The best (and most authentic) Luau in Maui and why you should book a ticket

When I first went to Hawaii over 10 years ago I remember how entraining it was to experience my first luau. I loved the dancing and drums and all the fire, but when I returned to the beautiful Islands of Hawaii more recently, I wanted to experience more of the cultural side of a lu’au. After searching online and speaking with other locals I learned that the most authentic Hawaiian Lu’au is the Old Lahaina Lu’au and so we booked in to see this traditional hula and dinner experience.

The history of a Luau

To understand why it is important to consider an authentic luau, it is first important to understand the history and cultural significance of the luau. For a long time men and women would eat separately. There were also certain foods women weren’t allowed to eat. All that started to change when King Kamehameha II  took over. They had large celebrations with feasts, hula, and music. These special events were all about food, fun, but most importantly family.

However, the celebration was changed drastically around 1820 when Christianity took over, and in 1830, hula was banned for more than 40 years. King Kalakaua restored hula in 1874, and at this time hula introduced women dancers.

But over the years, unfortunately the true authenticity of hula, and luaus in general changed. Hollywood created their own version of hula, using musical instruments instead of ancient gourds and drums. The dancing became more of a visual presentation instead of its origin – language.

And overtime the actual lu’au’s in Hawaii changed as they welcomed visitors to the show. Many started to combine the Polynesian and Hawaiian culture, promoting fire dancing, and feasts that didn’t even touch on true Hawaiian food. But that is what sets the Old Lahaina Lu’ua apart. It’s goal is to teach visitors about the Hawaiian culture, by creating an authentic atmosphere touching on all the senses. I will share more on that in the experience.

The experience

The setting

One of the main reasons visitors flock to Hawaii each year is the beautiful setting. Mountains located right beside the stunning waters of the Pacific Ocean. The backdrop of the Old Lahaina Lu’ua captures the beauty of Hawaii. When you first arrive you are automatically drawn to the beautiful ocean scene. Along the waterfront there are different local artists showing off their work. Here you will find one of a kind wood carvings and a band playing live music. The seating is set up to form a semi circle around a stage and in the middle of the stage is an authentic Hokule’a, the famous voyager canoes, that would be part of the story we were going to learn tonight.

The performance

What I loved about the show is they really want to teach you. Before anything starts, hula dancers take the stage and show you a few moves. Since the dance really is a language, they also tell you the meaning behind each move. On top of that, they introduce you to some authentic Hawaiian instruments, lots of shows focus on the drums, but this show also created sound with instruments that have been used for hundreds of years, like the ka’eke’eke (hallow bamboo used to create sounds like drums), an ipu, a pu (or conch), and Ili’ili (stones that create a clacking sound). I found it fascinating that so much of the music was created by natural items.

After a brief introduction, the dancing started. Both men and women took the stage in tradition costumes and headdresses dancing to traditional music and through each movement telling a story. It was truly beautiful.

The food

One of the main reasons people come to a Lu’au is for the food right? I mean the history of the Lu’au is celebrating with a giant feast. While over the years a lot of Lu’au’s have become more “americanized”, the Old Lahaina Lu’ua prides itself on serving authentic Hawaiian foods. Yes, they serve pork that has been roasted underground for 18 hours, but they also serve other traditional foods like poi, laulau, lomilomi salmon, and the freshest tuna poke I have ever tasted. Oh and if you aren’t full after your five courses they send you home with a little treat, fresh banana bread (as we found out an island favourite).

The history lesson

While I feel many lu’uas just focus on the show, what I loved about the Old Lahaina Lu’au is that it also focused on the history of the islands and the people that call Hawaii home. We were taken back in time through dance, music, and language, to learn about how these Islands came to be and how the luau was started. Learning about the history helped created a deeper connection to Maui and the beautiful traditions and culture.

If you are visiting Maui and thinking of going to a lu’au, I highly suggest learning more about the Old Lahaina Lu’ua. 

Mahalo as they say,

and happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia

 

 

Why Maui is the perfect vacation destination with a baby

It has been more than two years since I left the country and so as the world slowly started to open up again I was itching for a vacation but a lot had changed in the last few years, including our family. In December we welcomed our first baby and I was nervous to travel with a 4 month old.

I didn’t want to be the person on the plane that no one wanted to sit beside a crying baby or worse have to deal with a sick baby in a foreign country, but here is the thing, I took my first international flight to South Africa before the age of 1 and travel was something that was ingrained in my life at a young age. I wanted to be able to share the passion and love for exploring with my son and so we booked the ticket.

Why we landed on Maui

For the first flight we didn’t want to go anywhere too far. We also wanted to go somewhere that we knew if something happened we were able to communicate properly and get medical attention if needed. Hawaii checked all the boxes for us and we had always wanted to visit Maui. We loved the fact that there were direct flights from Vancouver to Maui so we wouldn’t have to deal with any layovers.

Where to stay in Maui

There are two main areas where visitors stay in Maui, the West or South side. The West side includes the towns of Lahaina and Kaanapali while on the South you will find Kihei. In doing our research we found that most of the resorts are found in the West while the South is more apartment style homes and airbnbs available. Each area offers its own advantages.

Reasons we loved the West Side

Kaanapali beach stretches the coast here and is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Maui. There is also a wide selection of accommodations. Here you will find everything from top resorts and long stay condos. It also offers unique attractions. The quaint town of Lahaina is located here, and in the area you can shop until you drop as well as visit some delicious local restaurants where you will find the freshest seafood. This area is also known to have the best weather in all of Maui because the mountains block the rain clouds from making their way down to the west. It is considered the driest area.

There are of course some drawbacks as well. This is considered to be a more touristy area, hence all the resorts. Also it is not quite as centra to some of the popular activities like the Road to Hana and Haleakala.

Reasons we loved the South Side

Since most of the resorts are on the west side of the Island the beaches here are less crowded and also more affordable. The sandy beaches, like Wailea, offer some great opportunities for water sports like snorkeling, diving, and surfing.

The drawbacks to stay here are that it isn’t as touristy – a blessing and a curse I guess. Because of that there aren’t as many shops or restaurant options.

At the end of the day we figured it would be easier to stay in more of a resort style place for a first trip. We wanted a place with a pool because we knew if all else failed Max loves his swim lessons and so if the ocean wasn’t his favourite place, we could at least hang out at the pool. We ended up staying at a resort called Honua Kai, but actually found the resort on Airbnb. It was a perfect location, it offered 5 pools for us to hang out at, was right on a beautiful sandy beach, and had a restaurant on location so if Max fell asleep early we could just order in.

Best baby friendly beaches

Let’s be honest, one of the main reasons to visit Maui is the gorgeous beaches, and the best part is there are a lot of baby friendly beaches around where the tide isn’t as strong and the waves aren’t as big.

Baby Beach (Pu’unoa Beach)

This beach is located in Lahaina and actually where we did a little family photo shoot. It was the perfect spot to take Max for a dip because the tide went out in the morning and the water was very shallow. We were able to walk ankle deep on soft sand and see the coral and even sea turtles in the area. There is also a reef that holds back the waves.

Baby Beach #2

There are actually two beaches known as Baby Beach, the second one is in the town of Paia. It is a little out of the way since it is located in the North part of the Island, but it is along the road to Hana if that is on your itinerary. Not quite as clear as the other Baby Beach, you won’t really find any waves here since the area is protected by a rock wall.

Napili Bay

This beach is located just south of Kapalua Bay. It is a beautiful sandy beach with calmer waters.

Wailea Beach

This beach is located in Wailea and it is gorgeous. Continuously voted one of the most beautiful beaches in Maui, it is sandy with few rocks and once again the waves don’t get too big.

Where to eat in Maui

Since we stayed in Kaanapali, most of the restaurants that we ate at were on the West side so I can’t give too much advice for the South, but here were some places we stopped at and absolutely loved

Star Noodle

Located in Lahaina this restaurant offers asian inspired dishes meant to be shared so you get to try a few different items on the menu. It has long been a favourite for locals and visitors alike but make sure you make a reservation – the restaurant fills up quickly.

Lahaina Fish Co

This is the perfect spot for a more casual lunch or dinner but the views are well worth it. Located right on the water you can watch the sunset while you munch on some classics like fish tacos – but you are in Hawaii so the fish is fresh daily!

Pacific’o on the beach

I went into this restaurant a little blind – I thought beach front great – didn’t realize it was a bit more upscale and fancy, but boy oh boy is it worth it, and despite the pricier meals, they were still happy to welcome a baby. The sunset views here are magical (try and reserve a table outdoors). The restaurant works with O’O Farm for a true farm to table experience and you sure can taste how fresh the food is.

Aunty Sandy’s

Not really a restaurant but if you plan on driving the Road to Hana you need to mark this spot for a stop. It is a little off the main road but the banana bread here is to die for. Fresh every day, we enjoyed the warm bread while watching the waves from a lookout point nearby.

Cafe O’Lei at the Mill House

Saving the best for last – literally. Our last day of the trip we were looking for a spot closer to the airport, and stumbled upon the Cafe O’Lei located on Maui Tropical Plantation. Don’t do what we did, make a reservation since we were lucky to get in (the joys of a baby forcing an early dinner time). The restaurant had delicious cocktails (made with ingredients from their farm) and everything was so fresh. This could honestly be one of the best meals I have ever had.

 

Top things to do in Maui

I know there is a lot of awesome activities for kids in Maui, but Max is still to young to do much (he was only 4 months at the time of this trip). So instead of focusing our trip around specific toddler/kid activities we tried to find things that we would enjoy and that were baby friendly. It was actually a great time to travel with a baby because he is still too young to move around, making it easy for us to check everything off the list that we wanted to do.

Check out a Luau

I had always wanted to experience an authentic Luau since it is such a big part of the Hawaiian culture. The celebratory luaus date back to the 1800’s where they would feast on traditional dishes. While the current luaus are definitely more for the tourists, we heard from several people that the Old Lahaina Luau was very authentic and really celebrated the Hawaiian culture. We had a chance to eat traditional foods like pork that had been cooked underground for 18 hours, while watching the incredibly talented hula dancers, and at the same time we were treated to a beautiful history lesson. I will share more on the specifics of the luau soon, but this was definitely one of our favourite experiences of the trip.

Take a helicopter ride

While I usually love to explore new places with a hike, I knew that was going to be tough with our baby and so we decided to explore the island a different way – by air. Max was free and we just had to make sure that we had good headphones for him to block out the noise. We decided to explore the waterfalls of Maui and Molokai with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. Our pilot was so knowledgable and experiencing the views of tall seaside cliffs, lush green valleys, and of course the waterfalls was pretty magical. Oh and Max slept the entire time so if you need to find a way to get your baby to sleep, this is it.

Try your hand at surfing

How can you not try surfing when you are in Hawaii, I mean isn’t this where surfing was invented. We called ahead to a company called Local Pros Maui, a smaller company that did more one on one lessons. They were willing to let us switch off so that one of us could watch Max while the other surfed. It was super fun to catch some waves and they even had a pro photographer to capture the action.

Drive the Road to Hana

This is one of the most popular activities in Maui – and it has been on my bucket list forever, but we weren’t entirely sure how Max would do with the windy road. We said that if at any time he wasn’t happy we would turn around, but as it turns out windy roads are great at putting our baby to sleep. We drove down to the Seven Sacred Pools and back stopping at various gorgeous points like The Garden of Eden and Pua’a Ka’a Falls, where I actually had a chance to swim in the pools by the falls.

Go snorkeling

Maui is world famous for its snorkeling. While we wanted to check out famous spots like Honolua Bay, we decided to stick to more baby friendly beaches like Baby Beach and even Kaanapali Beach at our hotel. It didn’t matter that we didn’t travel far for snorkeling though. We still saw colourful tropical fish and plenty of sea turtles.

Visit Iao Valley 

While we knew we weren’t going to be able to get a long hike in with a baby (especially in this heat) we did want to at least get some walk in – and Iao Valley was definitely worth it. A short 0.4 mi hike takes you to a gorgeous look at view of the Needle in the Valley. Along the way there are also plenty of signage so you can learn more about this sacred place.

We had an absolute blast exploring Maui as a family, and while we will definitely be back when Max is old enough to enjoy it a bit more, this was the perfect spot for our first vacation with a baby.

Happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia