Thursday, July 03, 2014

Luau in Oahu

{Maryanne: I've been keen to get to a traditional luau (Hawaiian festival/feast complete with entertainment) since we've been in Hawaii.. We seriously considered one when we were in Lahaina but the ticket price and the long walk had us stalling until it was too late. I was determined not to miss what may well be our last chance - billed as a starlight luau, here was one within a short walk from the boat and it sounded Idyllic, I even tried to book the more expensive ticket with better seating (unfortunately they were already full, I was too late).}

[Kyle]After our big hike up and around Diamond Head, we spent most of the day doing boring stuff nearer to home. Since we live here, we have to find time during the big vacation that is most of our lives to get things like banking and trips to the grocery store done.

We topped the day off, though, with a luau at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. We couldn’t believe we’ve been in Hawai’i for almost two months and haven’t yet made it to a luau, but they are pretty expensive, so we needed to treat it as a one-time thing.

I’m sure almost everyone who comes to Hawai’i for the first time wants to go to a luau, so it’s a pretty big part of the tourist industry. There are luaus everywhere every day. Ours had a permanent home on the rooftop of one of the complex’s buildings. We thought that would be pretty cool with Waikiki Beach as a backdrop. It was also convenient to Begonia.

Well, the rooftop luau turned out to be on the rooftop of the five-story parking garage, which was by far the shortest of their buildings. We could see people’s balconies on the surrounding towers, but no beach. Hmmm… not only do you have to read the fine print, you have to read between the lines.

I got to make an orchid lei bracelet, and play with some native instruments

It must be hard to create a personal experience for hundreds of people every single day. They did okay, but there were times when we felt like they were phoning it in.

The experience started by queuing up in a big crowd/line for seating, which had the feel of entering the stadium at a football game. We were seated at a long table with eight other people and offered mai tais in plastic cups. We tried engaging in conversation with the other guests, but they seemed to be in pretty heavy mainland mode and all we could get out of them were short, grunted answers. Perhaps they were self conscious about how horribly wrong their plastic surgeries had gone. There was a noticeable relief when we were excused to the buffet. Now, mouths would be to busy eating to talk.

The luau proper started with the cheesy host singing a song, ala TV variety shows in the ‘70s, along with pitches to buy stuff on sale in the hallway. It felt like we were at a wedding on a cruise ship. I was starting to think we were in for an evening to endure when the dancers came on stage.

Lots of costume changes and different Polynesian dances were performed, pretty cool actually

Our luau was organized as a series of dances from various regions in Polynesia, with a little explanation and a song by the host in between. The dancing was incredible and very high energy. It was interesting to see the different styles and elaborate costumes of each island group. The grand finale was a fire dance from Samoa, which was impressive on its own and made even more so since it was done using the same troupe that had already done all of the evening’s other exhausting dances. Also cool was that the area around the stage filled with the smell of burnt white gas as the dance went on. Oh, yes, the fire was real.

We left with smiles on our faces, although I could have done without the rest. I think I would rather have just gone to see a dance demonstration and skipped the cheesy cruise ship part.

Although, it was quite long, so it would be nice if they fed us. They would also have to do something with the dead air during the dancer’s costume changes. Okay, so maybe it was fine after all. If they had called it Dances of Polynesia instead of a luau, I would have entered with a different expectation. If you go, do that and you’ll have a great time.


Karen said...

How disappointing about your "starlight luau." I guess there were stars eventually (judging from your photo of the fire dancers), but where were the sand and the fire pit and the tiki lights? What happened to the roast pig on a bed of palm fronds and flowers with an apple stuffed in its mouth? or the exotic-beverage-filled coconuts and pineapples stuck full of straws for sipping? :-( Even though we may be brainwashed by TV and movies, I don't recall ever seeing a luau on the roof of a parking garage!

Well, at least the entertainment was the real deal, and the activities sounded fun - which hopefully made up a bit for your unsociable table mates and the event's price tag. So glad you did have the authentic experience at Diamond Head though. The views looked awesome!

Enjoy the relaxing days ahead. (Can't believe it's been 2 months since you arrived at the islands either!)

Happy sails!

SV-Footprint said...

Hi Karen!

Thanks for your post (great to hear from you). Yes, the presentation of the luau was very selective, and much of the traditional flair missing. The office building like backdrop wasn't appreciated either. We missed our best chance at a decent luau on one of the earlier islands. This was a compromise (better than nothing) and the costumes and dancing really was amazing. This always leaves us chance to go to a better one 'next time!'. :-)