best luau in Oahu, hula dancer silhouette at sunset

Best Luau in Oahu: 5 Top Authentic Picks

From The

Updated: May 1, 2024

When you’re planning a trip to Hawaii, you probably have questions about where to stay, what to pack, and how much sightseeing you can fit into your getaway. Whatever you plan on doing, we recommend putting attending a luau (lūʻau in Hawaiian) on your to-do list.

But how do you know where to find the best luau in Oahu? Keep reading for our top picks! We’ll leave your hula lesson to the experts.

Dine Like Royalty at This Top Oahu Luau

‘Aha’aina, A Royal Hawaiian Luau

When searching for luaus on Oahu, get a taste of the royal treatment at The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, a Luxury Collection Resort. This stunning property, an excellent hotel choice for couples visiting Waikiki, combines a historical vibe with modern luxuries.

Since the hotel’s land holds special traditional (some even say supernatural) significance to the Hawaiian people, the Royal Hawaiian’s luau celebrates and shares the culture in high style, offering tribute to the royal spot of Helumoa.

The resort calls such festivities ‘Aha‘aina, a word meaning “coming together to dine.” This top luau in Waikiki, Oahu offers so much more than culinary treats.

The extravaganza features an oceanfront dinner and drinks (including alcoholic beverages). ‘Aha‘aina also provides a Kukui nut lei greeting, music, and traditional entertainment designed to make guests feel like a majestic part of the family.

At the Royal Hawaiian, you’ll learn about long-treasured Waikiki activities like making cloth from bark, caring for fishing gear, and pounding poi. If you weren’t hungry when you arrived, this journey into the past will give you time to work up an appetite.

The legendary Royal Hawaiian luau continues with a vibrant performance that entertains while serving as a tribute to the area’s rich traditions. The celebration of Hawaiian and Polynesian culture includes live music, Hawaiian hula dancing, and Tahitian Ori.

‘Aha‘aina, the premium Royal Hawaiian luau, takes place with Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head as the backdrop for your celebration. Since the property sits within walking distance of most area hotels, the Waikiki Beach location is as convenient as it is beautiful.

The ‘Aha‘aina luau features a choice of two dinner packages. There is a standard dinner, and a premium dinner show option. Both offer discounts for children and toddlers.

Both plans feature full table service. The difference between the two packages is that the premium selection provides an upgraded lei greeting and seating nearest the stage for the best views of the entertainment.

The Royal Hawaiian hotel holds ‘Aha‘aina on Mondays and Thursdays. Allow three hours for the full experience. Make sure you book your luau ticket early so you don’t miss out on your seat at the best Hawaiian luau.

Check Out Our Honorable Mentions for the Best Luau Oahu Has to Offer

If you can’t get a spot at the Royal Hawaiian luau or your schedules don’t match up, don’t worry. When you want to enjoy a fabulous luau, Oahu offers plenty of great choices.

Check out our honorable mentions for the best Hawaiian luau and get ready to enjoy delicious food and cultural activities at other luaus on Oahu.

Chief’s Luau

If you want your luau experience to provide a combination of delicious food and spectacular Polynesian entertainment, Chief’s Luau has a table for you. From the lei greeting to the fire dance, you’ll enjoy unforgettable food and fun.

When you arrive, you become part of the family—or “ohana” in the local lingo. After the traditional lei greeting, you’ll get hands-on experience with authentic crafts and activities. Take hula lessons or try your hand at coconut headband weaving.

For the more adventurous, you can learn spear throwing or fire building.

Are you starting to get hungry? Dinner’s almost ready. Before the feast, you’ll enjoy the imu ceremony. The imu is an underground oven for steaming kalua pork, a traditional dish, using a system of hot coals, leaves, and cloth.

The ceremony involves removing the layers from the ancient steam cooker to reveal the slow-cooked meat before it’s shredded and served. 

The ceremonial portion of the luau continues with the ava ceremony. During this tradition, guests mark a special occasion and celebrate unity by sharing a beverage.

Dinner features a mix of traditional Hawaiian dishes and regional favorites. You’ll feast on items including lomi lomi salmon, chicken in pineapple BBQ sauce, island greens, steamed rice, and sauteed vegetables, all prepared with a dash of Hawaiian flair.

The menu also offers traditional favorites like kalua pork, taro rolls, and poi, so don’t hesitate to fill your plate. The sumptuous meal at Chief’s Luau is all you can eat. Try to save room for dessert. The luau also offers tropical cocktails and soft drinks to quench your thirst.

The festivities continue after dinner with Chief Sielu. The Chief, who also goes by the nickname “Coconut Man,” has captured media attention around the world for his champion fire knife dancing and comedic talents. The show blends traditional music and dance of the Polynesian islands with daring tests of skill.

Package options include the Paradise Experience at $155 for adults over 21 and $135 for youth 13 to 20. The Royal Experience runs $195 for those over 21 and $165 for youth 13 to 20. The royal upgrade comes with a fresh flower lei, Mai Tai greeting, better seating, and a souvenir gift.

Be sure to budget three-plus hours in your schedule for this fantastic celebration of food and performances. You can drive on your own, take a rideshare, or hop on the Chief’s Luau motor coach at one of seven locations in Waikiki. No matter how you get there, it’s worth the trip.

Paradise Cove Luau

No matter when you plan your trip to Hawaii, we suggest you allow yourself to spend some time in Paradise. Set on the west coast of Oahu, the Paradise Cove luau delivers a festive mix of food, arts, crafts, and entertainment that will create long-lasting memories.

Allow yourself to be transported to another world as soon as you arrive at Paradise Cove’s breathtaking property spanning 12 acres and boasting an incredible oceanfront view from the Ko Olina Resort.

You may be tempted to stand and gaze in wonder. That’s fine, but take some time to indulge in on-site activities, too.

When you arrive, you’ll hear the sounds of traditional Hawaiian music in the air. You won’t be here long before the staff welcomes you with a shell lei greeting, flower lei greeting, or kukui nut greeting.

You’ll begin your authentic luau in the Hawaiian Village, where you can enjoy browsing or try your hand at some authentic Hawaiian crafts.

If you want something a little more active than arts and crafts, you can test your athletic prowess with some traditional Hawaiian sports. In the game of ‘O‘o ihe, you stand 15 feet away from a target and try to hit it with a spear. ‘Ulu maika involves rolling stone disks that are similar to hockey pucks. In Moa pahe’e, you’ll test your talents at using two stakes to slide a wooden dart through a course.

Once you give spear throwing and some other games a shot, you can enjoy the magical shower of flowers. In this lovely tradition, nimble members of the Paradise Cove family known as tree climbers head to the tops of palm trees to rain flower petals down on the crowd.

The Paradise Cove luau has a few more traditions to share with you before you sit down to dine. Join in the net fishing techniques of the hukilau ceremony with Hawaiian chants and sounds of the conch shell setting the pace. The imu ceremony offers a glimpse into the past, revealing the custom of cooking with an oven dug into the earth.

Now you get to relax and indulge. Dine on items from Paradise Cove’s impressive menu, which offers a variety of authentic Hawaiian tastes and continental favorites. Top off your feast with a complimentary Mai Tai punch (available in alcoholic or non-alcoholic options), or choose another drink from the bar.

The sunset puts on an incredible show, but Paradise Cove’s talented hula dancers and fire dancers give Mother Nature a run for her money. Traditional music and Polynesian dances provide the perfect ending to your Paradise Cove experience.

Paradise Cove luau offers three packages: the Hawaiian luau at $125, orchid luau at $150, or deluxe luau at $210 per adult, with youth and child discounts available. The deluxe package provides a top-shelf experience with premium seating, table service, and a souvenir photo and gift. Catch a ride to the property from a variety of locations in Waikiki for an additional $35.

Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to revel in the full luau experience at Paradise Cove. With all of the activities, ceremonies, and fabulous food, you’ll most likely need more than five hours to spare.

Nutridge Luau

So many luaus in Oahu pride themselves on pageantry and showmanship. If you appreciate lower-key fare, you don’t have to pass up this traditional part of Hawaiian culture. The Nutridge luau treats you to a taste of Hawaiian culture based on the local way of life as opposed to splashy production values.

Hawaii doesn’t lack beautiful settings, but the Nutridge Estate location is truly spectacular. You’ll be on top of the world, sitting higher than the Tantalus Lookout.

Part of Puʻu ʻUalakaʻa Wayside Park, the Nutridge property formerly served as a spot to farm macadamia nuts. Now the estate offers one of Oahu’s most special luau opportunities. When you arrive at the estate, you’ll be a guest, but in a matter of minutes, you’ll be treated like a member of the family.

Ads and reviews of the Nutridge Luau often refer to the event as small or intimate. That’s true, but don’t believe that the luau is lacking. You’ll be more of a participant than an audience member.

Nutridge intentionally limits the guest list, so you won’t find a crowd of hundreds at the area’s most authentic luau.

Instead of watching the reveal of the kalua pig at the imu ceremony as you would at other luaus on Oahu, you’ll help create the imu. When you do sit back to relax and enjoy the entertainment, you won’t find a bad spot in the house. Every seat provides a perfect view.

Nutridge Luau features farm-to-table fare with an authentic local flavor that combines the tastes of a variety of foods brought to Hawaii by immigrants. The menu typically features kalua pua‘a (pulled pork), pulehu chicken, mini lau lau (pork and fish wrapped in leaves and steamed), sweet rolls, rice, fresh greens, and dessert.

You’ll also have a choice of alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks.

Far from the big, bold vibe of many of the more commercial attractions, your time at Nutridge will feel like hanging out in the back yard with family and friends.

Nutridge offers a simple luau ticket structure: $159 for adults, $120 for youth (ages 13-20), and $100 for children (ages 4-12). Infants (3 and under) are free. You can choose to add round-trip transportation for $18 per person.

Hosts at the estate recommend you wear comfortable clothes and shoes as you may walk some hills. You’ll even get a chance to stroll through a rainforest. Nutridge offers alternate arrangements for guests with mobility issues.

You won’t want to rush through Oahu’s most authentic luau, so be sure to allow 4+ hours in your schedule, giving you plenty of time to relax and enjoy the Nutridge way of life.

Polynesian Cultural Center Luau

If you have been looking into the best luaus for your Hawaii trip, you may have noticed that food represents just one part of the traditional luau. When you visit the Polynesian Cultural Center, prepare yourself for a full-day event spread out over 42 acres of land on Oahu’s North Shore.

The spectacular property serves as a must-see destination for anyone who wants to have some fun while taking a deep dive into the mix of cultures that make up Hawaii. You can stamp your passport on your Hawaiian village tour of six areas representing the Pacific islands of Aotearoa, Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga, and, of course, Hawaii.

Each village offers a unique mix of sightseeing, demonstrations, and hands-on cultural activities. Take hula lessons or ukulele lessons, marvel at a Maori war dance, make coconut oil, give a fire knife a spin, witness a wedding ceremony, and paddle a canoe. Laugh and learn as you have a world of fun throughout the day.

If shopping is one of your favorite activities, you’ll find more than a gift shop at the Polynesian Cultural Center. The Hukilau Marketplace offers an array of shops with souvenir trinkets, home goods, handcrafted art pieces, island clothing, fine jewelry, and more.

After a day full of sights and sounds, you’ll be ready for the Polynesian Cultural Center luau. (You will notice options for snacks and sweets throughout the property during the day.)

The Ali’i Luau Buffet offers a sumptuous, all-you-can-eat feast of authentic island favorites, a fresh poke bar, and even vegan entrees. Be sure to save some room for delicious desserts. Dinner entertainment includes the Royal Court procession, plus traditional music and dance performances.

The Gateway Buffet offers traditional Hawaiian food with other meat, seafood, and vegetable items that will appeal to a range of tastes. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll have an array of post-dinner choices. Polynesian song enhances your island dinner setting.

Both the Ali’i Luau and the Gateway Buffet offer a variety of soft drinks, tea, and coffee. You won’t find any alcoholic beverages at the Polynesian Cultural Center luau.

While you’re there, be sure to take in the spectacular Polynesian show “Ha: Breath of Life.” This is the only luau on our list with a theatrical production of such majestic scale. Share in the tale of Mana and Lani, complete with song, dance, fire knives, and magical special effects.

The Polynesian Cultural Center offers a variety of package options. The Super Ambassador Luau at $242.95 (adults) and $194.36 (children 4-11) includes premium perks like a guided tour through the Hawaiian Villages and platinum seating for “Ha: Breath of Life.”

If you’re looking to save on costs, the Ali’i Luau and Gateway Buffet packages provide full-day experiences at slightly lower prices.

If you’d like to experience the Hawaiian Villages and the “Ha: Breath of Life” performance without a dinner buffet, you can purchase a package without dinner and grab food on your tour. Shuttle service is available at an additional cost.

The Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu’s North Shore provides a full day of fun and cultural activities, so make sure you schedule plenty of time for this adventure on your trip.

Thank you for joining us on our run-down of top-notch luau experiences. We hope you get to try one (or more) and agree with our choices for the best luaus in Oahu.