming Air Force couple who were on vacation between deployments.) Then, you can walk around the grounds and observe native young men and women demonstrating traditional activities, such as bark cloth making, pounding poi, and repairing fishing tools.
Guests are then called to a sit-down dinner with the sound of a pu or conch. Then, the storyteller shares the significance of lei giving, the ocean, and taro while you dine. Starters were Poi and Lomi Lomi Salmon and Kalua Pig, followed by a Portuguese Bean Soup and Big Island Greens and Poke Salad of ahi, tako (octopus), shrimp, edamame (soy) beans, salad greens, and Ho Farm’s colored tomatoes served with a wasabi vinaigrette.
The main course was Sake Braised Short Ribs, Ha-ma-kua Oyster Mushrooms with Kona Lobster Tail, with Bridge Farm Scallion Potato Mash and Braised Sugarfarm Bok Choy. For dessert, we were served the Royal Hawaiian Signature Pink Haupia Cake with toasted coconut, mango guava, and Liliko‘i puree. Everything was elegantly served and delicious, though the portions were on the small side.
There was also an open bar throughout the Aha ‘Aina, which served mixed drinks, wine, beer, and every tropical drink you could imagine. You could also order coffee (which was excellent at the Royal Hawaiian) with dessert.
After dinner, the performance featured traditional and contemporary music, Hawaiian and Polynesian dancing, ukulele playing, and a fire and knife dance by a huge, rather intimidating (but handsome) Samoan man. Your parting gift was Hawaiian-harvested salt (and another mixed drink from the bar if you were quick about it). Afterwards, the evening’s performers were available for photographs and questions.
Dates and Times: Every Monday evening from 5:30 – 9 p.m.
Price: $169 Adult, $97 Child (5 – 12 years), nominal seat-only charge for children under 5 years.
Resort Guest Price: $159 Adult, $89 Child (5 – 12 years), nominal seat-only charge for children under 5 years.
There’s an additional charge for premium seating by the front of the stage. Also, rates are exclusive of tax, but inclusive of gratuity, of which a portion is allocated to pay for various expenses other than the wages and tips of their employees.
The Royal Hawaiian
2259 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu, HI 96815