My first luau in Kauai was a sensory explosion: the aroma of roasted kalua pork and tropical fruits galore, dancing flames of tiki torches, the sweet taste of free flowing Mai Tais, and the natural, inviting Wailua River Valley. I left the Hawaiian party pleasantly full and a little tipsy from the double rum in the Mai Tais. However, my true takeaway was a lesson in pure aloha: nature, music, dance, food, and drink, all combined.
As I arrived at the 30-acre location nestled in the Wailua River Valley, I was greeted with a warm aloha and shell lei. Little did I know that prior to the feast, all would be invited to tour the artistically designed gardens, either on foot or via tram. Immediately, I was drawn to wander along a quiet walking path, which winded the themed gardens and ponds. Although I had hiked, biked, and driven by some of these very same plants, it was helpful to have them identified to satisfy my already known flora tidbits, but also spark new learning.
After my stroll, the host of the evening, Camika, invited all of the luau guests to join him at the imu, the roasting pit. Here he explained the family’s history on the island, the format of the evening, and most importantly what he was standing on, a mound of sand that housed the star of the evening, a nine-hour, slow-cooked pig wrapped in both banana and ti leaves.
As is traditional, the beginning of the luau was called by the blowing of a conch. After which, the pig was unearthed while we all found our way to the luau’s dining area, welcomed by the Smith family trio.
The Hawaiian feast was much more than I expected in both quality and quantity. The meal featured, of course, the kalua pork, but also teriyaki beef, chicken, mahi mahi, various salads, fresh fruits, and the traditional staple, poi. For great intel, I always ask the bartenders about the food and the waitstaff about drinks. And, not unlike other times, it worked out well at the luau. The bartenders told me to enjoy the pork and add a little of the teriyaki beef sauce on the pork for variety. They also said to try the purple poi in the small cup provided but to add the strongest of flavors from the buffet such as the salmon or even a combo of various flavors to it. Otherwise, they said it would be too bland.
From my foodie side, I have to say that the pork didn’t disappoint. It was moist and flavorful. The beef as well was perfectly cooked with just a little sauce to compliment the marinade. Regarding poi, I believe that when in Kauai, do as those in Kauai. You have to do it. It wouldn’t be authentic if you didn’t, but here is some advise. Poi tooks runny, almost like the Elmer’s paste you used as a kid; however, it’s purple. Now, I’m sure you know a kid that ate paste as a kid; I certainly know one or two. Poi tastes just like mild paste. In fact, I think there is paste with more taste than poi. Regardless, do give it a try. Perhaps you are a poi fanatic. I know that I’m not!
During dessert, the hula lesson began. After a little demo by a professional, there was an embarassing display of the houles’ (mainlanders’) ability to hula. And, yes, I did the Hukilau. Up on stage, I wiggled my hips and signaled with my hands the story of throwing out fishing nets, successfully catching fish, celebrating with a luau, and then repeating. The Smith family member and hula expert made my moves look clumsy and so unnatural. I’m typically the first to dance and pick up a step, but the sensitivity of the hula was not a strength in my personal Hukilau dance.
After my defeat at hula, it was time for the show. All guests and family took a short walk to the theatre area, a beautiful pavilion with the mountains of the Wailua River Valley as the backdrop. While we all digested the meal, the troop of dancers, musicians, and multi-faceted entertainers, highlighted the various cultural influences of Hawaii from Tahiti to the Philippines to Japan and China.
Have you experienced a luau in Kauai? If you have yet to experience aloha, the welcoming spiriting of the islands and its people, or tasted the fruits of this Garden Isle, you must experience a luau in Kauai. You can learn more and book this by visiting Viator.com.
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Here’s to more good times and good stories.
**Sponsored tour provided by Viator.com, specializing in sightseeing tours and activities where you tour like a local, but still with the curiosity of a tourist.