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Wondering what it’s like to go to a traditional Hawaiian luau in Wailea, Maui? In this blog, I share my experience at Te Au Moana at Wailea Beach Resort Marriott and offer tips so you can have the best time!

In this blog, I share…

  • What is a Luau
  • Luau Tradition & History
  • Luau Quick Info
  • Te Au Moana Lūʻau
  • Highlights
  • My Luau Experience
  • What to Do at a Traditional Hawaiian Luau
  • Luau Food & Drink Menu
  • What to Wear to a Luau
  • Where to Stay in Wailea, Maui
Hawaiian quote

My Hawaiian Luau Adventures

The Hawaiians take great pride in their culture and have passed on many traditions that express the love and respect they have for their people, land and its spirits.

On a trip to Hawaii, I had the great pleasure of experiencing one of these traditions – a luau in Wailea!

Attending one made me realize just how different Hawaiian culture is from the rest of America. Sometimes, I even forgot that I was still in the U.S. Being in Maui may as well have been a different world. I savored every moment.

I’m so excited to share my luau adventures but, before I do, let’s cover the basics so you know what to expect! 🙂

Pinterest pin about Te Au Moana luau in Wailea
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What is a Luau

I would be willing to bet that if you thought of a luau right now, there’d be visions of juicy, roasted pigs, women in hula skirts and dancers playing with fire! Am I right?

To you and me, a luau is basically one big, colorful occasion but, it’s also so much more than that and goes back pretty far… Learning about the history made me even more excited to attend one and now I’ll share it with you!

Geeves being given a flower lei at the Marriott Wailea Luau

Luau Tradition & History

The origin of words that we use everyday are actually far more simple and absurd than we realize! Take the word luau. I bet you’d never guess that it was named after a plant that we eat!

The word luau means taro plant and was inspired by a popular Hawaiian dish with chicken and the leaves of a taro plant baked in coconut milk.

But, the gathering wasn’t always called a “luau”. It was once called ‘aha‘aina, (gathering meal) and used as a way to celebrate a war victory, whenever a new canoe launched or a significant life event.

However, these ‘aha’ainas were not fun to be had by all, the guest list was quite elite.

Once upon a time, kapu (a set of restrictions) forbade Hawaiian men and women from dining together and certain food was only for the chiefs and kings.

Then in 1819, King Kamehameha II stepped in and made a bold statement by ending these restrictions once and for all. Continuing to break the societal norms, he held a feast where he dined beside women. And just like that, the “lūʻau” was born.

Today, the luau is a fun way for Hawaiians to come together and celebrate special life events like weddings, graduations, and the like. Luaus range from small, intimate, romantic gatherings to big, full-blown family parties.  

Hawaiian dancers on the luau's stage
Te Au Moana Luau in Wailea, Maui

Even my Miami Dolphins boy and native Hawaiian, Tua Tagovailoa hosted a charity event in Florida called, “Luau with Tua”.

Te Au Moana at Wailea Beach Resort, Marriott Maui

As it turns out, I didn’t find Te Au Moana Luau, it found me. I was staying at the Wailea Beach Resort, Marriott and after walking back to my room from the pool, I heard chanting, music and cheering so, I went to see what the heck was going on.

That’s when I saw the luau! I had no idea there was even one offered at the hotel. I didn’t want to miss out on all the fun so I booked my ticket!

Geeves and her friend overlooking the ocean at sunset

Meaning of Te Au Moana Luʻau

The luau’s name, Te Au Moana, translates to “The Ocean Tide”. It couldn’t be a more fitting name as we were surrounded by the ocean at the luau but, it also has a much deeper meaning than that.

There’s a little-known continent that we often don’t hear about, Oceania. The ocean tide (Te Au Moana) has always been the one constant thing connecting Oceanian people together like the Hawai’ians and Polynesians.

During the luau, you will hear beautiful stories and songs that tell the tales of generations of not just Hawaiians but also different Oceanian cultures who share a great respect for the land and sea that gave them life.

Geeves doing Hawaiian arts and crafts

Quick info

  • Luau: Te Au Moana
  • Location: Wailea Beach Resort Marriott in Wailea, Maui
  • Time Frame: 4:30 – 8 PM

Te Au Moana Luau Highlights

  • Beautiful oceanfront views
  • Ancient Hawaiian Rituals & Demonstrations
  • Traditional Stories, Songs & Dances
  • Three Course Menu served to your table
  • Open bar
  • Imu celebration (roasted pig)
  • Receive a fresh flower or kukui nut lei, or carved wooden necklace

My Luau Experience

As this was my first luau, I didn’t know what to expect! I was just really excited.

My luau adventures at Te Au Moana started with a Hawaiian gentleman greeting me and putting a lei around my neck. They’re very nice there and even offered to take a photo of my then partner and I.

When you first enter the luau, you don’t know where to go first. There’s so much to look at.

The Luau’s Atmosphere

The stage is set in a gorgeous garden against a beautiful ocean backdrop with panoramic views.

We got really lucky with a table in one of the front rows.

There were a bunch of friendly faces sat with us and we talked all through the night. We were even invited to go on a hike the next morning but we were too tired after stuffing ourselves at the luau. Evidently, “vacation mode” = indulging to the point of not moving. 😂

Geeves and her friend having dinner and watching the show at Te Au Moana luau in Wailea

As sunset approached, it cast an incredible glow against everything and everyone. Then, day turned to night and you’re greeted with a dazzling purple sky with magnificent colors and twinkling stars. The sight was so incredible, it was hard to believe that it was real.

What to Do at a Traditional Hawaiian Luau

What I loved about Te Au Moana Luau is that they give you a very interactive experience, including you in their traditions. It made the whole event very special and memorable.

Little did I know that I’d also get to experience so many of Hawaii’s ancient rituals. It gave me an even greater appreciation of Hawaiian culture which I already was so fascinated by.

Geeves getting a Hawaiian tattoo.

Hawaiian Rituals

Everywhere you looked, a cultural demonstration was going on.

I experienced my first ritual after making my way to the arts and crafts table where I was given a (temporary) Hawaiian tribal tattoo, known as “kākau”. It almost felt like an initiation!

There were different designs, each with a meaning behind it.

Geeves watching a coconut husking demonstration at Marriott Wailea Luau

There seemed to be fun things to do for people of all ages. I saw a mix of couples, friends and families. This luau is basically for anyone who enjoys live music, dancing, eating like a king and learning about the Hawaiian culture.

There were also other rituals and demonstrations to engage you like tapa making (creating fabric from trees and shrubs) and making flower leis. I liked watching the coconut husking demonstration.

You’ll also see a lot of cultural displays like Polynesian weaponry.

Imu ceremony with a kalua pig at Te Au Moana Marriott Wailea Luau in Maui
Hawaiian Imu Ceremony with a kalua pig

Imu Ceremony

I was ready for a night my dinner and a show! But, there was still so much fun to be had before they broke out the Hawaiian feast!

In the beginning of the luau, I was treated to an “Imu ceremony” which is when a cooked kālua pig (kālua puaʻa) is dug up from an underground oven (imu).

It’s a very popular, ancient Hawaiian tradition. I found it fascinating to watch, although some people may be bothered by it and opt to do something else.

When the pū Hawaiian conch shell was blown, I knew it would not be too long before I was time to eat!


(NOT SO) FUN FACT

Ancient Hawaiian delicacies such as bananas, moi, reef fish and pork were only allowed to be eaten by men of a higher standing such as ‘Alii’ (chiefs) and the King. Thank goodness these delicious goodies can now be enjoyed by all!


Relax at Your Table

After the demonstrations and fun rituals, it was time to take our seats the scrumptious dinner and show we’d all been waiting for!

When I went, you could sit at the table of your choice at no extra cost. They now have “Standard” and “Premium” seating which makes a difference in how close to the stage you want to be. Premium seating guarantees you a seat in the first two rows which is where we were seated. It’s well worth it so you can see better.

The crowd dancing at Te Au Moana luau

Insider Tip: Tables are assigned in the order that your booking is received. If you want a table closest to the stage, I recommend booking ASAP.

The Show

After walking through the crowd, various Hawaiian dancers, singers and musicians took the stage, dressed in traditional clothing. And boy did they put on a show!

The show at  Te Au Moana luau in Wailea, Maui

There was chanting, hula dancing, fire dancing. All against a gorgeous purple sky. There wasn’t a Hawaiian song or dance that I didn’t enjoy.

What made the performances so exciting was that they were all different and yet, they all came together very nicely. Each performer was so talented and brought a high level of energy, keeping us on our toes for the next show. Their enthusiasm was infectious. It made me want to get up and dance with them!  

Hula dancers at the Te Au Moana luau in Wailea Maui

They encouraged everyone to dance, which we did! Eventually, they’d choose members of the audience to come up and dance with them. It brought me back to a few days earlier on the Big Island when I took a hula dancing class.

Flame dancers at a Maui luau

One of my favorite performances was the fire dancers who were throwing flaming torches back and forth and climbing on one another.

Flame dancers at a Maui luau

It was definitely a night to remember. Looking back, I can’t imagine the evening being more perfect!

Dinner is Served

It was time for the big Hawaiian feast!

Even the servers were dressed in authentic attire. The luau did not miss a single detail. Then again, I’m not Hawaiian so I wouldn’t know. Maybe this is the tourist version. 😂

Geeves plate of Hawaiian food at the luau

Luau Food & Drinks

Hawaiians are my kind of people! Not only do they know how to eat, they break out the feast with a bang! There’s no pork like the one served at a Hawaiian luau! It was the star of the show at the buffet. There were all sorts of fixings to compliment it.

I wasted no time getting to the front of the buffet line.

Dessert at the Marriott Wailea luau

Since COVID, the luau has replaced the buffet with a family-style 3 course meal with unlimited servings. Instead of going up to get your food, your server will bring it to your table. If you’re a picky eater, you’ll be happy to know that there’s no shortage of food to choose from, vegetarian options.

There is also an open bar with alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks where you can order traditional drinks like Mai Tais, Blue Hawai’i, Lava Flow.

Dennis after getting his drink
Enjoy the open bar and get your drink on!

Menu

Starter

Hawaiian Taro Roll w/ mango butter

Accompaniments

  • Veggie Stir-Fry w/ roasted garlic olive oil
  • Roasted Garlic Edamame Fried Rice w/ onions & carrots
  • Local Honey Glazed Sweet Potato w/ toasted coconut
  • Poi

Salad

  • Hawaiian Style Poke w/ diced ahi, sweet onion, ogo inamona jus
  • Lomi Lomi Salmon w/ Hawaiian sea salt, diced tomato, smoked salmon, green onion
  • Upcountry Mixed Greens w/ radish, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes & orange sesame dressing
  • Asian Noodle Salad w/ Kula Farms vegetables & toasted sesame vinaigrette

Hot Selections

  • Imu Kalua Pork w/ green onion, volcanic sea salt
  • Ginger Teriyaki Grilled Flank Steak w/ julienne bell pepper & sweet onion
  • Sauteed Mahi Mahi w/ lemon butter caper sauce & tropical fruit salsa
  • Huli Huli Style chicken w/ sesame seeds & scallions

Dessert

  • Assorted Tropical Cookies
  • Fresh Sliced Pineapples
  • White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

Cocktails

  • Te Au Moana Mai Tai
  • Wailea Sunrise
  • Rum Punch
  • Blue Hawai’i
  • Maui Mule
  • Pina Colada
  • Lava Flow

Beer

  • Maui Brewing Co. Bikini Blonde
  • Maui Brewing Co. Big Swell IPA
Geeves watching the Hawaiian luau show

For the rest of the luau, you’re either eating or watching the show!

What to Do After the Luau

If you want to keep the fun going, don’t go anywhere! Marriott Wailea Beach Resort has a beautiful hotel property right on the water. After the festivities, I ordered a drink at one of the hotel’s bars and took a stroll. Then, I lounged and relaxed.

They also have cocoons and lounge chairs for you to chill out in. Since the luau was held at my hotel, I was able to conveniently go back to my room, which is nice after having a few drinks.

Te Au Moana Ticket Prices

Standard Seating:

Adults (13+) $240

Children (6 – 12) $165

Premium Seating:

Adults (13+) $275

Children (6 – 12) $190

Toddlers (5 & under) are free

You can buy tickets to Te Au Moana Luau here.

What to Wear to a Hawaiian Luau

Since Te Au Moana has more casual vibes, you can be more relaxed with what you wear.

Flower Crown & Leis

Because I’m extra, I also decided to wear a beautiful flower crown, otherwise known as a lei po’o or haku which I ordered a week in advance from Bella Bloom, a shop in Kihei. They even delivered it to my hotel where the Marriott Wailea Luau was taking place.

If you don’t bring a lei, it is perfectly ok. They provide them to everyone at the luau. You’ll either receive a fresh flower lei, kukui nut lei, or carved wooden necklace depending on availability.

Geeves dressed in traditional Hawaiian clothes

Ladies

If you didn’t order a flower crown in time, no worries. Most of the time, you can pick one up at any of the nearby flower shops. If you’re lucky, sometimes even a grocery store or airport carries them (if you’re bold enough to head to a luau on a stopover)! You go girl!

Men

If you want an extra special lei to wear to the luau, the lei ti leaf is a great choice for men. The Ti leaf has long been known to symbolize positive blessings, bring good luck and has even been used to ward off evil spirits.

Luau Outfits for Women

  • Top: Blouse or dress with Hawaiian patterns
  • Bottom: Skirt 
  • Shoes: Wedges, sandals or flip flops

You’ll be walking through grass, I would not recommend wearing heels that could get stuck.

  • Accessories: Flower behind your ear

Right ear means you’re single and ready to mingle. Left ear means you’re taken.

Her Luau Style

Luau Outfits for Men

  • Top: Polo or Hawaiian shirt
  • Bottom: Khakis or Bermuda Shorts
  • Shoes: Leather sandals or flip flops
  • Accessories: puka shell or Maui hook necklaces

Other Luaus in Maui

If you’ve already been to Te Au Moana, another great luau recommended by my mom, (who lived in Hawaii for over a decade), is Old Lahaina Luau, which feels like stepping into a Hawaiian village.

His Luau Style

Where to Stay in Wailea, Maui

If you want a taste of oceanside luxury with modern amenities, pampering, a great location and convenience, I couldn’t recommend Wailea Beach Resort, Marriott Maui more. Read my mini hotel review here.


MAUI TRAVEL RESOURCES

Safe Travel in Maui

Sign up for free text alerts for Maui warnings here.

Maui Weather Forecast here

Compare prices for car rentals, trains and flights

Discover best deals with Omio here.

Best Travel Insurance

Accidents happen. Make sure that you’re covered on your next trip. Compare travel insurance here.

Earn Travel Perks & Free Trips

Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive. Read my in depth guide on how to earn points toward free hotel stays, flights, car rentals and more with Marriott’s brand partners! Travel smart, get the most for your money.

How to Travel with a Chronic Illness

There are ways to travel even with a chronic illness. Check out my chronic illness travel tips and how I travel despite having Lupus.

That’s a Wrap!

Of all the fun things I did in Hawaii, the Te Au Moana luau in Wailea Maui was definitely the highlight of my trip! I would go again in a heartbeat.

Have you been to the Marriott Wailea luau or other luau in Hawaii? Would you go? Tell me about it in the comments below!

Thank you so much for being apart of this journey with me! I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you.

To join in on the fun and get helpful tips and guides, subscribe to the blog. You can also follow Geeves on Instagram, TikTok and Twitter for travel inspiration, funny stories and well, life!

Until next time… keep it real.

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Fact Check:

At Real Girl Review, we value truth and always strive for accuracy. Posts are updated regularly. If you read something that still doesn’t sound right, contact me at gv@realgirlreview.com. I will investigate the facts and make changes as I deem necessary.

13 Comments

  1. This looks like so much fun! Working at the airport we get discounted flights. Everyone uses them to hit up Hawaii first, I have yet to make that leap but this is definitely pushing me to do it sooner rather then later! Thanks for sharing!

  2. It is funny to read this blog post just after we returned from Maui and attended a luau – although not at Te Au Moana at Wailea Beach Resort. We too loved the history of Hawaii we learned through the song and dance. We had a buffet and not a served meal. But I had to agree with you about how good the pork was! We had a great time – even without an open bar.

  3. I really enjoyed reading about the history of a luau. I never knew there was so much that goes into it. It was fun to read the menu as well. Everything looks so yummy.

  4. Maui Looks so amazing! Love all the information here! Hawaii is on my backlist for next year and this post is so helpful!

  5. Hi Jeanine!
    Thank you for reading my blog! I’m so happy that you enjoyed the luau history. I was so excited to learn about it and share it. I hope you get to experience this beautiful place one day.

  6. What a wonderful account, I love that you added all the history behind the luau…Hawaii is one place that intrigues me…and you have added to the intrigue…thank you

  7. Hi Sharyn!
    Thank you for reading my luau adventures. I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed your Wakiki luau! You’re right, they’re amazing for discovering the Hawaiian culture.

  8. I enjoyed a luau on my first trip to Hawaii. It was at the Royal Hawaiian on Wakiki Beach. I loved it. Glad you enjoyed yours too. They are wonderful, not just for the food, but for discovering the culture.

  9. Sounds like a lot of fun. If I ever get to Hawaii, I’ll definitely want to include something like this. I’ll be right at home with my love of sandals!

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