The Paradise Cove Luau is not only the best luau on Oahu, but one of the best I've attended anywhere in Hawaii.
It especially impressed me that they are able to accomplish what other Oahu luaus have failed to do, that is host a huge crowd of hundreds of people and do so in a way that you don't feel that you're a lonely cow in the middle of a huge cattle drive. As strange as that sounds, it's the most common complaint I hear about these larger luaus on Oahu.
They host so many people that the experience becomes very impersonal.
Thus, the real challenge facing the owners of the Paradise Cove Luau is how to handle a large crowd and yet do so in a way that each guest feels that they have had a good luau experience. Paradise Cove accomplishes this very well through some very innovative techniques and the fact that their site is very spacious with plenty of room to spread out.
Paradise Cove Luau Location
The Paradise Cove Luau is held at the beautiful Ko Olina Resort and Marina, an area that just a few years ago was a barren industrial and commercial port area located near an active military base. Today Ko Olina is home to the new Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina (opening in mid-2016), vacation ownership condominiums through the Marriott Beach Club, the Disney Aulani Resort & Spa, private communities of luxurious residence living, 18 holes of Ted Robinson's exquisite championship golf course, and a a 43-acre marina with 330 full-service slips.
Getting to the Paradise Cove Luau
Most guests arrive at Paradise Cove by bus. The luau's buses pick up at most hotels and resorts in Waikiki. The bus hosts loosen up their passengers with activities and songs along the way.
Some folks elect to drive to Ko Olina (about 45 minutes to an hour from Waikiki) while others, like me, were lucky enough to just walk from one of the Ko Olina resorts.
Upon arrival guests receive a complimentary fruit punch or mai tai, a lei, and then make their way through a quickly moving line at the end of which their photo is taken with one of the entertainers.
From there guests are quickly shown to their table where that can either rest for a few minutes or move on to experience the variety of pre-dinner entertainment offered throughout Paradise Cove.
Activities and Pre-Dinner Entertainment
Paradise Cove offers an extensive array of activities and entertainment for two hours prior to the Hawaiian buffet dinner and Paradise Cove Extravaganza.
Hawaiian Arts and Crafts are a popular activity. Guests can learn to make a flower lei, weave palm fronds or get a temporary Hawaiian tattoo. You can also take part in the unique games of Hawaii including oo ihe (spear throwing) and ulu maika (rolling stone disks). You can even wander down to the beach for a ride in an outrigger canoe.
Entertainment is ongoing throughout this two hour period. One of Paradise Cove's unique concepts is that guests are guided from one entertainment to another by following the sound of a conch shell. Whether it be a chance to learn hula, watch how a coconut is husked or view the lovely Shower of Flowers, it's so easy to find your way without missing anything.
There's also ample time to wander through Paradise Cove's marketplace and gift shop or just stop by the refreshment center for an island cocktail.
Hukilau, Royal Court Procession and Imu Ceremony
The three most popular pre-dinner activities which you won't want to miss are the Hukilau, Royal Court Procession and Imu Ceremony. The Hukilau on the beach is unique to Paradise Cove and a lovely addition to a luau. Guests learn how Hawaiians have for centuries spread their nets into the sea and gathered them to shore filled with fish for the evening's meal.
Following the Hukilau, guests wander over to Hawaii's only Imu Amphitheater. Paradise Cove has taken what is normally a brief Imu Ceremony and expanded it to a nice pre-dinner show unto itself with Hawaiian music and dance, the Royal Court Procession and finally the unveiling of the evening's main course as the kalua pig is dug up from the imu (underground oven) where it has cooked all day.
Paradise Cove's Imu Amphitheate is a brilliant innovation with bleacher style seating so that everyone can view the show. At most luaus guests have to crowd around a small pit where most can't see what's going on.
Hawaiian Luau Buffet
Finally it's time to return to your assigned seat and have dinner.
As at most luaus guests are escorted to the buffet line by table. For such a large crowd I was impressed how smoothly and quickly this process worked.
Paradise Cove offers most of the standard luau food items: salad greens, pasta salad, macaroni salad, poi, dinner rolls, steamed white rice, lomi lomi salmon, island fish, fried chicken, and of course the kalua pig. Deserts include fresh pineapple, coconut banana cake and haupia (coconut pudding.)
The food at Paradise Cove is neither the best nor the worst that I have had at a luau. It is somewhere right in the middle. Considering the large number of guests being fed, they do a good job. The kalua pig was moist and quite good.
Paradise Cove Extravaganza
The highlight of any luau and the part that most guests will consider most when deciding whether they enjoyed the evening or not is the after-dinner show. It's the last thing that guests will see before they depart and it's important for every luau to do a good job entertaining the guests.
Paradise Cove's after dinner show is excellent. The show hosts are entertaining, funny and personable. The dancing is professional and well choreographed. Guests will enjoy the dance and music of several Polynesian cultures including Aotearoa (New Zealand), Samoa, Tahiti and of course, Hawaii. Their Samoan fire-knife dancer is excellent.
Guests have an opportunity to join in the fun by going on-stage to learn to do the Hukilau Hula or just have a quiet dance with a loved one to the music of the Hawaiian Wedding Song.
Much too soon the evening ends and it's time to return to your hotel or resort. As guests board their buses, wander to their cars or walk back to one of Ko Olina's accommodations, it's a good chance that they've had a great time at Paradise Cove.
I can say without any hesitation that if you attend one luau on Oahu, the Paradise Cove Luau is the one to choose.
If You Go
Paradise Cove offers several different packages and seating choices. You can view them on Paradise Cove's excellent website.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, TripSavvy believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.