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The best, most authentic luau on Kona plus manta ray snorkel

Lorton, Virginia
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The best, most authentic luau on Kona plus manta ray snorkel

My husband and I will be staying at the Hilton Waikoloa Village around the middle of January. We've already reserved several activities during our stay. However, I am on the bubble about which luau is the best and most authentic; Royal Kona Resort, the luau at the Hilton, or the Island Breeze luau? Which one would you recommend and why?

Also, does anyone have any experience with the manta ray snorkel companies? If so, which one would you recommend and why?

Thank you for your reply. :) Lauren

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1. Re: The best, most authentic luau on Kona plus manta ray snorkel

The only "authentic" lu'au are the young leaves of the kalo (taro) plant - that's what the word means. It's unclear when the term was first used to refer to a gathering at which food wrapped in lu'au, or food made with lu'au and coconut milk - there's few different versions of the history. But the modern version of a commercial event where people pay big money to see entertainment that showcases dance forms from all over the Pacific islands is very far from being authentic in any way. It's show biz more than it is culture, although there are some vague cultural foundations to the modern "luau."

Probably your best approach is to ask which events give you the most entertainment bang for the buck - the highest quality food (i.e. actually cook a whole pua'a in an imu rather than buy the pork pre-cooked and shredded from Suisan as many do LOL) and the most skilled dancers, and go knowing that it's just entertainment.

If you're actually interested in exploring real, authentic Kanaka Maoli culture, that's a whole different question.

2. Re: The best, most authentic luau on Kona plus manta ray snorkel

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Removed on: 23 August 2013, 14:05
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3. Re: The best, most authentic luau on Kona plus manta ray snorkel

Can't recommend any "Commercial" Luau......but taking in some of the free Hula performances in the area followed by a good meal at a nearby restaurant would win any day ..IMO

Queen's Marketplace: Hula Halau, Wednesday, 6-7p.m.

Fridays, 6-7 p.m.

King's Shops: Keiki Hula, Fridays, 6-7 p.m

Also at the King's shops , on Tuesday evenings 7-8:45p.m.....there is a performance by the wonderful John Keawe.

These are just a few of the wonderful opportunities to experience some of the Hawaiiana offerings within the Waikoloa Beach Resort.

Safe Travels

Edited: 16 August 2013, 21:58
Fortaleza, CE
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4. Re: The best, most authentic luau on Kona plus manta ray snorkel

Hilton not exactly in Kona, of course, but no matter. We stayed at the nearby Fairmont Orchid. They had a fancy "cultural show" and luau, though not on the nights we were there, and we weren't tempted, anyway (would prefer to get better food on our own-- the fact that my wife doesn't care for pork sealed the deal).

Lots of manta ray tours in Kailua Kona area. We considered it, but decided, based on the reviews, hanging onto the flotation device (we would snorkeled; have done SCUBA diving for years) wasn't for us, so we watched from the bar at the Sheraton Kona, where we stayed one night. Saw the lights of several boats and divers, and saw several rays.

Edited: 16 August 2013, 22:09
Big Island, Hawaii
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for Island of Hawaii
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5. Re: The best, most authentic luau on Kona plus manta ray snorkel

Generally the airport location as opposed to the Sheraton location has the most manta rays, but check with the operators when you call to book and ask them their recent success rate and numbers of mantas. They keep stats.

You don't have to hold on to the floating rings but it's highly recommended because there are so many boats and it gets really chaotic that it would be very difficult to find your own boat if you didn't stay with the group. Plus the mantas have been known to get a little enthusiastic and leap and can knock you about a little as can other snorkelers, so it's best to stay with the group on the "ring". It's really a great experience despite the chaos.

Edited: 16 August 2013, 22:13
Island of Hawaii...
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for Hilo, Island of Hawaii
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6. Re: The best, most authentic luau on Kona plus manta ray snorkel

Posting just to agree -- the word authentic shouldnʻt be paired with any of these evenings. How important to you is it to have an authentic cultural experience? As noted, they can be found quite easily, just not at a dance and dinner show, which is all that a commercial luʻau is these days.

Have not done the manta ray, (Not a fan of getting in dark water, no matter how great it is. Wuss here.)

Seattle, Washington
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7. Re: The best, most authentic luau on Kona plus manta ray snorkel

I've been to 2 different luaus in Kona and prefer the one a Royal Kona Resort. They cook the whole pig in an imu and you can watch as it is unearthed. They also have good mai-tais which they will top off with more rum. The food was good as was the entertainment. We paid $5 for preferred seating and felt it was worth it. The other luau was at the Sheraton in Keauhou - the show was good, but the food and mai-tais mediocre and the pork came out of the kitchen, not an imu. Of the 2, the Royal Kona Resort offered a better cultural experience as well as better food.

Portland, Tennessee
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for Waikoloa
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8. Re: The best, most authentic luau on Kona plus manta ray snorkel

Have only done the Luau at the Hilton - really not a "traditional" luau, but good entertainment and food.

We used Big Island Divers for the Manta Ray dive/snorkel.


Jack's Diving Locker is also an excellent outfit.


I would do the Manta Ray dive/snorkel again! It was fantastic!!!!

Elk Rapids, Michigan
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for Lanai
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9. Re: The best, most authentic luau on Kona plus manta ray snorkel

Watched the one in front of the Marriott from our lanai in 2008, was so so. Attended the one at Island Breeze in 2011 because sister in law wanted to go to a luau. Aside from the usual attempts to get you to buy pictures, leis or move "upfront" for both entertainment and head of the line to eat it was just ok. They do a good job of explaining how Hawaii became populated etc. Suppose everyone has to attend at least one because when you get back home everyone will ask if you did.

Have to agree with the comments on the Hilton. We stayed there in 1996 and it is very much like Disneyland, looks pretty but mostly man made and it is set up to keep you on the grounds. Just keep in mind it is not really like most of Hawaii and you will be ok.

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10. Re: The best, most authentic luau on Kona plus manta ray snorkel

a lot of mixed opinions there about the luau.

im still as confused before I read the answers ha!