What is an imu ceremony at a luau?


As you are trying to choose a luau to include as part of your Hawaii vacation, you’ll probably come across the terms imu ceremony.  You may be wondering what is an imu and why is there a ceremony. An imu is an underground oven that uses a combination of hot coals, stones and layers of leaves and cloth or mats to steam food.  For a luau, the imu is primarily used to cook the delicious shredded kalua pork, a staple on any luau menu.  Imu Ceremony at Old Lahaina Luau

An imu ceremony is usually held at the beginning of a luau before the dinner is served. Basically, the ceremony consists of removing the layers of cloth and leaves from the pit oven to expose the cooked pork. The pork is removed from the pit and taken to the kitchen for shredding. Though, there is really no pomp and circumstance to this ceremony, it is interesting to see this ancient cooking process.

If you are trying to plan to attend a luau on your Hawaii vacation, see my tips for choosing a Hawaii vacation luau.  Also, take a look at these posts comparing the major luaus:

Have you been to a luau in Hawaii? Which one did you attend?  Did you see an imu ceremony?  What did you think?

  1. Hi Sheila,

    Wow, you always come up with great articles! I was wondering if you could provide a comparison of Oahu luaus. There are about 5 or 6 luaus on the island of Oahu:

    Alii Luau at PCC (Laie)
    Germaine’s Luau (Kapolei)
    Paradise Cove Luau (Kapolei)
    and 2 or 3 others in Waikiki

  2. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the nice compliment. 🙂

    You’re right – I really do need to work on an Oahu luau comparison. Those comparison posts may not look like much work, but they are really time consuming and take lots of searching and phone calls. So, I’ve been putting that on the back burner for a while. Maybe I should just get started and work on it as I have time.

  3. mmmmm now i’m getting hungry.

    I went to Germaines Luau and it wasn’t bad. I thought the food was decent, the drinks were good, and the show was very entertaining. There is a certain “commercial” aspect about luau’s in general but I think overall it’s a great time and a great experience.

  4. Hi Jim – wouldn’t some kulua pork be good about right now? 🙂

    I know what you mean about the commercial aspect. I hear a lot of locals saying not to go to this or that luau because it’s not “authentic”. My contention to that is that it would be the extreme rare situation that a visitor would get invited to a true local and authentic luau. Overall, I think a luau is definitely worth doing. I love the music, dancing and costumes.

  5. At the end of the night the question is whether you have a good time and I think you can have a good time at most any of the luaus in Hawaii.

  6. In terms of luaus, I think once is enough and so the only one I’ve been to is the one at the Hyatt in Kauai. While the entertainment was great, I found the food to be pretty bad. I love desserts and found that the Hyatt served the worse cake ever at the luau! So my tip would be to find one that great reviews for the food as well as the entertainment.

  7. I’ve enjoyed the luau at Pradise Cove a few times. The food and entertainment are good, there’s a concerted effort to inform the guests about local practices, but yeah – it’s got more in common with Vegas than with the local luaus I’ve been privileged to attend.

    Visiting (late again!) for the Carnival of Aloha.

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