Luaus are one of the most popular must-see’s for visitors while in Hawaii, and the Paradise Cove Luau — voted Best Luau in Hawaii — offers a wonderful experience hat is sure to please guests of any age. Located at Ko Olina Resort on Oahu’s gorgeous Leeward side, the luau takes place right along the beach and provides guests with breathtaking sunset views as they enjoy the festivities.
A few months ago, I attended 4 luau’s within a 10-day period. (Needless to say, I was a little bit luau-ed out by the end!) I was shooting them for a work project for a client, and it was a great assignment because I got to do one of those ‘touristy’ things that those of us who live in Hawaii never actually do…which means that now I can write about each one to help you in your search for your perfect Oahu luau! An important disclaimer: I did not eat at any of the luau’s, so can’t report on the food side of things — just on the location, overall experience, and activities. Each luau has a distinct ‘feel’ that is different than others on the island, despite sharing so many similarities, so the ‘best’ luau on Oahu really depends on what you are looking for. Some are more family-friendly and island casual, while others are a bit ‘classier.’
The Pardise Cove Luau begins at 5pm, and guests are welcomed to Paradise Cove with leis and a complimentary mai tai. The first hour is spent with games, live music, an impressive palm-tree climbing and flower shower, hukilau, (the historic Hawaiian method of fishing with a net), the Imu (roasted kalua pork) ceremony, hula dancing, and a pareo demonstration. Guests can try their hand at throwing a Hawaiian spear, get Polynesian tattoos, learn how to hula, and splash around on the beach while waiting for the evening’s main events to begin (a foot washing station is located just off the beach.)
One of the main components of any luau is the Kalua Pig, which is traditionally wrapped in leaves and cooked in leaves in an Imu, which is a type of underground oven. (Kalua is a Hawaiian word meaning ‘to cook in an underground oven.’) Some luaus use conventional ovens to cook their pork, and others use an Imu Pao, which is an above-ground version of the imu, but the luau’s that are trying to create a more traditional, authentic experience will use an actual imu, which is typically 6 ft long, 4 ft wide and 3 ft deep.
For the imu, a fire is created in the dirt pit using kiawe wood. Once the fire is burning well, rocks are put in the pit so that they retain the fire’s heat and continue cooking the pig after the flames have burnt out. When the rocks are extremely hot, the pit is lined with banana leaves. The pig (or whatever meat being cooked) is salted, filled with more hot rocks, and wrapped in ti and banana leaves. To help retain moisture and produce an even cooking heat, the meat is covered with wet burlap, and then with a layer of sand or dirt. After this, the waiting begins! The meat is left in the imu to cook for 6-8 hours, absorbing smoke and steam from the wood and leaves that give kalua meat its signature flavor. Once the meat is done, it is removed from the imu and shredded.
Dinner and the show begin at 7, and continue until approximately 9pm. Guests have three package options to choose from; the Hawaiian Luau (basic package), the Orchid Luau, which features an orchid lei and middle seating, and the Deluxe Luau, which includes a fresh orchid or kukui nut lei, and deluxe seating.
Experience the Paradise Cove Luau
Hours: Luau begins at 5pm and ends around 9pm
Hawaiian Luau – $88/adult, $78/youth, $68/child
Orchid Luau – $119/adult, $105/child, $92 youth
Deluxe Luau – $153/adult, $137 youth, $124 child
Address: 92-1089 Alii Nui Drive, Kapolei, Hawaii 96707
Directions: From Waikiki, take the H-1 W toward Honolulu. Continue onto the H-201 W (toward Fort Shafter/Aiea). Take the H-1 W exit toward Pearl City; merge onto H-1 W. Continue onto HI-93 W/ Farrington Hwy. Take the exit toward Ko Olina Resort. Merge onto Ali’Inui Drive. Paradise Cove will be ahead on the right, just past the Ko Olina entrance gate.
Bus pick-up from various hotels is also available; visit the website for more information.