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Exploring Honolulu’s Luaus


The Big Kahuna Luau in Makiki is on the Honolulu Ridge. The Honolulu Ridge Estate was established in 1922 by Ernest Van Tassel of Massachusetts. Van Tassel discovered this hidden property atop Mt. Tantalus and saw great potential. He asked the state ‘What’s my rent?’ They replied, ‘Your rent is to plant 100 forest trees per year’. Van Tassel found what he called ‘a forest tree with little round nuts on it from Australia’ and said, ‘give me a lot of them.’ This was the birth of Van Tassel’s Hawaiian Macadamia Nut Co., Oahu’s first macadamia plantation. The property which contained 9,000 trees and yielded 8,000 tons of macadamia nuts each year. Eventually, Van Tassel found the land too rocky for farming the nuts effectively and relocated his farm to the island of Hawaii.

Now home to The Big Kahuna Luau, visitors are able to enjoy a unique cultural experience while learning about the history of the Honolulu Ridge. Tiki torches guide the way along a lava stone path which wanders through fragrant gardens of tropical blooming flowers, eucalyptus, and ginger. Exotic fruit trees surround the property, which produce an abundance of macadamia nuts, bananas, and avocados. The tiki bar offers a selection of beer, wine, and tropical cocktails to be enjoyed throughout the evening. While exploring the grounds, you’ll find the Imu pit, an underground oven used by Ancient Hawaiians to roast pig in a traditional luau feast. Finally, perhaps the most charming feature of the property is a swinging bench which hangs under the canopy of a giant mango tree, perfect for cozying up to watch the Hawaiian sunset.

The Paradise Cove Luau is based on twelve acres, 90 minutes from Honolulu in Ko Olina on the Leeward side of the island. It is the largest luau on O’ahu and the closest one to the Disney Resort. It has tropical drinks, alei greeting, a mesmerizing sunset, fine traditional arts and crafts, hula lessons, and an authentic hukilau (pulling giant fishing nets from the sea to the rhythms of a conch shell and island chants. It is also includes a sunset ceremony to unearth the luau’s roasted pig from Hawaii’s only Imu Amphitheater.

The Ali’i Luau is based on the North Shore at the Polynesian Culture Center. It is the winner of the Kahili Award for the most authentic luau. The call of the conch shell brings you to the meal, welcoming you to the royal court. You’ll enjoy lively performances, an all you can eat buffet, and the evening show: Ha: Breath of Life. There is no alcohol at this family event as the Polynesian Culture Center is operated by a religious group.


Cites: O’ahu This Week; Welcome to O’ahu




Dr. Sheila Embry is a govie, author, pracademician, sister, aunt, cousin, and friend who loves to read, write, think, and laugh. Many of her blog postings are summaries or excerpts of books that she read and wants to share to encourage others. An author with more than 25 years experience within the legislative and executive branches of the U. S. federal government holding 3 accredited degrees: Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership, Master of Arts in Human Resources Development, and Baccalaureate of Business Administration, she believes in continuing learning both on and off the job. She has been recognized with multiple professional and writing awards for her peer-reviewed, publications. Click the bibliography page above for a listing of all the publications.

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