Attending a Maui luau was one of the experiences that ranked pretty high on our Hawaii bucket list. You’re spoiled with choice on the Valley Isle which makes it hard to choose. We finally booked the Wailele Polynesian Luau. Not because it is held in the Westin Maui, the Kaanapali beach resort where we were staying, but rather because of the gorgeous setting and spectacular fire knife performance. This Westin Maui luau ended up being one of the highlights of our Maui vacation.
What is a luau?
The Hawaiian word lūʻau actually refers to the taro leaf. This leaf was used in a dish that was often served during special occasions. When King Kamehameha II first decided to break the tradition of women and men eating separately, he organized a feast. The lūʻau dish became the symbol of Hawaiian feasts that, soon after, were referred to as lūʻau. Food still is a big part of a luau but the performances just as important.
A Maui luau is not limited to Hawaiian music and hula but usually also features other Polynesian performances, each telling a story of ancient times.
Our Maui luau experience
The word wailele means waterfalls in Hawaiian language making this luau an ode to the waterfalls and other elements of nature. The setting amidst a tropical garden, with waterfall, tiki statues and torches, is truly idyllic. It was the most memorable night of our Maui vacation.
During this Maui luau, you’ll enjoy two different Hawaiian hula performances. One is the traditional hula kahiko accompanied by drums and chants and dedicated to Pele, the goddess of fire. The other one is the modern version accompanied by ukelele and featuring split bamboo (puili) and gourd in dried (ipo) and feathered (uli uli) form.
Non-Hawaiian styles include dances from Tahiti (with women wearing a coconut bra), Fiji, Samoa and New Zealand Maori (the famous haka). The grand finale is a thrilling Samoan fire knife performance.
Westin Maui luau pros
The set-up with separate tables and the fact that it isn’t too crowded guarantees good views, even when you’re sitting in the back. When researching different Maui luau options, I noticed how long tables make it more difficult to watch the show if you’re not in the front.
Tablecloths are optional at most Maui luau but not here.
The dancers’ costumes are gorgeous and the renowned fire knife very impressive. We loved the setting tropical setting.
Westin Maui luau cons
We waited for about an hour in a long line before we could enter the Aloha Pavilion. That’s ridiculous. You feel like part of a herd when the doors finally open. Also, the Wailele Polynesian luau is not cheap (I’ll get to that in a bit) and for what we paid I expect to drink from a glass, not from a plastic cup.
Some people might miss the traditional Kalua Pua’a, or Kalua pig, pork that is slow-roasted in a type of underground oven called imu.
The MC was a proud Fijian. He was very entertaining but his accent made it hard to understand at times (it’s not just a Belgian thing, our friends from San Francisco thought so too). He did a great job but his acts could have been a bit shorter. We had preferred to socialize a bit more with the other families at our table and to have the time to enjoy dinner which felt rude while he was performing.
The Wailele Polynesian Luau is held in the Aloha Pavilion which is part of the Westin Maui in Ka’anapali (West Maui). Parking is available at Whaler’s Village Shopping Center. You then enter the hotel, turn left in the lobby and continue your way until you see the other guests waiting in line.
There are two seating options. The first is premium seating, closer to the stage, for $135 per adult (from 13 years and up) and $80 per child (6-12 years old). Then there’s traditional seating for $115 per adult (from 13 years and up) and $65 per child (6-12 years old). Prices do not include tax. We paid $325 for the four of us since it was the day before Jade’s birthday and children up to 5 are free of charge. We didn’t go for premium seating and had no regrets. Even though we were seated in the back, we had a good view of the stage. Maybe even better for recording purposes since the view is wider and we could stand without bothering other guests. Plus, we were closer to the buffet.
During summer, which is from April 1st to September 30th, the line usually forms by 4.45-5pm while doors open at 5.30pm for premium guests and at 5.45ppm for traditional guests. During winter, it starts about half an hour earlier. Also premium guests had to wait in line. Shows are held on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Wednesday shows are held during summer and holiday periods. This Maui luau experience lasts for about 3 hours.
Welcome and dinner
When the doors finally open, each guest is welcomed with a shell necklace and a cocktail (in a plastic cup). Then one of the waiters guides you to your table while a band starts to play Hawaiian music. You still have about half an hour to admire the local art stands and have your (overpriced) picture taken in the company of some dancers. The fresh-flower lei that you receive for the purpose of the photo has to be returned right away. We had our picture taken by a bystander and are just as happy with it. Besides, if you stick around at the end of the show you can ask the dancers for a picture anyway.
We enjoyed the traditional island buffet and were pleased with the different options. t includes an open bar so drinks, also cocktails, are included in the price.
We booked the Wailele Polynesian Luau via the Westin Maui website.
Maui luau alternatives
Here are some good alternatives that I came across when researching our Maui luau options. Both are held in Lahaina.
Old Lahaina Luau
The Old Lahaina Luau show only focuses on Hawaiian culture. It features hula dances but no Polynesian performances and therefore no fire knife dancing either.
Feast at Lele
The Maui luau Feast at Lele offers a five course dinner, served at the table, and consists of Polynesian dishes. The show and courses follow the same order of appearance. So, you enjoy a Hawaiian dish during the hula performance, a Tahitian dish during the Tahitian dance performance…
Whatever Maui luau you choose, the experience will add a dimension to your Maui vacation.
Have you ever attended a luau? Which one? How was your experience? Would you recommend it? Let us know in the comments below!