Waikiki’s Pocket-Friendly Luau Alternative Under $25

For those in Waikiki on a budget or return visitors looking for something new, the Pau Hana Place provides a luau-type experience for a small fraction of the cost. And the parking is free. It’s located at a lovely waterfront location, at the entrance to the Ala Wai Canal next to the Ala Wai Boat Harbor. BOH editors have driven by it on multiple visits to Waikiki and last week decided to try it. It was nothing like we expected.

Pau Hana Place Waikiki Luau Alternative

While not advertised as a luau, we make the loose connection here to one. Actually, we were expecting to see a variety of food trucks around a shared seating area. What we walked into was nothing like that at all. It started with wood carvers at the entrance, then live Hawaiian music in the center with tables and chairs looking towards the musicians and water, and people lined up at two food trucks serving local fish and steak options. While the food was nothing remarkable, as is largely the case at Luaus, the entertainment was fine and varied, and so was the outdoor ambiance with twinkling lights above.

Dinner under $25 per person at Pau Hana Place.

One of the most enchanting things visitors like when first discovering Hawaii is the cultural tapestry presented through the experience of a luau. This Hawaii activity can also be very costly. We literally stumbled upon the highly creative alternative at Pau Hana Place, priced at about a mere fraction of the normal cost of a luau.

As an example, the cost at Germaine’s Luau starts at $119 for adults with an additional $35 round-trip transportation charge from Waikiki to Kapolei (includes all-you-can-eat buffet, drink, and traditional show). If you drive out there, you can park for $5 and save the transportation charge.

Pau Hana Place Waikiki Luau Alternative

First, there are a few warnings. The luau-type event we attended on Saturday at Pau Hana Place didn’t have every element you might find at a traditional luau. But it is nonetheless a great alternative. On the night we were there, one thing not present was the Polynesian fire dancers often found at a traditional luau.

Another thing that may or may not be present, depending on the entertainers scheduled, are the hula dancers, who typically grace the stage at a luau soon after sunset. We didn’t see any, but there are Hawaiian-themed nights with hula. Check their event calendar for a list of entertainers.

At the heart of a luau sits the convergence of music and food buffet. At Pau Hana Place, you order each entree separately, while at a traditional luau, it’s typically buffet style. As we said earlier, the food is acceptable, if not remarkable. But the hospitality and entertainment was spot on.

A traditional Hawaiian luau will be infused with rhythmic chants, beautiful dance, and abundant food. Some things like that will be missing, along with the $100 + price tag. That includes the sacred imu ceremony ritual.

We have attended both Paina (a small party with dinner) and luau at places like the Polynesian Cultural Center, Smith’s Luau on Kauai, and Luau Kalamaku. Our favorite was on Molokai at their museum years ago. Honestly, we found this experience at Pau Hana Place to be equally enjoyable and without much of the pomp and circumstance we see around a traditional tourist luau.

If you’re seeking a traditional luau, this may not appeal to you.

But it resonated with us with the food choices, excellent local entertainment, and waterfront location. Hawaii luau often starts with the fire torches lit at sunset. And those were present. The fire’s glow is said to be a guide to those attending the luau. The welcome here was both in terms of torches but also traditional wood carving that was taking place at the entrance.

Hawaii’s luau renaissance pivoted from ancient Hawaiians and towards current-day tourism starting more than sixty years ago, spawned by the onset of modern-day tourism, and the burgeoning popularity of Hawaii and its surf culture. The luau was transformed into something commercial, that would also captivate global audiences.

Nonetheless, today, a Hawaiian luau stands as a testament to the Hawaiian Islands’ cultural heritage as well as something deemed the essential visitor pilgrimage when first visiting to unravel the enigma of Hawaii, the aloha spirit, and island traditions.

If you’re in Waikiki, the Pau Hana Place may be just your ticket for an evening out. You could also do as we did and enjoy a sunset dinner here on Friday night, then walk along the marina to the back of the Hilton Hawaiian Village for the weekly Waikiki fireworks that begin at 7:45 pm. That is without doubt a winning combo!

Have you tried Pau Hana Place?

Editor’s Note: Beat of Hawaii paid full price to provide this unbiased review. Pau Hana Place is located outdoors at 95 Holomoana Street, at the entrance to Waikiki (Ala Moana side). Phone is (808) 462-7896.

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8 thoughts on “Waikiki’s Pocket-Friendly Luau Alternative Under $25”

  1. It sounds like Pau Hana Place might just be an actual authentic Hawaiian experience – a true rarity in Waikīkī, not the grotesque, Disney version presented to most tourists.

    Unlike their tacky tourist counterparts, a true Hawaiian lu’au is simply potluck + kani ka pila in a neighbor’s back yard. Good friends, good food, good fun.

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  2. Aloha! I was looking for a cheap alternative a few weeks ago. We have been to the Hale Koa luau a couple of times. We wanted something different this time. Finally purchased Paradise Cove tickets. However, this even probably would have been fine. Plan to check out the new hula show. Mahalo.

    1. Hi Sherri.

      You order and pay for the food first. We did not note child prices, but you could certainly give them a call and ask.

      Aloha.

  3. We went there a few times in February and March and it was BYOB, which we liked.
    The food is hit or miss; hopefully it will improve.
    We didn’t have the opportunity to try their buffet, which they offer weekly.

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