Things To Know Before Experiencing Your First Hawaiian Luau

Travel Awaits
by Sage Scott

With a whole roasted pig unearthed from an in-ground oven, grass-skirt-wearing hula dancers, and bare-chested fire dancers, a luau is a festive, can’t-miss experience in the Aloha State. Originally social gatherings meant to unite a community in celebration of significant events, luaus are now held nearly nightly at resorts and other venues across the Hawaiian Islands.

These casual outdoor evening gatherings are similar to backyard barbecues. But instead of hot dogs and hamburgers cooked on a grill, you’ll enjoy tender chunks of slow-roasted pig. Instead of cold beer, you’ll sip fruity rum-infused mai tais. And all of this will take place in a palm-tree-shaded, oceanfront tropical paradise unlike any other place in the United States.

Here’s what you need to know before you attend your first Hawaiian luau.

What To Wear To A Hawaiian Luau
You can celebrate the beauty of this tropical paradise by donning prints inspired by the islands. For both men and women, bright colors like lemon yellow, lime green, ocean blue, sunset orange, and cherry red are all good luau colors.

Men can wear Aloha shirts (also known as Hawaiian shirts). These button-down, collared shirts typically feature palm trees, flowers, and tropical birds in a variety of eye-catching colors, and they pair well with khaki shorts.

For women, a flowy, floral sundress or Hawaiian-style sarong would be a good choice. Glam up your outfit with a shell necklace or a single plumeria flower tucked behind your ear. Just remember to place the flower behind your right ear if you’re single and your left ear if you’re taken!

Casual footwear is the way to go. Leave your fancy shoes and high heels at the hotel, and opt for comfy sandals or flip-flops instead. You can even kick off your shoes and go barefoot — no one will judge you!

Although Hawaii is known for its beautiful temperatures year-round, it can cool off at night. Be sure to bring a sweater, wrap, or light jacket.

Arriving At A Hawaiian Luau
Guests are typically welcomed to a luau with a lei. Traditional leis are made from fragrant, fresh local flowers like ginger, jasmine, or orchid blossoms. But leis can also be crafted from kukui nuts or shells. Regardless of how it’s constructed, the lei is a symbol of friendship, and it’s important to wear it throughout the luau. Setting the lei on the table, stowing it in your handbag, or throwing it away is considered disrespectful and rude.

Seating At A Hawaiian Luau
At traditional luaus, guests sit on the ground on large mats decorated with elaborate natural centerpieces fashioned from ti leaves, lacy fern fronds, and fragrant flowers. While some luaus still offer traditional seating on mats, guests can also enjoy the luau at long community tables.

While mat seating is a more authentic experience, keep in mind that you’ll be getting up and down several times during the evening to visit the buffet, use the restroom, and enjoy the activities. While you’re sure to have an unobstructed view of the entertainment, consider whether you’ll be comfortable sitting on the ground for up to 3 hours before choosing this option.

Dining At A Hawaiian Luau
Just like Thanksgiving dishes vary across the States, there isn’t a set menu for a luau. However, just like you can expect turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie at any Thanksgiving feast, you can expect several staples at these tropical buffet feasts.

Like the golden brown turkey at the center of every Thanksgiving meal, the kalua pig is the star of every luau. In an earthen firepit known as an imu, a whole pig is seasoned, wrapped in banana leaves, and slow cooked over hot coals. Many luaus kick off with an imu ceremony, during which the roasted pig is unearthed before the pork is shredded and added to the buffet table.

Instead of starches like mashed potatoes or stuffing, luaus feature poi. Made from steamed taro root that is mashed and mixed with water until it has a paste-like consistency, poi is often described as having a bland taste, but it pairs well with the savory items on the buffet. Plus, this superfood is gluten-free, high in fiber, and a good source of calcium.

Fun Fact: Because luau foods were traditionally eaten by hand (and not with utensils), the consistency of poi was determined by how many fingers were required to scoop it up and eat it — three fingers, two fingers, or one finger (the thickest).

At the end of the luau buffet, look for coconut-flavored desserts like haupia and kulolo. Haupia is made by blending coconut milk with sugar, water, and cornstarch to create a thick, yogurt-like mixture that is chilled and served in squares. Kulolo mixes coconut milk with taro root (yes, the same staple used to create poi) and sugar to form fudge-like squares.

Other dishes commonly served at luaus include poke, lomi lomi salmon, huli huli chicken, sweet potatoes, chicken long rice, macaroni salad, Hawaiian rolls, and pineapple.

Drinking At A Hawaiian Luau
The mai tai is one of the most popular adult beverages served at Hawaiian luaus. This tropical fruit-and-rum cocktail is made by shaking rum, triple sec, orange juice, orgeat syrup, sugar, and a few other ingredients together before garnishing with tropical fruit like a slice of orange or triangle of pineapple.

Another popular rum-based drink served at luaus is the Blue Hawaiian. Served either on ice or blended to perfection, the Blue Hawaiian gets its oceanic color from blue Curacao and its tropical flavors from pineapple juice and cream of coconut.

Although it was concocted in Puerto Rico, an island on the opposite side of the U.S. from Hawaii, it’s not uncommon to see the pina colada on the drink menu at Hawaiian luaus.

Once the guests have enjoyed kalua pig and poi, Polynesian musicians, luau dancers, and other performers take the stage. Sit back and sip another tropical fruit-infused cocktail while enjoying ukulele music, fire knife dancing, and hula. Many Hawaiian luaus encourage audience participation, and some will invite guests onto the stage for hula lessons.

In addition to luau performers, some Hawaiian luaus include additional interactive experiences like ukulele lessons, coconut leaf headband weaving, and lei making.

How Long Does A Luau Last?

Luaus are traditionally scheduled to include the magnificent Hawaiian sunset and typically last about 2 to 3 hours. While you’ll want to confirm the time of your specific luau experience, most luaus begin around 5 or 6 p.m. and end around 8 or 9 p.m.

How Much Does A Luau Cost?
Located 2,500 miles off the coast of California in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is not known as a budget destination. And just as you may be surprised by the price of a fresh pineapple or a gallon of gasoline in Hawaii, you will find that Hawaiian luaus can be a bit pricey. Expect to pay around $100 per person as a starting point, with upgraded experiences — like reserved seating, additional drink tickets, and souvenir photo opportunities — increasing the package price. That said, a trip to Hawaii is often a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, and a Hawaiian luau is an important part of that experience.

If you don’t upgrade your Hawaiian luau package to include reserved seating, be sure to arrive early to score a good spot. Arriving early will also ensure you’re sipping your first mai tai in record time and engaging in the other activities before the lines get long.

Pro Tip: From the servers to the entertainers, the folks helping to ensure you have a memorable luau experience always appreciate a cash tip.

The Best Luaus In Hawaii
Hawaiian luaus vary by island. Most large resorts offer evening luaus, and your hotel concierge is likely to recommend the in-house option if one is available. If you are enjoying an accommodation without an on-site luau, ask your concierge, host, or another local for a recommendation.

On the island of Oahu, about an hour north of Honolulu, the Polynesian Cultural Center’s luau is considered to be one of the most authentic. Transportation from Waikiki is available for an additional charge, and upgraded packages include lei greetings, canoe rides, and backstage tours.

Provided you’re not battling jet lag, try to attend your first Hawaiian luau as soon as you can after arriving in Hawaii. From the food to the entertainment, a luau is a fantastic way to learn about and embrace the local dishes, history, and culture.

USDA announces second round of funding for feral swine program

National Hog Farmer
USDA

The 2018 Farm Bill created the Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program and is a joint effort between NRCS and APHIS.

The USDA is accepting applications from non-federal, not-for-profit partners for projects to help agricultural producers and private landowners trap and control feral swine, which is part of the Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is making $12 million available and will accept applications through Nov. 5, in eight priority states during its second round of project funding.

FSCP is a joint effort between NRCS and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The second round of funding is for partners to carry out activities as part of the identified pilot projects in select areas of Alabama, Hawaii, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.

“The 2018 Farm Bill created this new pilot program to enable us to address threats to natural resources and agriculture posed by feral swine,” says Kevin Norton, NRCS acting chief. “This second investment will play a crucial role in getting landowners assistance they need.”

These new pilot projects and areas were selected in coordination with NRCS state conservationists, APHIS state directors and state technical committees to address feral swine issues and damage in areas with high densities.

Pilot projects consist broadly of three coordinated components: 1) feral swine removal by APHIS; 2) restoration efforts supported by NRCS; and 3) assistance to producers for feral swine control provided through partnership agreements with non-federal partners. Projects can be one to three years in duration and are planned to conclude at the end of fiscal year 2023 (Sept. 30, 2023).

The program was first announced in June 2019, and in the first round of funding, NRCS allocated almost $17 million for 20 projects across 10 states. Those projects will continue through the life of the 2018 Farm Bill in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.

A comment on the use of unattended steel snares as a method of animal control.

HALEHAKU
Chuck Phillips

The proponents of steel snares claim that the animal caught in the snare dies in a matter of minutes as a result of strangulation. The fact of the matter is that the majority of the trapped animals are snared in a manner that allows them to survive for days and sometimes weeks. They are subjected to a living death of dehydration, starvation, infection and being eaten alive by the insect larvae that hatch in the gaping cuts inflicted by the snare and subsequently spread into the eyes, nostrils and mouth of the captured animal. The dependent young that have no choice except to remain with the mother, suffer the same slow death of dehydration and starvation. I want to make it clear that these barbaric contraptions are not monitored or tended in any way. The trapped animals are invariably left to die by the aforementioned manner. Snares can be used to eliminate pigs, goats and deer but are used primarily to control the pig population at this time.

The Nature Conservancy's (T N C) original long range management plan for Waikamoi Preserve on Maui states on page 8 " Recently, the conservancy has formed a consortium of organizations to accelerate the development of promising feral animal control methods to protect Hawaii's remaining native forests. The animal control research consortium will

  1. Conduct a comprehensive, international survey for feral animal control methods.
  2. Implement Hawaii field tests for those methods that are already available.
  3. Conduct new research to prepare promising but undeveloped methods for field-testing.

Waikamoi staff will support this method whenever possible." The next paragraph goes on to say, " We are also testing the feasibility of radio telemetry snares, which would allow us to quickly dispatch captured pigs. When a pig is captured, a signal would be sent through our existing radio system revealing the location of the captured animal. Staff would then travel to that location and remove the animal. However, many technical problems remain to be solved before this technique becomes practical." This long-range management plan was for fiscal years 1995-2000. The acceptance of this management plan by the state's Natural Area Partnership Program made the TNC's Waikamoi Preserve eligible for public funding. This long-range management plan written by the TNC budgeted approximately eighty-five thousand dollars over that 6 year period exclusively and solely to research the use and feasibility of telemetry snares. The two paragraphs that I quoted implied that the TNC was actively seeking a more humane alternative than snaring as a means of animal control. I received a letter from TNC on Feb. 5, 2000,near the end of this research period. The TNC stated, in this letter, that they along with others, after having conducted major research and collaborating with experts elsewhere in the U.S. and abroad, developed their current program. It appears that this current program is similar to the program that they had before all of the aforementioned, promised research. Both are based on the use of unattended steel snares.

I suspect that research for a more humane alternative was never even given serious consideration and that it was merely self serving rhetoric intended to reduce and deflect opposition from animal rights groups. Animal Rights Hawaii, PETA, the Maui Humane Society and all of the various hunting groups have condemned the use of steel snares as a method of animal control. The proponents of the use of snares glibly defend their hellish method of slaughter by claiming that science and economics are on their side. Thousands of snares are in use in Hawaii at this time by the TNC, state and federal agencies and large corporate landowners. The use of these contraptions should be classified as a felony rather than as a standard operating procedure.

Hunting has been the traditional method of keeping the wild pig population in check. The proponents of snaring claim that hunting is not a practical solution especially at high elevations because:

  • The expense of transporting hunters to inaccessible areas
  • Hunters do not eradicate whole populations but only reduce numbers to more manageable levels.

There are other options. Snaring projects are usually used in conjunction with fences. A designated area is fenced then snares are deployed throughout the fenced area. The most promising method of removing pigs from a fenced area is with the use of one-way gates that allow the animals to leave but not to enter the areas. So far, these gates have not been used in an effective manner because the ultimate objective of the users of snares is the complete eradication of the feral pig in the Hawaiian Islands. Therefore, they believe that it is preferable to kill the animals rather than to allow them to escape into the neighboring hunting areas that sooner or later will also be fenced. The TNC, in a letter to me, states, " The Conservancy and the East Maui Watershed Partnership currently install one way gates on all newly built fences. Far from your assertion that they are ineffective and inferior in design, these one-way gates have been operating as intended. While a variety are in use, they are all based on tried and true pig hunter designs." My question is that if the one-way gates that are presently in use are as effective as stated, then why not dispense with the snares and give the gates time to work. It has long been said by those who oppose the use of snares that these fences do not simply fence animals out of the designated areas but rather fence them in subsequently marking them for extermination. In order to be effective, these gates have to be deployed in sufficient numbers, in the right locations and designed to guide the pigs through the gate as the pig follows the fenceline. These gates would be most effective when used in conjunction with bait stations to lure the animals through. A certain amount of research and trial and error experimentation will be necessary. A sufficient number of gates would add to the cost of fencing. If the builders of these fences take issue with added expense then I suggest that they look in their own back yard. I recently attempted to research the cost of the fence project entitled "The Fence Project To Protect the East Maui Watershed", the first phase of which has been completed. This project was funded by the state but unfortunately the records are expensive and at the same time difficult to obtain. I believe that the information that I have obtained warrants concern as to the possibility of graft or at least favoritism related to certain project expenditures.

The early Polynesians brought pigs to the Hawaiian Islands over 1500 years ago. Hunting pigs to supplement the food supply has been a tradition in rural areas ever since. The cultural impact of eradication is significant in rural areas and has been ignored by the environmental community, which is largely urban based.

These animals also perform a beneficial function in reducing thick underbrush. When these animals are eliminated, the undergrowth that has been limited for so long spreads and becomes thicker as time passes. Then in times of drought, it becomes a fire hazard.
The TNC concedes that fire is a real and present threat that could cancel out the effect of years of expensive, publicly funded management projects without warning in one sudden inferno. Fire hazard and alien weed species which have been and are being introduced in to the wild areas by the proliferation of these fencing and eradication projects are rapidly on their way to becoming the greatest danger facing our wild areas in Hawaii. These management projects have accelerated the spread of alien weed species to the higher elevations by decades.

Birds also aid in the spread of unwanted plant species. Does it logically follow that they too must be removed when the time comes? The environmental movement has become a part of the corporate world that it was founded, at least in part, to reform. Irresponsible environmental policies that show little regard for long term effects espouse a constant cycle of blame and eradication that will inevitably devastate the very ecosystems that these agencies and organizations profess to be snatching from the brink of extinction.

If you agree that the inhuman practice of snaring should be banned throughout the state of Hawaii and if you agree that public funding should be withdrawn from projects using this reprehensible practice, please write or call the following people:

House of Representatives
State Capitol
415 S. Beretania St. Rm. 435
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Ph# 808-586 - 6330
repmorihara@capitol.hawaii.gov

Avery B. Chumbley
State Senate
State Capitol
415 S. Beretania St. Rm. 435
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Ph# 808-586 - 6030
abc@aloha.net

Joseph M. Souki
House of Representatives
State Capitol
415 S. Beretania St. Rm. 435
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Ph# 808-586 - 9444
repsouki@capitol.hawaii.gov

Michael Buck
Division of Forestry and Wildlife
1151 Punchbowl St.
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Ph# 808-587 - 0160