Anybody going to Hawaii for the first time is almost guaranteed to have a luau on their “things to do” list. It’s a great way to be introduced to Hawaiian customs and culture, as well as to meet new people on vacation (believe it or not, you will probably bump into these people several times over the course of the next few days, as dictated by Poriou, Hawaiian goddess of strange coincidences).

All of those reasons for attending a luau are strong, but what most of us really picture at these gatherings are mounds of savory foods and thirst (and consciousness) quenching drinks.

The reality of today’s Hawaiian luau is that for many resorts and hotels, it presents a great way to make a lot of money without a lot of expense. One area that you might see expenses cut is the very area which attracts most people to luaus – the food. Before you pay the (often exorbitant) cost of attending a luau, check to see what’s on the menu. Here are some things you will want served.


You will have pork, that’s a guarantee. You need to make sure that the pig roast is done in such a way as to make the end product palatable. Specifically, make sure you see that teriyaki sauce has been added. Poriou, in her wisdom, has declared this sauce acceptable at Hawaiian religious feasts, recognizing that without it, roast pig just tastes like smoke.

Chicken is also usually on the menu. Chicken’s pretty good any way it’s prepared, but again, look for some variety. Some combination of everyone’s favorite white meat, teriyaki sauce (again!) and pineapple makes for a great topping on a dish of rice.

Did someone say shish kabobs? They better have, if you are paying $40 per person! Pork and chicken marinated in teriyaki between slices of vegetables and pineapple (again! Yay!) had better be on that list.

You would think that with the availability of fish, there would be more of it, and more varieties, served at a luau. However, aside from ahi tuna there aren’t many delectable offerings from the sea at a luau. If all there is on the menu is salmon, look somewhere else.

Fruits and Vegetables

If meat’s not your game, you want to pay SEVERE attention to the fruits and vegetables included at the luau before you pay. There are not too many of these, and what passes for traditional Hawaiian vegetables are unsatisfying, to say the least.

Don’t pay up if all you see as far as veggies are purple yams and poi. You won’t be able to fill up on either, we guarantee it.


Okay, here is where a LOT of luaus will fool the unwary tourist. Alcohol is a big part of the traditional luau, and most will advertise an open bar. What they don’t tell you about is the lack of variety at that open bar.

Sure, all you can drink Mai Tai cocktails and Budweiser might work for some, but let’s face it: when you’re in Hawaii, you want pina coladas. Most of the time, though, this quintessential tropical drink is left off the bar’s chart. Because this can be the main “hook” offered by a resort luau, make sure you ask what drinks are actually served before you pony up the cash!