Our First Luau Experience On The Big Island in Hawaii
We were sure glad we had a great luau experience on the Big Island in Hawaii. This was high on our list of experiences for our visit to Hawaii.
On our stay on the Big Island, we booked our luau experience at the resort next door. The luau experience started as the sun set and included a great buffet feast, several dance presentations that provided Hawaiian history lessons and an exciting fire show. It was a perfect evening out.
What Is A Luau
Large feasts (or ahaaina) have been practiced in Hawaii through the generations. Historically, the feasts were just for men. But in 1819, King Kamehameha II finally invited women to eat with the group. At this time the term “luau” was used to represent the feast where the traditional Luau stew made of taro leaves and chicken baked in coconut was served.
Over time and with commercialization, the word “luau” came to represent a gathering meal of food, music, and dancing. Luau’s are big productions in Hawaii and there were a wide variety of shows produced on all of the Hawaiian Islands.
We certainly could not leave without experiencing a luau experience on the Big Island in Hawaii.
Planning To See A Luau At Mauna Kea Beach Resort
When we visited the Big Island in Hawaii, we found a wide variety of different luau experiences. But we were stuck with no car on this visit so our options were a bit limited. There were two choices offered by our resort. After looking at them both, we chose the recommended luau at Hapuna Mauna Kea Resort next door to our stay at the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort.
For the luau at the Hapuna Mauna Kea Resort the show started at sunset. And there were three seating options. We chose Premium Seating that included preferred entry, premier front row seating and a complimentary Mai Tai or Keiki drink. Tickets were available for dinner with no front row seating and also for just the show.
We were picked up from our hotel by shuttle and taken to the Hapuna Mauna Kea Resort. Even though we arrived before the doors opened at 5:30, there was a long line already formed for both premium and regular seating.
Once we were checked in, we were assigned to a table, handed a Mai Tai drink and issued a flower lei or Kukui Nut necklace. We found our table in the front and close to the centre of the stage. Our seats were back along the table a bit but it was a good spot to enjoy the festivities. We were all ready for our luau experience on the Big Island in Hawaii.
A Sunset Welcome
The band played background music while we waited. Once most people were seated, we heard the initial conch call to start the ceremony. The narrator came on stage and talked a bit about the evening schedule. She provided some history of the luau at this site and in Hawaii. At that time, we also learned a little about the traditional hula dance. Each step of the dance told a story.
We were all invited to head outside to the pit where the traditional kalua pig was cooked. The pig was wrapped in banana leaves and placed on hot rocks in the underground imu oven. The pig was cooked for several hours until it was smoky, juicy and so tender it fell off the bone.
We watched as the pig was dug out of the sand. As the sand was removed we felt the heat from the pit. When the pig was unwrapped it was placed on a platter and moved to the buffet table.
We enjoyed a magical moment watching the sunset on the horizon before we joined the crowd back at our seats. It was time to continue our luau experience on the Big Island in Hawaii.
A Luau Experience On The Big Island in Hawaii With A Tasty Buffet
While we waited for dinner to start, we had an appetizer served at the table. Drink refills could be ordered right at the table if you wanted more than your first free Mai Tai.
We were called to the buffet by table number. Two different sets of tables were accessible from both sides. So it went far quicker than expected for everyone to get food.
We found a great selection of cold foods and salads including a mound of chilled shrimp. The local purple potatoes were served. For meat we found tender beef, smoked turkey, a variety of fish dishes and the roasted pig. A second trip to the buffet got us a wide selection of desserts – with both caramel and chocolate choices for David and me.
Once everyone had moved to dessert, the show commenced. We were ready for our luau experience on the Big Island in Hawaii to begin.
Hawaiian History In Dance
A series of stories were told by a “chanter” and the main characters about the history of the Hawaiian Islands. We learned much as the story was presented.
We learned that between 1000-1200 AD the Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands travelled to Hawaii’s Big Island in canoes. Pele was one of the most powerful deities. It was said she journeyed on her canoe from Tahiti to Hawaii after seducing the husband of her older sister Nāmaka, the goddess of the sea. Her sister chased after her to Hawaii.
As Pele moved between different islands in Hawaii, she used her pa’oa (or o’o) stick to dig out fire pits which created the magnificent volcanic craters. She created the stunning volcano of Haleakala which we saw up close when we visited Maui. The volcanic activity in Maui drew Nāmaka. Pele was torn apart by her sister. It was said her bones formed a hill on Kilauea in Maui and her spirit moved on to the Island of Hawaii.
Pele’s fiery temper and death resulted in her becoming the goddess of volcanoes, fire, and lightning. The frequent eruptions at Kilauea’s Caldera remain a constant reminder of Pele’s presence. Many people still put offerings out to appease Pele.
We learned a lot on our luau experience on the Big Island in Hawaii.
Learning More About Hula Dancing
The demonstrations early in the night showed us the original hula dance. But when the main show started after dark, we were told that no photography or video was allowed. So we cannot share some of the images from this main part of the show.
Originally, the Hula dance was developed as part of the religious traditions of the Pacific Islands. The full name of the traditional form was Hula Kahiko and it was used to honour and entertain the chiefs when they traveled from place to place. Hula Kahiko does not use modern instruments like the ukulele or guitar. Instead, it used rhythm sticks, gourds carved into drums and rattles, or bamboo sticks cut and slapped together.
The show went on to talk about the changes in Hula dancing through time. With the arrival of mass travel tourism on the islands, the Hula dance changed (hula ‘auana). Hula become more entertainment and the songs started to include English words. Popular tunes like “My Little Grass Shack” and “Blue Hawai`i” came in the Hollywood era. The traditional form of hula was combined with western influences like melodic harmonies and morality tales. String instruments like the ukulele, steel guitars and bass guitars often accompanied the performers.
After the hula show, the house lights came up and the dancers posed on the stage so we could take some pictures. The hula show was fun entertainment on our luau experience on the Big Island in Hawaii.
An Amazing Fire Dance Show
When we researched luau shows, we learned that not all included fire shows. We loved the fire shows we first saw at the summer festivals at home in Toronto. Since a fire show was something we wanted to see, we were happy when we learned this was part of the Hapuna Mauna Koa Resort luau.
Poi dancing originated in the South Pacific Island of Samoa. It was originally a war dance and no fire was involved. Fire was introduced to the dance for added excitement at luaus. And it was thought that purification through fire ensured Good triumphed over Evil.
We were introduced to the fire dancer from Samoa. He moved quickly as he flung the fire sticks around and danced. When he finished his first show, the audiences loud chanting brought him back on stage for an encore.
The fire show was an exciting part of our luau experience on the Big Island in Hawaii. We have great memories but no photos!
Hawaiian Words We Learned
Throughout the show we were taught some Hawaiian words. Many we already knew. But it was a good review of some key words we needed as a starting base.
|Aloha||Hello, goodbye and love – generally used as a greeting|
|E komo mai||Welcome|
|A hui hou||Until the next time we meet|
|Ohana||Family – restaurant meals might be served ohana-style (family-style)|
|Keiki||Child or children – restaurants might have keiki menus or activities for children|
|Kapu||Forbidden and/or keep out|
We Were Glad We Enjoyed A Luau Experience On The Big Island in Hawaii
When we left the luau site we walked around the resort and were drawn when we saw lights on the water. Two groups floated face down in a circle in the water. They watched the manta rays below the surface. We were sad that SCUBA diving amongst the manta was one thing we missed on our stay on the Big Island.
We really enjoyed our luau experience on the Big Island in Hawaii. We watched the sunset as the luau started. The buffet feast provided some local specialties. Through a series of interesting dances, we learned about Hawaiian history. The fire show at the end of the luau experience was a perfect finish. We were so glad we did not miss a chance to experience this luau show.
Did you have a luau experience on the Big Island in Hawaii? Did we miss a key part of this iconic celebration?
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