View from the Chief’s Luau

Finding a luau in Hawaii is like finding a bad tattoo at a music festival or a fight on St. Patty’s day, you can (should?) do it with your eyes closed! There are quite a few well known ones on the west coast that have rave reviews but what stood out about the Chief’s version is that he’s the man behind the show and in the show, not just a bunch of uni students on rotation. Being able to time it with our Sealife visit helped it work out perfectly. The “then its settled” moment came when we realised he and his gang of merry men (and women) appeared on one of the legs of Amazing Race 2011 (not surprisingly one of our favourite reality tv shows 😉 ).

There are a few package deals to choose ranging from $77 to $135 for adults, the main difference being the seating areas. The selling point for the Paradise upgrade package is priority queuing for the buffet and centered table seating while the Royal Package (*snicker*) has table service and “front of house” seating. They also throw in a turtle, sharks and dolphin “mini tour” before hand but if you’re already considering going to the Sealife park this will be redundant.

So what it essentially comes down to is the type of lei you want because even though there’s roughly 3-400 people, the grouped tables with assigned seats are all arranged so viewing isn’t very difficult from any angle and its easy enough to get up and step to the side if you want to snap some photos. The priority buffet line up is unnecessary, there is literally so much food that you wont miss out on “the good stuff”. They will also announce when you are allowed to go up for seconds so the “cheap seats” are just as good if you want the experience minus the frills (or lei flowers as it were). All options however are clearly listed on the site if you feel the urge to splurge for a special occasion.

Photo tip: If you’re planning on taking a lot of photos, your choice of package will have some influence on your shots. Front seats trade close proximity for shooting angle and the ability to stand. Seats off to the side/back will require a long lens. Almost all the photos seen here were shot with a 300mm, lighting is quite dimm when you factor in the higher shutter speeds you will need to freeze the action so be prepared to push the iso.

Travel tip: If you want to save a few bucks on parking, stick to the dirt area at the front of the park near the street. Its only a short walk (about 100m) up the hill to the entrance.


The luau conveniently starts before the park closes so there’s no waiting around if the park was first on your list. Get in early for demonstrations and interactive activities like hula lessons, headband weaving, tattooing, spear throwing and fire making. Luaus are all about song and dance and things get started accordingly. Halved whole pigs are blessed as they’re lowered into a home made hot coals pit – later to be filling our bellies!

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The ceremony starts with a traditional welcome and some light history and story of a Queen and her tribe, a theme which continues through out the night. The charismatic Chief kicks off one of many stand up, slap stick routines with his larger than life personality which basically makes learning about the island way of life like demonstrating the husking of a coconut far more interesting and funny. With a few flicks of the wrist the coconut is skinned and cracked and he’s sipping the milk from it like he just cracked a beer instead.

The break for dinner is roughly an hour or so which leaves you plenty of time to eat and digest. Compliment your meal with some cake, fruit salad or maybe a spot of spear throwing.

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The on stage entertainment continues with traditional dances from neighbouring islands, Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand and other cultures that have influenced and fused with Hawaiian culture. After this, things get “hands on” with crowd participation. I can hear all the Marge Simpson’s out there mumbling “don’t make eye contact, omg theyre interacting!!” but its not that bad. They eventually get almost everyone up on stage in one way or another, be it guys doing the Hakka or girls doing the hula. Just think of it as dancing awkwardly with your old rellys at a wedding, it might be uncomfortable at the time but you get to bring home a memorable experience. You might even score a lei (or a lay?? Ay ay 😉 😉 ) for your troubles.


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That is of course unless you are me… then things got -REALLY- interesting. I stood off to the side or at the back for a lot of the show snapping photos but that of course left me standing out like a bullseye saying “pick me for something embarrassing and slightly traumatic”. The stage was already full with audience members for a group dance so I thought they just wanted me up there to fill the last spot on the end, next thing I know I’m being whisked out the back amongst the dancers getting changed and before I could say “hey, at least buy me a drink first” I was getting donned in a grass skirt, lei and headdress with the instruction “when I say, “now” you run up on to the stage and yell out “ALOOHHAA”, then just follow the ques from the Chief. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine…. NOW!”. I didn’t even have a chance to poo my pants…

What proceeded was what seemed like an eternity (though in reality about 5min) of me making a fool of myself; getting props from fellow Aussies; quite possibly disrespecting/objectifying the tribes’ Queen and trying to learn how to hula by following fruit related commands from the Chief (apple was left hip, papaya was right etc) – all the while having to face the strikingly beautiful and scantily clad Queen and mimic her actions. Now, I lived through the 90s and am no stranger to the dance floor having conjured up a repertoire of moves from the likes of R Kelly, Janet Jackson, Johnny Gill, Vanilla Ice and EYC so I can at least move to a beat but to contort my spine in a way that even Gumby would look… Gumby? That, I could not and subsequently looked like a short circuiting C3P0 next to the hipshakin mama’s. It got worse before it got better with the rest of the dancers joining the Queen on stage and really shaming me out, thankfully by the end, the sequencing had dissolved into a freestyle circle, not so thankfully, I was still in the middle but at least now I could battle under my own terms and unleash the destructive force that is the running man!!! I believe it was purely coincidental that the music stopped at that time :p

In true (almost) nightly show fashion, the rest of the performance rolled on like clock work but my time on stage wasn’t done, they called all honeymooners and anniversary celebrators to the stage. Apart from a “you again??”, it was much more pleasant and very romantic slow dancing with my wife as the Chief serenaded us on acoustic guitar.

The night closed out with an explosive fire dance with the Chief showing his hefty frame had no hindrance on his agility or skill.


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There were high fives aplenty in the toilets afterwards, some actually thought I was part of the act. Maybe my performance didn’t completely stink… or maybe they were just “good sport”-ing me??

In short, it was easily one of the most memorable nights in Hawaii, so much so that we’ve already vowed to return for an anniversary one year. It goes without saying that we highly recommended this luau.



Next up is the finale as we wind down our island getaway with a spot of sight seeing and hiking.

As always, if you have any questions about our adventures or where to buy something, just hit us up on the Soulbridge Media facebook page.

Hawaii 2012 part #1 – Arrival
Hawaii 2012 part #2 – Waikiki
Hawaii 2012 part #3 – Honolulu shopping – Part A
Hawaii 2012 part #4 – The Big Island – Volcano tour
Hawaii 2012 part #5 – Shopping Honolulu – part B
Hawaii 2012 part #6 – Tattoo Honolulu / Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit art exhibits
Hawaii 2012 part #7 – Pearl City area
Hawaii 2012 part #8 – Swap meets and Made in Hawaii festival
Hawaii 2012 part #9 – Cook offs and Car shows
Hawaii 2012 part #10 – North shore
Hawaii 2012 part #11 – Windward shore and Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #12 – Chief’s Luau at Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #13 – South shore – Diamondhead crater, Hanauma bay