Review of Alii Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center

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The Alii Luau is a “royal feast” that has been awarded the Kahili Award for being the most authentic Hawaiian luau. This luau is held on the grounds of the Polynesian Cultural Center.  A tall lava rock wall with waterfalls and tropical plants make for the backdrop for the luau performances.  The open air seating arrangement is covered by a pavilion, which would be quite useful when it rains.

The luau started with a welcoming fresh flower lei greeting.  A hostess directed us to our table.  We were there in June on a particularly crowded day.  I was at the Hale Aloha luau venue that seats 700 people and I believe it was at capacity.  Even though the venue is rather large, all the tables appeared to offer a nice view of the festivities.

imageThe luau featured live music and traditional Hawaiian song and dance.  A “royal” Hawaiian court was presented to add to the feel of being at a royal feast.   The delightful host, “Cousin Benny”, explained all the songs and traditions.

The luau included an imu ceremony which involves removing the pig from the underground oven.  One nice feature of the Ali’i Luau is that everyone has a clear view of this process.  Other luaus that I’ve been to don’t have the tiered seating arrangement that allows you to see the process like the Polynesian Cultural Center does.

Dinner was served buffet style, which is quite common at luaus.  The food includes a wide selection of Hawaiian specialties such as kalua puaa (pig cooked in the underground oven), island fish, poke (marinated raw fish), lomilomi salmon, and pipi kaula (seasoned beef).  Of course, taro is represented on the buffet with traditional poi and my favorite, taro rolls.  The buffet also included fresh tropical fruits, and a salad bar.  For kids who prefer foods that are more familiar, there are hot dogs, potato wedges, and chicken fingers.  A delicious assortment of desserts were available.  I particularly liked the coconut cake.

Overall, the luau was quite interesting and fun.  If you are looking for a luau in Oahu, the Ali’i Luau is a wise choice for an authentic Hawaiian experience.

Tips for Enjoying the Alii Luau

  • You can save 5% off your Polynesian Cultural Center package by completing an online survey.
  • Most seats are first come first serve, so the earlier you arrive, the more likely you’ll have good seats.  The luau starts at 5 p.m.
  • Be aware of that busiest times are January, June, July, August, and December, so book ahead for those months.  I was told that all Polynesian Cultural Center luaus were sold out the day I was there in mid-June.
  • Be prepared that luau food may have different flavors than you are accustomed, so make a point to try and enjoy new foods and preparations.
  • See my review of the Polynesian Cultural Center for more information about the cultural center and watch for a review of their superb evening show, HA: Breath of Life.


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About Sheila Beal

Sheila Beal is the founder and editor of Go Visit Hawaii. You can connect with Sheila Beal on Twitter, Go Visit Hawaii on Facebook, or Sheila Beal on Google+.

6 comments

  1. Hi Sheila,

    I went to the PCC and I have to say that I was a bit disappointed in the show with the exception of the tree climbers and the fire twirlers, have they added anything in the last 3 years that would make someone want to rerturn to see it again?

    Thanks Chuck

  2. Chuck – Thank you for adding your insight.

    I don’t know if the Polynesian Cultural Center has added any new features. I will ask and see if I can find out.

    Like you, I especially enjoyed watching the tree climbers in the Samoa village. I thought the Samoan fire knife dancer at the evening show was incredible.

  3. The Alii Luau at PCC is the only Hawaii-only Luau in the state. Most luaus add other cultures such as Tahiti, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand in their luaus. PCC doesn’t have to do this to their luau since those Polynesian cultures are already represented in their evening show in their 2,700 seat Pacific Theater which takes place after their luau.

    PCC has 3 Alii Luaus running simultaneously for 2 reasons. Their luau consistently sells out, especially during the summer so they added more venues. They didn’t want to offer a huge luau with a seating capacity for thousands, instead the offer 3 separate Alii Luau venues to keep the atmosphere and experience intimate. The 3 luau venues have seating capacities for 250-500 people. They also have two other large buffet restaurants (seating capacities of 900 and 1,200 people) and several snack bars. I recommend the luau since you are being entertained while you are eating, and attending a luau is normally a ‘must-do’ activity when you are vacationing in Hawaii.

    Aloha,

    Christian

  4. Chris – That’s great information to add.

  5. Hi Sheila,

    Polynesians have endured many tragedies over the centuries and I like to see an ‘edutainment’ program show how the bravery and unique skills of Polynesians helped them overcome seemingly unsurmountable obstacles.

    Polynesians’ ocean voyaging ships could literally circle Captain Cook’s ships when he first arrived in the islands. Polynesians could easy navigate across the vast Pacific Ocean long before Christopher Colombus “discovered” America across the Atlantic, an ocean less than half the size of the Pacific.

    I think that PCC’s evening show is probably the world’s longest running musical in history. It started in 1963 and the basic format of the show has stood the test of time with over 15,000+ performances and with over 25 million people have seen it in over the year. I feel that it is an unprecedented achievement in the history of the performance arts.

    But the best part of PCC’s success is rarely known or understood by most. About 150 million dollars of scholarship money from PCC’s shows have been raised to support tens of thousands of underprivileged students from the South Pacific who normally would not have the financial means to pay for their college education. So not only do the performances of Polynesians help preserve their native cultures it also provides practical experiences and scholarship funding for students. Instead of cleaning classrooms for a job, the students working at PCC get a chance to interact on a daily basis with Hawaii visitors, which improves their communication skills which helps better prepare them for the real world.

    Aloha,

    Chris

  6. Chris,

    I think it is wonderful how the PCC embraces and honors the Polynesian cultures. I enjoyed the evening show so much that it is hard to believe it might be improved upon. Many thanks for adding such a thorough and informative comment!

    Mahalo,
    Sheila

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