East Oʻahu is home to pristine, sandy beaches, spectacular lookouts, delicious dining…and a lūʻau! Premiering January 2, Ka Moana is Sea Life Park’s revamped lūʻau, and my very first authentic Hawaiian lūʻau experience. The This Week team had the privilege of checking out Ka Moana during its exclusive grand opening event, and let us tell you—it does not disappoint.
Sea Life Park partners with Malu Productions to make the magic happen. Hosted in the Park’s beautiful Makapuʻu Meadows, Ka Moana (translated as “the ocean”) features spectacular musical and dance performances, brilliant storytelling and a delicious array of food. At the beginning of the lūʻau, guests can also try their hands—literally!—at a variety of Hawaiian cultural activities including hula and ʻukulele lessons, lei making and coconut-headband weaving. After reading people’s positive reviews, I couldn’t wait to make the drive out to east Oʻahu for an #alohafriday lūʻau experience.
Upon arriving at Sea Life Park, we were escorted to Makapuʻu Meadows, where we were greeted with a warm welcome from General Manager Valerie King and oli from the lovely students at Mālama Honua Public Charter School. A traditional Hawaiian blessing by Kahu Dennis Salas followed the students’ oli, as Kahu Salas shared his own experience of living in the neighborhood. After the moving blessing and symbolic untying of the fresh maile lei, we made our way to the verdant, grassy field for the start of the lūʻau.
As guests lined up for photos and made their way to the lūʻau tables, we spent some time wandering around the “meadows,” where kids and adults alike were enjoying stringing lei, weaving coconut headbands, twirling poi balls and learning to dance hula and play the ʻukulele. As the sun slowly dipped behind the thick eastern clouds, the evening’s main emcee continued to entertain guests with festive jokes, coconut husking…even narrating the adventures of two lūʻau performers climbing to the top of nearby coconut trees!
The Ka Moana emcees are truly a riot—we couldn’t stop laughing! But eventually the rolling sound of our laughter gave way to the rumblings of our stomachs, because it was finally time for dinner! The buffet-style lūʻau dinner features a wealth of freshly prepared island favorites, including kalua pig, mahi mahi with papaya mango salsa, teriyaki chicken skewers, local sweet potato, poi lomi shooters and more. I couldn’t wait to dig into what smelled (and tasted) like one of the best Hawaiian buffets I’ve ever tried! We wiped our plates clean while the “Lūʻau Chief” kept us entertained throughout the meal.
The sky may have darkened above us, but this evening was just getting started. We watched in anticipation as the house lights dimmed and Ka Moana’s talented dancers took to the stage for the performance we’d all been waiting for.
Ka Moana Lūʻau is a tribute to Hawaiʻi’s beautiful ocean and the Polynesian ancestors who came before us. During the show, dancers whisk guests away on a Polynesian journey through time with Tahitian, Māori, Samoan and Hawaiian style performances including authentic hula, haka (war dance), slap dance, poi and ʻava preparation dances.
Amidst the occasional gusts of heavy winds and showers, the dancers, hosts and musicians continued to impress and enchant through the unstable weather. Even as guests wandered to covered grounds, the evening’s performers entertained us with enthralling dance numbers, live music and hilarious banter. Yet not even the spectacular opening performance could top what followed.
The highlight of the evening, you ask? Fire knife dancing! Ka Moana has enlisted three incredible fire knife dancers—one of who is only 12 years old—to get its guests’ pulses racing. In a series of dexterous moves and thrilling, jaw-dropping routines, the fire knife dancers (literally) lit the stage on fire…and we couldn’t look away.
As the show came to a close and the passing showers subsided, I was left with a quiet appreciation of the Hawaiian heritage and culture in which I was raised. There are beautiful, serene destinations all over the world, yet in only in Hawaiʻi do you find such a rich and diverse melting pot of people, traditions and art forms. That’s the impression Ka Moana Lūʻau left me with long after the music ended and fire knife dancing ceased, and I’m so grateful for the little reminders of how truly lucky we are to live in paradise.
Ka Moana Lūʻau takes place nightly at 5:30 p.m. (with the exception of Thursdays and Saturdays). Choose from the Classic ($99 per adult), Splash ($124 per adult) or Celebrity ($159) package, all of which include admission to Sea Life Park. Book your windward coast lūʻau experience by calling (808) 926-3800 or visiting moanalua.com.