Two New Luau's: Fire Knives and Edible Grinds

Two New Luau's: Fire Knives and Edible Grinds

The metamorphosis of the Hawaiian luau from a family gathering, to a large-scale resort dinner show is certainly an interesting progression, one that an anthropologist might enjoy studying. Yet most would agree: It's a wonderful opportunity for visitors with no knowledge of Polynesian culture (or cuisine) to get a crash course in Hawaii 101 while tasting some island-inspired grinds, and perhaps learn how to shake their hips, hula style.

Two new luaus have surfaced at resorts in Hawaii that previously had none: The Westin Maui Resort & Spa and O'ahu's Hilton Hawaiian Village. Both are well done, inter-active, offer tasty eats and a lovely backdrops.

On Maui, The Westin took space formerly reserved for corporate affairs (capitalizing on the drop off in corporate meetings and incentive travel has been a wise move by savvy hoteliers as of late) and built a stage that fronts the ocean. Guests to the Wailele Luau are seated communally at round tables and served dinner family style, which lends to an atmosphere that encourages conversation. While the portions served are generally just enough for each person to sample the fare, the wait staff is adept at retrieving seconds for guests who ask for them.

The highlight of this show is the talented Samoan fire-knife dancers, who perform a roving ensemble that literally "brings the heat" table side. The world champion knife dancers take advantage of the landscape by tossing lit knives over the tables, drawing "oohs" and "aahs" from the crowd (thankfully the lead dancer, Tavita, is a 3rd generation fire-knife dancer).

Tickets to the Wailele Luau begin at $105 and include all beverages, food and guest portraits. The luau takes place once per week, generally on Tuesdays (check schedule online or call ahead). www.westinmaui.com/luau.htm

The Hilton Hawaiian Village's "Waikiki Starlight Luau" launched this month is currently Waikiki's only full-service, outdoor luau. Located on a rooftop overlooking the Hilton grounds, the dinner show is eloquently arranged in-the-round; meaning guests sit on three sides of the center stage, with the band occupying the rear. It should be noted that this means not a bad seat in the house—and the Hilton spared no expense in sound, costumes and talent for this luau.

However, it is the Polynesian fare that shines brightest at this feast; not something one usually hears much about from these sort of events. The extensive buffet covers not only Hawaiian staples, but dishes that spotlight the varied cultures who settled in Hawaii, such as roast suckling pork in steamed buns, paella, Thai lemongrass chicken and steamed banana leaf island fish, to name a few. There is ample opportunity to reap your money's worth at this buffet, which somehow manages to squash the stereotypical luau buffet fare—and present excellent dining options.

The Hilton's Waikiki Starlight Luau costs $95 per adult ($47 for children 4 - 11), includes two alcoholic beverages and family photos. The luau takes place weekly, Sundays through Thursdays.

"The Hilton manages to squash the stereotypical luau buffet fare—and present excellent dining options."