By the time we’d eaten breakfast, hit the gym, and taken showers it was nearly 3:00 (like I said yesterday, we’re not morning people). Fresh and ready to go, we hopped in the Jeep and headed to Lahaina (Luh-hi-nuh). There was ocean to our left and rainbows to our right nearly the whole way there.
Lahaina, located on the West side of the island, is one of the island’s oldest pockets of civilization. In ancient Hawaiian culture, it was a royal court for high chiefs. In the 1820s, Christian missionaries arrived and built Hawaii’s first stone church, missionary school, and printing press. Not long after that, it became the Pacific’s primary whaling town hosting hundreds of ships every year. The town absorbed the whaler’s culture, opening up several brothels and saloons. Whaling died down in the late 1800s and sugar cane became the primary industry until tourism trumped it in the 1960s. Now it’s lined with souvenir shops and ice cream parlors, but many of the historical landmarks still stand.
We only had an hour before our dinner reservation but we saw the famous banyan tree and the old courthouse/jail. The banyan was planted as a seedling in 1873 and is now the largest in the country with over 16 major trunks. It takes up a small town square providing shade for tourists melting in the heat.
After a quick stroll and some local ice cream, we got back in the car and headed to the Old Lahaina Luau. It is unanimously the best on the island, and I had to book it weeks in advance so the anticipation had been building for a while. J and I agreed that it was the thing on our agenda that we were looking forward to the most.
When we arrived, we were greeted with fresh leis and mai tais before being shown to our seats. Tables are available, but we opted for the traditional seating style (on the ground). This was probably not the most comfortable option for J, but it was worth it to have front row seats for the entertainment!
We had about 30 minutes before the meal to wander the luau grounds. Natives in traditional Hawaiian dress performed demonstrations like shelling a coconut and playing ancient games.
We mostly enjoyed watching the sun set over the water (mai tais in hand, of course!) At dusk, we returned to our seats and were ushered to the buffet. It had an array of traditional foods- sweet potato, poke, fish, chicken, steak, and of course the traditional pork cooked underground. We loaded our plates high and returned to our table to enjoy it with three other couples.
After the meal, the show began. Dancers illustrated the narrative of Hawaii’s history. I was mesmerized by their hips- those ladies can shake it!
We were a little disappointed that there was no fire juggling, but it was a fantastic show. Our host, GP, took excellent care of us the entire evening and we left feeling sad that it was over. It was the quintessential Hawaiian experience and I’d highly recommend it to anyone visiting the island- but be sure to book ahead, because this luau is no local secret and it fills up FAST!