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Home > Dining > Alii Luau

Discover Hawaii's finest luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center

The Polynesian Cultural Center's Alii Luau, which offers visitors and kama'aina alike the best value and richest experience in all Hawaii, includes:

A flower lei greeting
Hula, of course
Hawaiian music and entertainment
Multi-lingual hosts and hostesses
Comfortable, covered seating
All-you-can-eat buffet service
The Alii or royal court
Clear views of the imu ceremony
Authentic Hawaiian food, served throughout the evening
The Center's "Ambassador of Aloha" emcee

…and the complete Polynesian Cultural Center experience,
including seven villages, the Rainbows of Paradise canoe show, PCC's IMAX™ Theater screenings, and lower-level seating for the spectacular Horizons evening show. Luau in general, and the PCC's Alii Luau in particular, are rich in Hawaiian and Polynesian heritage. Indeed, after Hawaii and aloha, luau may be the best-known Hawaiian word in the world.

Discover for yourself why the Polynesian Cultural Center's Alii Luau has justifiably inherited the deeper meanings of Hawaiian hospitality and joy inherent in this ancient feast, and add this unforgettable experience to your Hawaiian vacation.

Learn more about:

The History of the Luau Luau Customs & Ceremonies The Alii Luau & the Laie Hukilau
The Alii Luau Menu The Alii Luau Venue FAQ's
Recipes Alii Luau Gifts
 

The History of the Luau

Throughout the world, feasting has been and is a universal form of celebrating happy and important events. However, the Polynesians, and especially Hawaiians, have evolved this great pleasure into a truly unique cultural experience.

Before contact with the western world, Hawaiians called their important feasts an 'aha 'aina. These feasts marked special occasions — such as reaching a significant life milestone, the launching of a new canoe or a great endeavor. A few survive in modern forms, such as the luau for the one-year-old baby, a graduation or wedding, that are common among Hawaiian and local families who may not even realize the practice has ancient origins.

Historically, the food and practices observed at an 'aha 'aina were rich with symbolism and the entire event was designed to unite the participants, similar to the way the old Hawaiians braided strands of coconut husk fiber, or sennit, into thicker 'aha cords and rope. For example, certain foods might represent strength, while the names or attributes of other food items might relate to virtues or goals the participants hoped to achieve.

Starting about 150 years ago the term luau gradually replaced 'aha 'aina. Luau, in Hawaiian and other Polynesian languages, is actually the name of the taro leaf, which when young and small is cooked like spinach and is often mixed with other foods, creating Hawaiian favorites such as luau squid or luau chicken; but today, luau is the commonly accepted name of a Hawaiian feast.

Even so, the abundant food served at the modern Alii Luau represents the aloha spirit that brings guests and islanders together in a memorable setting at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Or as "Cousin" Benny Kai, the PCC's "Ambassador of Aloha" says, "Whenever you're at a Hawaiian luau, you are 'ohana — family."

Come join our family.

Luau Customs and Ceremonies

The Polynesian Cultural Center's Alii Luau is an immensely enjoyable experience that can be broken into several components

A flower lei greeting
Souvenir picture taking (not included in the price of the package)
An optional pineapple smoothie (not included in the price of the package)
Live Hawaiian music, including steel guitar styling.
The Polynesian Cultural Center's own Ambassador of Aloha master of ceremonies explains the cultural significance of the luau and hosts the program
Polynesian Cultural Center performers start the program portion of the Ali'i Luau by singing a pule, or The Queen's Prayer — written by Hawaii's last reigning monarch, Queen Lili'uokalani
The Royal Court — consisting of representatives of Hawaii's ruling alii or chiefs — enter the luau as the emcee explains their relative ranks and the significance of their traditional costumes
Two young men uncover the imu or underground oven where a large pig has been cooking throughout the afternoon. Ancient Polynesians essentially devised a steam oven, called an imu in Hawaiian: River rocks are heated over firewood for several hours. When the rocks are sufficiently hot, any remaining firewood is removed and crushed banana stumps containing a lot of water are placed on top of the hot rocks — creating the steam — then the food is added, and everything is covered to seal in the steam. Depending on the amount of food, it may take hours for the feast to cook
Multi-lingual hosts and hostesses direct each table to one of the six buffet stations. Eat as much of the luau food as you like. Go back several times; or as Cousin Benny, the PCC's Ambassador of Aloha says, "Don't eat until you're full; eat until you're dizzy."
While you're eating, the program continues with hula kahiko or hula performed in the ancient style to the accompaniment of chants, drums and other percussion instruments; and hula auana, the graceful modern hula to the sounds of the steel guitar and beautiful Hawaiian music.
At some point in the program, the Ambassador of Aloha usually recognizes people who are celebrating their birthdays; and he always invites couples celebrating their wedding or anniversaries to come on stage and dance to the Hawaiian Wedding Song.
Did we mention you can go back to the buffet line as often as you like?
Keiki, or children, in the audience are invited onstage to join the familiar strains of Aloha 'Oe, which brings the entertainment portion of the Alii Luau to a close...but guests are welcome to sit and relax for another half-hour; and, of course, go back for thirds.

The Alii Luau Menu

The Polynesian Cultural Center serves authentic modern Hawaiian food at its Alii Luau, some based on ancient recipes, including several specialties offered in sampler sized portions:

Poi, the traditional Hawaiian staple. It is a starch dish made by pounding boiled taro roots and mixing with water until it reaches a smooth consistency. "Taro is one of the most nutritious starches on the planet," says Ambassador of Aloha Cousin Benny. Some Hawaiians eat their poi with salt, some with sugar, even soy sauce. Some like it thicker or thinner. Others like it several days old for a little extra tang; and malahini, or newcomers, might find it more to their liking at first if they eat it with a bite of the other meat dishes.
For those willing to try anything once, we offer poke, or raw fish marinated in lemon or lime juice with other condiments and a little coconut cream.  Normally offered in the Hawaiian-style of raw fish with sea salt, seaweed and onions, we've chosen the more pleasing Tahitan preparation to introduce you to this island favorite.  If you want the more Hawaiian-style version, you'll need to go a mom-and-pop local store, backyard luau or small Hawaiian restaurant to get a taste.
Lomilomi salmon. In Hawaiian, lomilomi means to massage, or in this case to break the salmon into small pieces, which are then mixed with tomatoes, onions, and other small condiments, giving it a delicious tangy taste that goes great with poi.This style of fish preparation was introduced to Hawaii by early western sailors.
Pipi kaula, or a seasoned beef jerky, harks back to the earliest days of western sailors who brought their salt beef aboard ship in barrels. In fact, on some of the South Pacific islands, you can still buy a barrel of salt beef.

Other favorite Hawaiian dishes served at the Alii Luau include:

Kalua pua'a, or roast pork, as its prepared in the Hawaiian imu or underground steam oven. Kalua pig is usually seasoned with sea salt and sometimes green onions.
Though ancient Polynesians brought moa, or chickens, with them from the South Pacific a thousand years ago, Asian influences have livened up the taste with teriyaki chicken.
Asian tastes have also contributed another luau favorite: Chicken long rice. Sometimes called thread or bean noodles, they are boiled and served hot with pieces of chicken. Try it over a little white rice.
Filets of tasty, flakey white meat island fish that is deep-fried.*
Dark purple Hawaiian sweet potatoes that have been mixed into a cold salad.
Taro rolls that have a distinctive purple color, derived from the taro flour used in the recipe. They are baked fresh daily at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Other items on the Alii Luau menu include:

A variety of salads: tossed greens with carrots and cherry tomatoes, spinach salad, sweet potato salad, ambrosia, and cucumber-carrot salad...with ranch, papaya seed, and thousand island dressings.
Cold fruits: ripe pineapple spears, of course; watermelon (in season) and other fruits.
Beverages (all decaffeinated): Coca-Cola™, Diet Coke™, root beer, Sprite™, Fruit Punch, Passion-Orange-Guava, Coffee, Herbal Teas.

Even the dessert table offers delightful Hawaiian treats, including:

Haupia (sweet custard cubes made with rich coconut cream), guava cake, coconut cake, chocolate macadamia nut cake.

Of course, in true Hawaiian luau fashion, you can go back for more as many times as you can stagger through the line. Enjoy!

The Alii Luau and the Laie Hukilau

The Polynesian Cultural Center's Alii Luau can trace its roots back to the old Laie Hukilau program, which provided the inspiration for the widely known Hukilau Song:

What a wonderful day for fishing
in the old Hawaiian way,
where the hukilau nets are swishing
down in old Laie Bay.
Oh we're going to a hukilau,
a huki huki huki huki hukilau.
Everybody loves a hukilau,
where the laulau is the kaukau at the big luau.
We throw our nets out into the sea,
and all the ama-ama come a-swimming to me.
Oh we're going to a hukilau,
a huki huki huki,
huki huki hukilau.

To understand the Laie Hukilau, it's important to know that missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly known as LDS or the Mormons) purchased a 6,000-acre plantation in Laie, Oahu, in 1865 as a headquarters and gathering place. When LDS leaders dedicated their temple — the first one built outside the continental United States — in 1919, Laie truly became the spiritual center for all the Pacific Islands and even Asia for the next several decades. Other Polynesians, especially Samoans from American Samoa, began to migrate to Laie.

The chapel accidentally burned down in 1940, but because of restrictions caused by World War II, they were unable to start rebuilding it until 1948. The local church members decided to start a hukilau as a fundraising activity for the new chapel.

A hukilau is an ancient Hawaiian fishing method in which a large net is laid in the ocean with lengthy ropes extending to the beach tied to each end. Long leaves, or lau in Hawaiian, which are bound along the length of the ropes, flutter in the water and help scare the fish into the net as the community pulls (huki in Hawaiian) the ropes, gradually bringing the net to shore.

Hundreds of visitors and island residents attended the first Laie Hukilau, which was held at Laie Bay's beautiful sandy beach (to this day Hukilau Beach, with its commemorative marker, is one of the finest and least crowded on Oahu). The Latter-day Saint Polynesians demonstrated and sold arts and crafts, invited the visitors to help huki the nets at the appropriate time, served a traditional Hawaiian luau in the canoe house, and afterward entertained them with traditional Hawaiian and Samoan music and dance. That first Laie Hukilau was a huge success and inspired Jack Owens to write The Hukilau Song.

The program continued periodically over the next 20-plus years, and also clearly demonstrated to leaders at the Church and the adjoining Brigham Young University-Hawaii that visitors were willing to drive from Waikiki to Laie to enjoy the warm hospitality of the Laie residents.

Since the Polynesian Cultural Center first opened its gates on October 12, 1963, more than 30 million visitors have experienced that same aloha spirit, which continues to be embodied by the Alii Luau. Many of the old Laie Hukilau performers were among the early PCC workers and villagers; and occasionally, Laie residents still put on a hukilau for special events.

Today, over 13,000 BYU-Hawaii students have also helped finance their education by working at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

The Alii Luau Venue

The Polynesian Cultural Center stages the Alii Luau in its Hale Aloha Theater. The Hale Aloha, which was completely renovated in early 2003, comfortably seats about 700 guests on individual chairs at at tables for eight. All seats have an excellent view of the entertainment.

The Hale Aloha also features a mountain backdrop with the imu pit at its foot, as well as waterfalls and a lagoon, two 90-foot tropical foliage murals, a large stage, and eight buffet serving stations. The "backstage" mountain includes dressing rooms, offices and practice facilities for the performers.

When the number of tickets sold for the Alii Luau exceeds the Hale Aloha's capacity, the Cultural Center puts on a second seating in the similarly spectacular Hale 'Ohana. This venue has won national awards for its beautiful landscaping and is also available for large group dinners, weddings and other events. The program and luau menu in the Hale 'Ohana is identical to those in the Hale Aloha.

The Hale Aloha was the home of the Polynesian Cultural Center's first evening show from opening day — over 40 years ago on October 12, 1963, when originally seated 600 guests.

In 1976, the evening show shifted to the 2,800-seat Pacific Theater as the Cultural Center evolved into Hawaii's most popular paid-admission visitor attraction. After that, the Hale Aloha featured other daytime shows and activities. For many years its stage was covered with sand, but in the 1980s the PCC extended the lagoon into the Hale Aloha, which became the site for the Center's long-running Pageant of the Long Canoes (which evolved into Rainbows of Paradise) for a number of years.

The Hale 'Ohana was originally the PCC's Market Place, which was moved behind the IMAX™ Theater in the mid-90s and remodeled into the original Alii Luau venue.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes the Alii Luau the best in Hawaii?
First, the Polynesian Cultural Center's Alii Luau will exceed your expectations of a Hawaiian luau — PLUS, your package includes admission to the Center's seven villages, all daytime shows, IMAX™ Theater screenings, and lower-level seating for the Horizons evening show.

How is the Alii Luau superior to other luaus?
Guests can enjoy the Alii Luau in a beautiful all-weather setting with comfortable seating on regular chairs. The Alii Luau musicians and dancers provide all-Hawaiian entertainment that harkens back to gracious Aloha State days of ocean cruise liner arrivals and departures and bygone radio broadcasts.

What is the Alii Luau schedule?
The Alii Luau is served Monday-Saturday (closed Sundays) from 5:00-7:00 p.m. The meal service starts approximately 5:15, and the food is served until it is time to go to the evening show. The entertainment also starts about 5:15 and lasts until about 6:30.

Do I need reservations?
The Alii Luau is the Polynesian Cultural Center's most popular dining option. While the Hale Aloha venue can comfortably seat approximately 700 guests and several hundred more comfortably fill the Hale 'Ohana, we encourage you to make reservations as far in advance as possible.

Do I have to go to the luau?
No. The Polynesian Cultural Center offers several other ticket packages and dining options.

How much does the Alii Luau cost?
The Ali'i Luau package costs $75 per adult (ages 12-and-up) and $51 per child (ages 3-11). Packages with transportation to and from major pick-up points in Waikiki are also available.

If we purchased the Gateway Buffet package, can we upgrade to the Ali'i Luau?
Of course. The Polynesian Cultural Center Box Office can upgrade your tickets, if Alii Luau seating is available.

Will we have to eat poi?
It's up to you if you want to try it.  But remember, you can eat as much poi as you want at the Alii Luau. It goes really well with the pipi kaula (seasoned beef) and lomilomi salmon (check out the Alii Luau menu).

Is there a pig ceremony?
Naturally. Polynesian Cultural Center villagers cook a large pua'a, or pig, every day in the imu — the traditional Hawaiian way of cooking. The pig is uncovered as part of each Alii Luau, and Hawaiian-style kalua pig (roast pork) is an important part of the menu.

What if I don't eat pork?
The teriyaki chicken and deep-fried white fish entrees are also delicious, or ono, as we say in Hawaiian.

Can we sit on the ground and eat with our fingers?
That's the best and most authentic way to enjoy the Alii Luau! A limited amount of first-come seating on ground cushions with low tables is available right in front of the stage (you might want to get in line early). Of course, the Center also provides regular chairs (including infant chairs), tables, cutlery and linen service at all the other tables.

Will the musicians play The Hawaiian Wedding Song?
All couples celebrating their weddings or anniversaries are invited up to the stage to dance while the Polynesian Cultural Center musicians play The Hawaiian Wedding Song.

What does "Alii" mean?
Alii, or more correctly ali'i, means chief or royalty in Hawaiian. Hence, the Polynesian Cultural Center is offering a "royal feast" or a feast fit for a king.

Can we take pictures or videotape the show?
We would be disappointed if you didn't. Feel free to take pictures with our "Ambassador of Aloha" emcee as well.

How can I get additional information on the Alii Luau and the Polynesian Cultural Center?
Please contact your travel agent; log on to www.polynesia.com; or call our Reservations Office toll free from the mainland at 1-800-367-7060. On Oahu, please visit your local travel agency representative, call 293-3333, stop by our Waikiki Ticket Counter (open Monday-Saturday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.) in the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, or come to the Polynesian Cultural Center's Box Office (open Monday-Saturday at 9:00 a.m., gates open at 11:00 a.m.)

 


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