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
- 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
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! 🙂
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!
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.
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!
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.
- 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. 😂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
One of my favorite performances was the fire dancers who were throwing flaming torches back and forth and climbing on one another.
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. 😂
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.
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.
Hawaiian Taro Roll w/ mango butter
- Veggie Stir-Fry w/ roasted garlic olive oil
- Roasted Garlic Edamame Fried Rice w/ onions & carrots
- Local Honey Glazed Sweet Potato w/ toasted coconut
- 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
- 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
- Assorted Tropical Cookies
- Fresh Sliced Pineapples
- White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
- Te Au Moana Mai Tai
- Wailea Sunrise
- Rum Punch
- Blue Hawai’i
- Maui Mule
- Pina Colada
- Lava Flow
- Maui Brewing Co. Bikini Blonde
- Maui Brewing Co. Big Swell IPA
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
Adults (13+) $240
Children (6 – 12) $165
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.
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!
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
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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.
Until next time… keep it real.
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