You will never say “aloha” the same way again. . .
After a day of family bonding on a rainforest zipline with your uncharacteristically brave kids (even the little one was game), you decided to celebrate with tickets to Koloa Landing’s Royal Luau — the newest on the island of Kauai. A luau was on your family bucket list — and you’d heard that none was more authentic than Wallis and Shana Punua’s multi-generational, 63-years-in-the-making spectacle.Then somewhere between your lobster dinner and the flaming knife dance, your MC explains that “aloha” means so much more than “hello/goodbye.” The word expresses the joy of shared experiences and of giving without needing to receive.
In short: “unconditional love.”
You sneak a look at your family’s faces illuminated in the tiki light as they gaze up at the stage, and you think,
“Aloha, my family. . .”
But then, everything about the Royal Luau has run deeper than you’d expected:
Koloa Landing’s main meadow rimmed with swaying palms is set with white linen tables that look not just upon the stage but also over the spectacular pool and ocean beyond — all bathed in the golden glow of dusk.
Almost as lovely is the stocked bar and buffet offering an extraordinary feast: barbecued short ribs, cedar plank mahi mahi, purple mashed potatoes — all conceived by James Beard Award-winning celebrity chef, Sam Choy. The dinner itself is a star and unlike any other luau in Hawaii.
You splurged on VIP tickets and so are enjoying front-row seats with friendly table service that features succulent lobster tail and perfectly charred petit filet.
The champagne flows and the sunset streaks magenta across the sky. After the last of many tropical desserts is shared, a long, low note from a conch shell heralds the start of the show.
Kauai native Wallis Punua is equal parts historian, host and entertainer. He takes you on a journey through Hawaiian culture and music, and reverently riffs on the best of his late parents’ hula school started in 1954 on this very island. (His mother taught John Wayne to hula in Poipu. Enough said.)
His award-winning Rohotu Polynesian Dance Company nurtures and trains every dancer and includes members of his own family to carry on the deep-rooted traditions.
Now, under a darkened sky full of stars, dancers with graceful hands, cascading hair and ti-leaf skirts undulate in a sultry hula.
You are surprised — okay, dumbstruck — when your oldest kid raises his hand and joins several other volunteers onstage. Your family cheers at the newbies’ good-natured attempt at this truly difficult dance.
You give your grinning kid a high five as he ducks back into his seat and your wife ruffles his hair. His smile doesn’t fade.
Thundering log drums straight outta Tahiti kick the energy into hip-shaking overdrive. In the finale, Punua’s eldest son wows with a dangerous Samoan Fire Knife Dance honoring ancient warriors.
You can’t take your eyes off the dizzying flames and secretly pray the torches won’t set sail. Of course he handles them with aplomb — and to roaring applause.
You somehow feel pride when your family cheers loudest.
Later that night, as you tuck your kids into bed in your comfy oceanview villa, you lean in for kiss and the little one says, “Thanks for the best day ever, dad.”
“Aloha, sweet kid,” you say.
“Aloha,” comes the reply.
And you both now know exactly what that means.
Royal Luau at Koloa Landing Resort: Tuesday evenings year round. Also Saturday evenings in June through August only. Go to https://koloalandingresort.com/kauai-activities/ for reservations and more info.
By Erica Karlin, Koloa Landing