Answer: How much do you like watching musicals or theater? A luau might not be what you think it is. Gone are the days of roasting a pig as onlookers watch in awe. Attending a luau is like going to dinner theater. It’s a good opportunity to try a lot of local foods at once, but nearly all the buffets are only mediocre. If the food is what you’re most interested in, it would be better to go to a restaurant (like Jackie Rey’s in Kona) instead of spending $100 (the average price for most luau). Drinkers may get their money’s worth—nearly all the luau include an open bar.
If you really enjoy a good Broadway show, then you might enjoy a luau, and kids seem to love them. The productions vary, but Island Breeze, the company that puts on luau at the Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel (in Kailua-Kona), the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort and Spa (in Keauhou), and The Fairmont Orchid (in Kohala) offers the best show.
For a traditional luau with lots of hula, try the King Kamehameha version. For a more Cirque de Soleil experience (with more modern dance and less hula), head to The Fairmont Orchid, which does offer a more pricey experience—but the food is better here than at other luau. Lastly, all luau offer preferred seating options, meaning that you pay about $20 per person extra to sit closer but you are still eating the same food as everyone else (although you get to visit the buffet line first). Unless you have some extra money to spend, preferred seating isn’t really worth the splurge.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.