“Let me tell you about the best luau in Kauai. Let me just start here, unlimited Mai Tais!” That was how my friend let me know about the Smith Family Garden Luau, a family run luau in Lihue in business for over 50 years. I looked online and I liked what I saw.
- Beautiful location ✔️
- Buffet with all sorts of amazing food ✔️
- A show with all sorts of hula ✔️
This was clearly a win.
The Smith Family goes above and beyond to make the luau an experience. With a 5 pm+ start time, the families wait at the gate to get in. As you walk in, everyone receives their lays, and you can take pictures with some of the hula performers.
Then everyone is loaded into tram cars for a tour of the garden. This was simply stunning. As you go around the 30 acres, the tram driver lets you know some of the flora and fauna that you are looking at, as well as the different gardens and how they are set up. After the tram ride, you have time to wander the gardens by yourself. We enjoyed checking out the beautiful Japanese garden with the red bridges, and the bamboo and fruit trees. The kids enjoyed the Easter Island statues and pretending to look up its nose.
At 6pm is the imu ceremony. This is when the imu oven, is uncovered, and the Kalau pig, which has been cooking all day, come out from the oven. There is a playing of the conch shell, which was to call others from all over the island. Then they showed us how the dirt was removed, the leaves were lifted, and long poles were used to lift the pig, and rice pudding were lifted out of the oven for us to eat. Then we were sent to find seats and get drinks to start dinner.
I realized a little late that many people had thought ahead and placed items on the tables “reserving” their seats for their family. We finally found four seats together close to the front, side of the stage, but far away from the buffet lines. Then the kids held the seats and my husband and I went to get Hawaiian punch for them and mai tais for ourselves. (Did I mention the unlimited Mai Tais?). Then we patiently waited until our table was called to go up to the buffet.
As expected, the food was plentiful. There was several salads, including a local favorite lomilomi salmon salad, fresh Hawaiian breads, poi, and a selection of fish, chicken, beef and of course Kalua pig. The dessert table had coconut cake, imu baked rice pudding, and lots of fruit. My daughter, who does not know how to buffet, got some fruit, some macaroni salad, and a tiny bit of pork and poi. My son, husband and I piled our plates and went back for seconds (thirds if you count the dessert round). And of course more Mai Tais…
Once everyone was served, there was a band that played hula music. Then, volunteers were invited up to learn the hula. My little one never misses a chance to be on stage, and managed to be one of the first up and right in front. They walked everyone through a hula dance, and she proudly performed with all the others.
After the show was done and the plates were cleared, people started wandering toward the stage area. We were able to get good seats close up with covering for the show. The Smith Family knows how to put on a good show. The large stage had elaborate scenery, and they showed a selection of Hawaiian, Tahitian, Polynesian, and Japanese dances. My daughter loved watching all the dancing, and even stood up a few times to try swaying her hips. My son was exhausted after a full day at the beach and then at the luau, and fell asleep for a part of it. I loved the costumes, the swish of color, the expert dancing and moving of hips, and the explanations of each dance and it’s origin. At the end all the dancers came on stage and gave a beautifully choreographed performance.
We were sad to walk away, heading back to the parking lot where our car was. But the kids were asleep on their feet and we knew it was well past their bedtime. But we were happy to have made some a wonderful family memory in this beautiful luau, one we will cherish.
This trip was part of our series The Best Adventure – Milestone Birthdays in Kauai
+Schedule is 15 minutes earlier in the winter
*Starred photos taken by Atma Photography