*Our experience was sponsored in part by Luau Kalamaku.

Looking for the best luaus on the island of Kauai? Look no further, because we’ve visited most of them and have rated them here for your information. Hot hula girls? Muscled hula boys? Traditional Hawaiian food? Endless Mai Tai’s? Read on for details.

The Island of Kauai is our family favorite. Although we’ve visited other Hawaiian Islands over the years, we keep returning to Kauai as our home away from home. Over our many visits we’ve had the chance to experience a number of cool local destinations, including several of the luaus offered on the Garden Island.

wild orchids at Smith Family Garden Luau

The grounds at Smith Family Garden Luau are lush and gorgeous

The best by our estimation? Luau Kalamaku at Kiohuna Plantation in Lihue is no ka oi (and that’s NOT because they sponsored us!)

(For you haole – mainlanders – no ka oi is Hawaiian for “the best”.)

The Best Luaus on the Island of Kauai

The story through hula dance at Luau Kalamaku

So much more than hula dancing, Luau Kalamaku tells a whole story

#1 – Luau Kalamaku at Kilohana Plantation, Lihue

The story and plot built into the show at Luau Kalamaku is very engaging, and the performances are exceptional. More than sexy hula dancing, this presentation has a storyline that weaves the both female and male dances together into a plot that builds with finale. The costumes are elaborate, the fire dances are mesmerizing, and the round stage ensures all seats have a great view. All the traditional foods are served buffet style. This includes kalua pork cooked in the ceremonial imu, a variety of chicken, seafood and vegetable dishes, and even poi (which is an acquired taste – the kids promptly spit it out). Oh, and the open bar doesn’t hurt.

colorful hula dancing at Luau Kalamaku

There were many colorful dances at the Luau Kalamaku

A nice sidebar to the luau is the grounds where it takes place, offering a lot to do before the event begins. Get there early to take a ride through the 100+ acre grounds on the Kilohana Plantation’s real steam locomotive. Leave time for a walk through the gorgeous grounds covered in tropical flowers and plants. There’s also an antique and gift store in case you’re in a shopping mood. The night we visited, there was a craft fair on the lawns outside the event area where we ended up buying koloa wood jewelry and some delicious guava caramels. Fun, fun, fun for everyone!

  • Price: Adults (18+ over) $112.45, Teen (13-17) $74.95, Child (3-12) $43.75
  • Price for Upgraded Seating: $20 surcharge per person
  • Food: Pretty Darn Good
  • Program: Really exceptional
  • Extra activities: Lots

#2  – Smith Family Garden Luau, Wailua

One of the very cool things about the Smith Family Garden Luau is its setting along the shores of the Wailua River downstream from Wailua Falls (famous for its starring roles in many movies and shows including 70s hit show Fantasy Island). The grounds are gorgeous, planted like a tropical botanical gardens that you can tour on very easy meandering trails through the jungle or a narrated tram tour.

Watching the imu ceremony at Smith Family Garden Luau

Unearthing the ceremonial imu at the Smith Family Garden Luau

The kids loved chasing the regal peacocks and their chicks around the lawns, and there are multiple tiki torches scattered around to give the whole place a warm and authentic glow. Unearthing the roasted pig from its ceremonial imu pit was worth braving the crowd, and their methods seemed true to the original Hawaiian customs. The food was good – not great – but we didn’t expect it would be. After dinner, we were moved to a traditional stage area to be reseated and the show began. It was more of a production, with its theme and dances centered around Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of Fire. There is even a “volcano” that spews lava and fire, which was a tiny bit hokey. There is some audience participation here, so if you prefer to avoid that (like our family!) don’t sit in the front.

  • Price: Adult $98.00, Jr. (7-13) $30.00, Child (3-6) $19.00
  • Food: Good
  • Program: Very good
  • Extra activities: Some
tropical flowers at luau in Kauai

Colorful tropical flowers surround the grounds at Smith Family Garden Luau

#3 – Aulii Luau at the Poipu Sheraton, Poipu Beach

More of a hotel version of the traditional luau, the Aulii Luau show at the Poipu Sheraton is easy to get to, easy to park and easy to manage. If you have small kids, this one might be a good choice because you can duck out to the nearby beach if you need a diversion. The show was presented on a stage, accompanied by live music that was remarkably good both during dinner and as part of the show.

At the performance we attended, there was a fun mix of dances and exhibitions. We particularly enjoy the fire-knife dances where big scary guys tossed flaming knives in the air and to each other, as well as the hula dancers who performed a variety of moves that made us all go “WOW”.

The food? Yeah, well who really expects to go to these events for cutting edge culinary masterpieces? All the traditional dishes are well presented, including ahi poki, haupia (a coconut custardy kinda thing), the ever-present poi (pounded and mashed taro root).

  • Price for Regular Seats: Adults (18yrs+): $105.99, Teens (13-17yrs): $73.18, Youth (3-12yrs): $51.30
  • Price for Upgraded Seats: $25 upcharge to sit in first three rows
  • Food: Okay-ish
  • Program: Good because of those knife dudes
  • Extra activities: Few, but points for being so close to the beach
Luau Kalamaku is a great time for the whole family

Despite the look on Ava’s face, we all really had a great time at the Luau Kalamaku!

There are several others we have not yet tried, and wish we had time to visit them all. We hear from several sources that the Royal Luau at the Koloa Landing Resort is very good in both entertainment and food, although it currently happens just once a week on Tuesdays during the summer months (reservations strongly recommended).

Another is Havaiki Nui Luau  held at the Grand Hyatt Kauai. These options may be less showy and more intimate and authentic, which may not be a bad experience as long as the food and program are good and the drinks are flowing!

Whichever you choose, the best luaus on the Island of Kauai are amazing experiences that can bring you closer to traditional Hawaiian culture. Since we are visitors in this amazing land originally settled more than 2000 years ago, it’s important to understand and help keep alive the history – both tragic and happy – of this beautiful land.

Mahalo – enjoy!