Our 1st Hawaiian Luau In 20 Years; Have They Changed That Much?

by joeheg

Before our trip to Hawaii, I asked an important question. Should we attend a luau? 

We’d already been to one on our honeymoon and got the basic experience. We saw a pig cooked in an imu. We heard the stories of how the Hawaiian islands were populated over the centuries and even got a newlyweds dance on stage.

a man and woman posing for a picture

OMG, were those two so young and naive in 2002, or what?

We’ve learned a lot since then. Not including how to avoid a tourist trap. However, we also learned that there’s a level of cheesiness that we’re willing to accept, even enjoy.

That’s why we decided to attend another Hawaiian luau on our 20th Anniversary trip. Of course, we did more romantic things like having dinner at Roy’s on our anniversary and revisiting Morio’s Sushi Bistro from our 10th anniversary trip.

But on our first night on Oahu, we wanted to see a luau. Which one should we see?

There are several luau dinners on Oahu, including the ones at the resort hotels on Waikiki. While these might have been an option if we were staying in the area, we ended up staying at our Disney timeshare in Ko Olina.

I looked at several luaus on Oahu and I finally decided the one we’d enjoy the most was Chief’s Luau. Why did I pick this one over the others? Mainly because it sounded the most fun and because the fire dance finale sounded like the spectacle we’d love to see. Being from Orlando, we didn’t mind that the luau was held in the local Wet n’ Wild waterpark after it closed for the evening. Looks can be deceiving and amazing experiences can be found in unexpected places.

Tickets for Chief’s Luau aren’t cheap and I paid through the Chase Travel Portal redeeming Ultimate Rewards points for 1.5 CPP. I paid 10K Ultimate Rewards points for tickets which would have cost $155 each.  I’m glad to report that we had no problems with our booking through the Chase portal.

Chief’s Luau
400 Farrington Hwy Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii, Kapolei, Oahu, HI 96707

Upon entering the Wet ‘n’ Wild parking lot, we were led to a check-in area. We booked the Royal Experience (which now costs $215, up from the $155 we paid just 1 year ago) so we were shown to an exclusive desk where we received our extra drink tickers and a welcome beverage.

a group of people outside a buildingFrom there we were led to our seats. As part of our premier package, we were seated the closest to the stage.

people sitting at tables with flowers on themAs part of the pre-show activities, they asked who was from the farthest away. Being from Florida, and showing my drivers license to prove it, we were awarded two frozen drinks in pineapples. a man and woman wearing leis and holding a pineapple

Our preferred seating package also offered us first access to the buffet line. Sharon chose the line where you could select your dining options.

a salad in a bowl on a tablefood on a tablea group of food on a tablea food in a containera tray of food on a tablea tray of food with a person holding a plate of food

I was in the drink line at the time, which was the longest line of the evening, so I went to the “Everything” line. It looked a lot like a plate lunch you’d get at a fast food restaurant.

a tray of food with a sandwich and salad

One thing I had the option to try was poi. It had been 20 years since I tried it (at that luau during our honeymoon). Maybe my taste pallet had matured.

a man eating from a spoon

With the consistency of thin yogurt and the taste of wallpaper paste, I didn’t finish it.

a man eating a dessert

Shortly after dinner, the show started and it went along the lines of a typical luau.

a group of men performing on a stagea group of people on a stage

Nothing that would set this apart from the typical luau. But Chief’s Luau is no regular luau.

a man wearing a garment and standing on a stage

In 1993, Chief Sielu became the first World Fireknife Dance Champion. He has hosted luau’s in Oahu for decades until building this space at Wet ‘n’ Wild in 2017.

Many aspiring fireknife artists train with Chief Sielu and it’s no surprise that the show’s ending is a fire dance. However, this is no usual firekinfe dance. It’s one done by several world champions at the same time.

To be honest, it was six of the most impressive minutes of performance that I’ve ever seen.

Sure, there are some luaus where you’ll find better food or stronger drinks. There are others where you’ll get a better sense of everyday Hawaiian life.

However, if you’re looking to be blown off your seat by a fire dance like you’ve never seen, pay the money and go see Chief’s Luau. You’ll never see a better nighttime show at a waterpark.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May VaryWe wen


Wes March 1, 2023 - 2:52 pm

Lovely! I gotta tell ya, being familiar with the haul involved to go from FL to HI in a day, I’m impressed you had the energy and the will to hit up a luau on your first night. Great way to get into the Hawaiian vibe, though!

Christian March 1, 2023 - 2:53 pm

Any idea how they cooked a pig inside an emu? That sounds like quite a squeeze.

joeheg March 1, 2023 - 3:35 pm

Very carefully!

NedsKid March 1, 2023 - 4:39 pm

I think this is great and enjoyed reading! I think a lot of us who travel frequently operate with the mindset that we’ve seen all the common things and are looking for that off the beaten path hotel or a Michelin starred restaurant. But doing the “tourist” things sometimes bring back great memories or are just a heck of a lot of fun. Yes, when I go to FLL I go see the mermaid show at the B Ocean (formerly Sheraton) with a long time friend, or hit up Trader Vic’s when I’m in the Emeryville area, or a good ol airboat ride with all the German tourists. It’s refreshing sometimes.

As an avgeek trying to pin as many US airports in the map as I can, I find cheap fares and take day trips sometimes. My parents wanted to come along earlier this year, so off we went on Contour to Lewisburg, WV for lunch – there’s a Mexican restaurant that takes up half the terminal building. They had so much fun they want to join again. It’s like going back to junior high when my dad and I would fly TWA to STL or ORD to go watch planes for the day.

Hawaii is the only state I haven’t been to – and I’ll add the luau to the to-do list!

tiktricks March 1, 2023 - 11:59 pm

Any idea how they cooked a pig inside an emu? That sounds like quite a squeeze.

Randy March 4, 2023 - 12:45 am

We went to Paradise Cove in 2016. It is right next door to Aulani. It was our first luau and we really enjoyed it.


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