Wailele Polynesian Luau

With the changing landscape of Kaanapali and the trend in resort property moving to vacation ownership, the lines are blurring as to what defines a full-service resort. At Westin Maui Resort and Spa, the Starwood resort partnership links the Sheraton and Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas and pool amenities for guests. One of the must-do experiences is the Wailele Polynesian Luau.

The concept behind this luau—and what sets it apart from others—is the contemporary approach to the cuisine and the sit-down family style courses served. The show is a fabulous exposition of different Polynesian performance that culminates in the grand finale of Siva Afi, the Samoan fire knife dance.
When you enter the luau grounds you’re immediately draped with a lei, and a photographer snaps your picture in front of a tiki torch-lit waterfall. It’s corny, but I love the snapshots—they really do capture the moment.

The Wailele Luau runs twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The bar is open upon arrival, with a full a line up of spirits and mixers. Blue Hawaiians and mai tais dominate, but you can order whatever you like. The first course arrives as the sun is setting—enjoy the view. The emcee—either Wilmont Kahaialii or Makalapua Kanuha—narrates the show with finesse. You nibble an array of Polynesian pupus: ahi poke, taro chips and lomi lomi salmon. The lau‘ai‘ia, or salad, features Haiku greens and Kamuela tomatoes with Kula onion and hearts of palm, while the housemaid Tahitian lime dressing pulls the whole enterprise together. The standout is the pipi kaula; the dried beef was thick and tender, without being too dry.

The hula dancers are in full swing by this time, going through Kahiko, Ota, Hula ‘Auwana, Ahuroa and Maori dances. It’s a visually inspiring tour through Hawaiian dance, with stops in Tahiti, Tonga and New Zealand. The Samoan slap dance is one of my favorites, and this part of the show kicks off the second course. The main entrees are served on big platters in the middle of the table with a lazy Susan. My party of four shared a table with a group of tourists. It’s a social environment, really embracing the island style of dining and sharing food, even with strangers that quickly become new friends.

The main entrees feature something for everyone. Seared fresh fish, kalua pork and cabbage, poi, teriyaki steak and Molokai sweet potato. I liked the kalua pig, and the cabbage and poi was divine. My niece went for the teri-steak, while my sister enjoyed the fish. Our table partners mixed it up—trying everything—but settled on the surf and turf combo.

As the dinner hour lulls and dessert approaches, the show moves through the Fijian warrior and Aparima Tahitian dance. Once the lazy Susan fills with pineapple cake, haupia, macadamia nut tartlet and chocolate cake, the grand finale, Siva Afi, literally heats up the stage. This is one of the most elaborate fire knife dances on the island, incorporating four to five performers. Chief Tavita was stealing the show the night I was there, though I imagine he’s the show-stopper every time he takes the stage.

The Wailele Luau can also accommodate vegetarian and other dietary restrictions if you give them a heads-up when making your reservation. Kama‘aina get 20 percent off.