While many people may disagree, I believe there are some so-called touristy experiences a traveler ought to do. See Venice by gondola, for instance. Or climb at least part of the Great Wall in China. I’ve done both of those and don’t regret either. The magic of Venice was best felt from the water. The Great Wall’s testament to the fortitude of a nation was best understood from the uneven, steep steps of the wall built more than 2,000 years ago.
So it’s no wonder I wanted to attend a luau when I visited Hawaii. I found the experience not only entertaining, but also educational and, thanks to the family putting on the show, not at all touristy. Instead, the luau I experienced in Kauai at the famous Tahiti Nui restaurant in Hanalei was steeped in culture and tradition and intended to help visitors better understand the place and the people of the area.
If you’ve seen the movie “The Descendants,” Tahiti Nui is the restaurant where George Clooney’s character meets up with his cousin (played by Beau Bridges). The luau is held in a banquet room at the restaurant once a week and its indoor location makes for an intimate environment with seating close to the performers.
The luau begins with a short walk outside to where the pig is being cooked in a traditional underground pit. The pig is taken out of the imu (pit) and its wrappings of banana leaves and burlap are removed while visitors hear about the work and long hours involved in the cooking process. Visitors then get to taste the succulent pork, still steaming hot. Delicious!
Back inside, dinner is served buffet style with Mai Tais, rice, the pork and more. Seating is family style so you can make new friends while enjoying the meal.
Then, the show begins. The importance of “Aloha” is shared (see my earlier post on this multidimensional word) and the history of the hula is told while dancers perform. We learned about hula schools and competitions, how the hand motions of the dance represent words in the songs being sung, and the rigorous training needed to properly perform what is a complex and beautiful form of art. A more traditional hula kicked off the show and the dramatic fire dance ended it. Touristy or not, it’s an experience I highly recommend.
-post by JG