Aha Aina luau at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, showing one female hula dancer and two male hula dancers
Aha Aina luau at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, showing one female hula dancer and two male hula dancers

Aha’aina, a Royal Hawaiian Lūʻau

A Royal Hawaiian Luau, Aha’aina

Hawaii is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the U.S., thanks to its vibrant culture and rich traditions. But nothing showcases the exotic majesty of the island culture like Aha’aina, a Royal Hawaiian luau.

Join us as we dive into this traditional celebration and explore what makes it unique.

In this article, you’ll learn about Aha’aina and what it means to Hawaiian culture. We’ll cover a wide variety of questions, such as:

  • What is an island luau?
  • What makes aha’aina special?
  • What can you expect during aha’aina?

What Is a Luau?

Thousands of tourists flock to Hawaii each year to enjoy a hard-earned getaway. Some go with an open schedule and few plans, but most bring a checklist of things they want to do. One of those line items is often to attend one of the many luaus in Waikiki or anywhere on Oahu.

We’ve all heard of luaus, but what are they exactly? A luau is a traditional Hawaiian feast that usually includes food, alcoholic beverages like mai tais, and entertainment. It’s a way to celebrate some of life’s most significant moments, grand Royal Hawaiian style.

The word lu’au is a Hawaiian word that refers to the taro plant’s leaves. During such a feast, cooks wrap the food in these green taro leaves before placing it in the imu (underground oven).

People have called traditional Hawaiian celebrations luaus ever since the mid-1800s. Luaus aren’t only fun opportunities to hang out with friends or family—they give insight into the land’s majestic history through a time-honored tradition.

Each luau differs slightly from the next and has specific components according to ancient Hawaiian customs. You’ll want to participate the right way, coming with the right mindset and wearing appropriate luau clothing.


Overview of the Aha’aina Luau

The aha’aina (or, sometimes, Aha Aina) is a specific type of luau you can attend while enjoying your stay at Waikiki Beach. This Royal Hawaiian luau offers a glimpse into Hawaii’s age-old customs and a chance to experience local cuisine and entertainment.

Historically, aha’aina was a way to celebrate the following occasions:

  • Weddings
  • Births
  • Victories in battle
  • Plentiful harvests

In Hawaiian, the word aha’aina means “gathering for a meal”—the heart of this royal celebration. A modern interpretation of aha’aina includes plenty of food, chants, dances, and stories to honor Hawaii’s unique history.

You can experience it all from cocktail seating on sacred luau grounds when you visit The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort near Waikiki Beach.


What To Expect During the Aha’aina

The Royal Hawaiian Hotel pays homage to Hawaiian royalty and their sacred luau grounds with an aha’aina every Monday and Thursday evening.

In addition to experiencing the cultural tradition like never before, you can expect spectacular views from the Ocean Lawn as the sun sets behind the waves. The aha’aina at Waikiki Beach takes place with a buffet dinner and world-class performances.

aha’aina isn’t a particular type of royal celebration, performance, or feast—it’s all three of those things rolled into one unforgettable event. The Royal Hawaiian ritual lasts about three hours and consists of three main parts or acts.


Act I: Welcome and Introduction

The evening festivities begin a little after 5 p.m. with a welcome and introduction to ancient Waikiki. You’ll have your own seat and get acquainted with Hawaiian culture during this first act.

You’ll also get a chance to participate in various Hawaiian activities, including:

  • The lost art of kapa making, a type of cloth produced by pounding bark
  • Poi pounding, a classic luau food that involves boiling taro plant roots
  • Na lawai’a, or taking care of fishing tools 


Act II: Gourmet Dinner and Stories

Around 6 p.m., you’ll proceed to the second component of aha’aina: the royal feast. This three-course dinner consists of traditional Polynesian delicacies fit for a king, and you can enjoy them all without ever leaving your own seat.

You’ll also get to hear stories about Hawaii, receive the famous lei greeting, and learn the captivating history of the land where The Royal Hawaiian Hotel stands (known by the ancient name of Helumoa).


Act III: Climax and Conclusion

At 7 p.m., visitors experience the climax and mesmerizing conclusion to the Helumoa story. You’ll have premium seating to some breathtaking dances and dramatic performances, retelling how people first came to old Hawaii across the sea.

aha’aina concludes with the awe-inspiring Samoan siva afi, or fire knife dance. When the luau finishes and you pay your cocktail seating checks, getting back to your hotel isn’t a problem.

The Royal Hawaiian Hotel stands a convenient distance away from most of the popular weekend accommodations near Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head. You can even walk back to your place and enjoy the cooler temperatures and after-dark sights.


Aha’aina Luau Highlights

When it comes to Hawaiian traditions and must-have experiences, nothing quite compares to The Royal Hawaiian aha’aina. You can encounter Waikiki’s one-of-a-kind customs and history in one action-packed evening with premium seating.

Experience Hawaii on a whole new level and create memories that will last a lifetime!

Part of what makes aha’aina a royal celebration is its perfect beachfront location. The Royal Hawaiian is a five-star luxury hotel, also known as the Pink Palace of the Pacific.

You can participate in the aha’aina luau from the Ocean Lawn, overlooking postcard-worthy vistas of Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach.

Another reason aha’aina is the best luau is because of the food. You can experience poi pounding, kapa making, mai tais, mushroom poke at a poke station, and food from local places like Ja Farms and Ho Farms at your own seat.

The chants and dances are another spectacular part of aha’aina.


Aha’aina Chants

Throughout the aha’aina luau, you’ll hear many different chants and songs. aha’aina isn’t just a time to feast at oceanfront tables—it’s a time to remember the legends and history of the Hawaiian Islands.

The chants bring these stories to life in a way that written accounts cannot.

Commercial luaus like those at the Pink Palace have a much greater entertainment factor than other luaus throughout Polynesia.

Traditionally, these events would celebrate a special occasion and act more like a wedding ceremony than a wedding reception. Modern luaus provide an exciting, festival-type experience that draws in people from all walks of life.


Aha’aina Dances

Another key component of The Royal Hawaiian aha’aina is the traditional dances. Along with the chants and songs, the dances retell the ancient stories and fascinating history of old Hawaii in dramatic fashion.

Chants and songs tell these legends, but dances show them.

Hawaiian legends include tales of over 40,000 gods and goddesses. Each god and goddess has a specific function and governs every facet of life on the islands, including:

  • War and peace
  • Agriculture and hunting
  • Family and fertility
  • Ocean and winds
  • Fire and volcanoes
  • Dance

Laka is the goddess of dance, and Hawaiians honor her through the hula.

Hula has many intricate movements, each with a special meaning that portrays a different part of the legends, and you must ask permission and blessing from Laka before performing it.

The chants that accompany this dance and tell a story are known as mele hula.


Aha’aina Luau Menu

What comes to mind when you think of giant celebrations and huge parties to commemorate special events?

One of the first things you think of is probably food. Eating together is an essential part of momentous occasions throughout the world, including in Hawaii.

aha’aina wouldn’t be the same without its gourmet dinner. The Royal Hawaiian luau includes an incredible variety of local cuisine brought to your own seat at this perfect beachfront location.

You can break down the menu into three primary parts with their own unique dishes.


First Plate

The first plate starts with aha’aina luau menu poi, a staple of Royal Hawaiian parties. Poi comes from the taro plant, which early settlers brought to Hawaii and frequently ate.

Cooks will mash the cooked plant material with water and allow it to ferment to differing degrees, adjusting the taste as desired.

The Pink Palace aha’aina menu includes these other dishes on the first plate:

  • Kimchi seafood salad with sweet onions and cucumbers
  • Fresh salted salmon
  • Local mixed greens, including Mari’s Farm seasonal lettuce and Maui’s watermelon radish
  • Island fruits, such as Dole sliced pineapple, Kula strawberries, and Ho Farms tomatoes
  • Yukon gold potato salad with Maui onion, parsley, and mustard


Second Plate

Kalua pork is a classic Hawaiian dish and one of the most important aspects of the royal celebration. One must dig an imu and stoke it with the right kind of wood (preferably mesquite), piling on lava rocks after the fire starts.

Royal Hawaiian cooks take great care in preparing the pig for roasting and use lots of different materials like banana leaves, ti leaves, and sand to bring out the flavor.

Cooking kalua pork for a traditional luau takes eight to nine hours. The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort Waikiki, serves this during the second plate, along with:

  • House-made seasoned pickles
  • Misoyaki salmon, flame seared with miso marinade
  • Local island chicken
  • Kahuku corn, including locally farmed sweet corn with garlic butter
  • Ja Farms rice steamed with aromatics



After the second plate, you can enjoy sweet treats like local-style Haupia pudding. Haupia is a popular dessert you’ll find throughout Hawaii, especially at luaus and other festive get-togethers.

This coconut milk-based snack goes well with many other desserts, such as Royal Hawaiian bread pudding and pink Haupia cake.

At Aha’aina, a Royal Hawaiian luau, you’ll get to sample Haupia pudding with:

  • Dark chocolate-layered dobash
  • Cinnamon crumbles
  • Toasted coconut


When Is the Best Time To Visit the Historic Royal Hawaiian Hotel?

Every year, vacationers go to Hawaii in droves to spend a week or weekend in the island paradise. However, everyone has their reasons for coming.

Some want a quiet beach vacation, others want to work with boats and fishing tools, and still others want to go surfing for an entire Saturday.

The best time to visit the historic Royal Hawaiian Hotel depends on what you want to do. You’ll also want to consider the following factors as you plan your trip in anticipation of attending an aha’aina, a Royal Hawaiian luau:

  • Travel costs
  • Overall weather
  • Local events

Travel Costs

Let’s be real for a second—traveling to Hawaii can be expensive and nearly impossible for many people. On top of plane tickets and transportation costs, you must consider Oahu capacity accommodations, food, and activities. You’ll want to check availability and visit at the right time—this will help you save money and get more out of your stay. Most tourists and vacationers like to visit Hawaii during the winter and summer months. That’s when airfare is highest and hotels will be more expensive. Booking a flight in late November or early March will help you get the lowest rates.


Overall Weather

The last thing you want is to plan an elaborate vacation only to have it rained out. You also don’t want to be near the Ocean Lawn when storms pick up. You need clear weather and unobstructed views to fully experience aha’aina, a Royal Hawaiian island luau.

Because Hawaii has a tropical island climate, it could technically rain any day of the year. The severity of rainy seasons may fluctuate from year to year, but you can typically expect more rain in November, December, and January.

If you plan your trip between May and September, you’re much less likely to get your luau date rained out.


Local Events

Are you looking for local events to immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture? aha’aina at the historic Royal Hawaiian Hotel offers one of the best tours of Hawaii’s ancient culture and traditions.

You may choose to supplement the experience with other special events during your vacation time.

Oahu is home to many spectacular events throughout the year. If you go at the right time, you can attend Aha’aina at The Royal Hawaiian Hotel and other festivities on the same trip. Here are some popular attractions you might be interested in:

Honolulu Festival: This takes place in March and gives you a chance to plunge into Hawaii’s distinctive culture of food, music, dance, and arts.

Pan Pacific Festival: This event happens in June, celebrating cultures throughout the Pacific Rim with a parade, cuisine, and over 100 different performances.

Na Hula Festival: This is a free, non-competitive event in August and the longest-running hula festival in Oahu.


In Closing

The aha’aina is a Royal Hawaiian luau that provides an up-close-and-personal encounter with Hawaiian culture, cuisine, and customs.

Knowing what aha’aina stands for and what it means to the island will help you appreciate this event and make the evening more enjoyable. If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii and staying in Waikiki, this should be on your to-do list.

For current, see:

The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort
2259 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii 96815

Royal Hawaiian