best luau in waikiki

The Best Luau in Waikiki: Experience Authentic Hawaiian Culture

From The

Updated: June 1, 2024

Luaus (lūʻau in Hawaiian) are an enchanting celebration of Hawaiian culture, entertainment, and delicious food, all rolled into one. And it’s an indisputable fact: you can’t vacation in Hawaii without attending one – a luau is your chance to connect with traditional culture and experience hula dancers, lei greetings, and delicious Hawaiian food.

Now to be fair, your luau options in Waikiki are somewhat limited – there are really only a few choices. But with that being said, the luaus in Waikiki are not only convenient if you’re staying in the area, they are also superb. The food, view, venue, and entertainment are all absolutely excellent.

Before we start, we’d also recommend calling the reservation numbers below to ask about booking a seat in advance. Everything on the island is pretty crowded right now, and seats for luaus are often fully sold out weeks to months in advance.

Anyhow, let’s get our kukui nuts cracking, and go over our picks for the best luau in Waikiki.

Top Picks for the Best and Most Authentic Waikiki Luau

#1 ‘Aha’aina, A Royal Hawaiian Luau

‘Aha ‘aina means “a gathering meal” in Hawaiian, and this authentic luau has the most iconic backdrop and setting out of any in Hawaii. Sunset happens a little after your evening begins, so anticipate soaking in breathtaking views of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head, all with the backdrop of the world-famous Royal Hawaiian hotel behind you.

What to Expect 

This traditional luau serves a gourmet three-course meal filled with traditional Hawaiian food like kalua pig, tropical cocktails, and a decadent dessert. True to Hawaiian style, the portions are huge, so be sure to arrive hungry!

The Royal Hawaiian luau performance itself is exhilarating, and pays tribute to Helumoa, the ancient royal playground that historically occupied the land where the resort now stands. It also includes a reenactment of the history of Hawaii, starting with Kamehameha I. The production value is excellent, and the hula dance and storytelling is nothing short of marvelous.

‘Aha ‘aina sets the bar for what a beachfront luau should be like, and, in our opinion, is a stand-out as the most authentic luau in Waikiki.

Best Features

  • Most authentic Hawaiian luau
  • Amazing oceanfront location at The Royal Hawaiian Hotel
  • Spectacular performance and entertainment
  • Delicious gourmet meal

So-So Features

  • Slightly pricier than other options
  • Shows are only on Monday and Thursday nights

#2 Waikiki Starlight Luau

  • Location: The Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel in Waikiki
  • Hours: Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri, and Sun evenings
  • Reservations and Information: (808) 931-8007
  • Price: $$$$

The Waikiki Starlight Luau is in the Hilton Hawaiian Village. It’s nestled against the water’s edge, and is our next pick for luaus in the Waikiki area.

This would be our recommendation if you’re looking for an outdoor venue and really want to see some awesome fire knife dancing.

What to Expect 

This Oahu luau provides grand entertainment, including live songs and music, traditional hula dancing, fire dancing, and multi-cultural performances of Pacific, Polynesia, and Hawaii entertainers. You’ll also get to enjoy the famous show called Voyage Across the South Seas.

People tend to line up for the luau a lot earlier than you’d think, so our recommendation is to get there as early as possible so you can relax on the inside instead of waiting in line.

Best Features

  • Award-winning fire knife dancer
  • Outdoor venue with ocean backdrop
  • Serves traditional Hawaiian dishes

So-So Features

  • Food is OK
  • Short performance times for somewhat high-ticket prices

#3 Moani Waikiki

  • Location: International Marketplace
  • Hours: nightly
  • Reservations and Information: (808) 931-8007
  • Price: $$$

If you want to experience a modern take on a traditional Hawaiian luau (we use the word ‘luau’ loosely here), the Moani—located in the heart of Waikiki—is a great choice.

This would be our recommendation if you place a higher emphasis on the food rather than traditional luau performances.

The Moani pays homage to traditional Hawaiian and Polynesian culture with a slight twist, thanks to its friendly atmosphere and live music venue. It’s a fabulous place to relax with friends while enjoying a delicious meal and a live show.

What to Expect

Instead of sitting on the beach, you’ll be in a restaurant and music performance venue that features some of Hawaii’s premier artists and bands.

You can expect traditional Hawaiian dishes and ‘ono (delicious) cuisine with a modern fusion twist. The delicious menu includes braised pork shank, Kohala mountain sunfish, miso garlic butterfish, pork belly, and more.

Best Features

  • Insanely delicious food
  • Friendly, island-style atmosphere
  • Awesome local music

So-So Features

  • Not a traditional Hawaiian luau experience by any means

#4 Diamond Head Luau (temporarily closed)

  • Location: Waikiki Aquarium in Waikiki, Oahu
  • Hours: n/a
  • Reservations and Information: (808) 931-8007
  • Price: $$$$

The Diamond Head Luau offers authentic farm-to-table Hawaiian cuisine framed with a stunning backdrop of the iconic Diamond Head Crater.

It’s right on the beach at Waikiki Aquarium, and all guests receive complimentary aquarium admission.

What to Expect

The Diamond Head is jam-packed with everything you could ever want from an authentic luau. Prepare yourself for an enchanting time filled with hula lessons, fire knife dancers, live music, ukulele lessons, even basket weaving.

It’s the perfect way to experience authentic Hawaiian culture. Don’t forget about the exotic foods, including delicious fresh fruit, classic Hawaiian dishes, and modern fusions.

Best Features

  • Low-key, private setting
  • Incredible scenic views
  • Farm-to-table cuisine
  • Free Aquarium admission with all packages

So-So Features

  • Smaller-scale production
  • Dinner packages are pricey for the amount of food you get

What Kind of Food Should You Anticipate at a Luau Buffet?

  • A traditional luau dinner buffet will often feature these popular dishes:
  • Poi – made from the native Hawaiian taro root, which is pounded to a smooth consistency.
  • (Kālua) Kalua Pork – Kālua means “from the pit,” so basically food cooked in an underground oven (called an imu  – there might even be an imu ceremony to bless the food). The pig is cooked in this manner and then shredded, and has a rich, smoky flavor.
  • Laulau – pork and butterfish wapped in lu’au leaves and steamed.
  • Poke – cubes of raw fish, often marinated with soy sauce, sesame oil, and limu (seaweed).
  • Haupia – A Hawaiian dessert made from coconut milk, and has a jello-like consistency.

In Closing: Best Luau in Waikiki

If you’re looking for the best Hawaiian luau experience in Waikiki, you can’t go wrong with any of the above picks. Hawaii is an incredible tropical paradise, and experiencing a luau is a must-do for every vacationer.

But if you’re looking for the most authentic luau, we’d have to recommend ‘Aha ‘aina.

With amazing ocean views, mesmerizing hula dances, traditional song and dance, gourmet Hawaiian cuisine, and the chance to learn about traditional Polynesian culture, luaus offer the experience of a lifetime. Whether you’re going to a Waikiki luau or maybe even an Oahu luau, expect to be completely wowed!

And if you’re planning a Waikiki vacation, check out our post on the best time to visit Hawaii.