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A night under the stars at Waikiki Starlight Luau

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Going to a luau is one of the most popular activities in Hawaii. You’ll find a number of companies that offer them all around the island of Oahu, including right in Waikiki: the Hilton Hawaiian Village’s “Waikiki Starlight Luau.”

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The Starlight Luau is held on the roof of the Mid-Pacific Conference Center on the Hilton grounds; it can be a little tricky to find, but Hilton’s staff are happy to help you. Once you arrive, and have your welcome Mai Tai in hand (two drinks are included in the purchase price), you’ll find that the place has been decorated for a party. A mural on one wall offers a backdrop of mountains, palm trees add an atmospheric touch, and crafts vendors have tables set up. Best of all, as the sun sets, you can look up and find yourself under the stars.

There are some pre-show activities that get the audience involved, such as the Conch Shell Blowing Challenge (tip: use the same lip technique as you would blowing through a trumpet). Live Hawaiian music helps creates a relaxed mood. And a welcoming song, during which you’re invited to hold hands with your neighbor, adds a friendly, companionable touch.

The food is buffet style, and tables take it in turn to serve themselves, meaning there’s never too much of a crunch at the buffet. The food is a mix of luau favorites (Kalua pig, lomi lomi salmon) and more Western offerings like roast beef. There’s also plenty of fish, fried rice, Hawaiian paella, salads, and more, all quite good. As it’s a buffet, you can go back as many times as you like. But don’t forget to save room for the desserts on offer, including guava chiffon cake and coconut haupia custard cake. There’s also a special buffet table for children.

The current show is entitled “Voyage Across the South Seas,” and as the title suggests, there’s plenty of dancing and vibrant costumes (along with an opening fashion show). The livelier numbers went down best with the audience, though there are graceful dance numbers as well. The show is presented “in the round,” with the stage in the center, making it easier to see from wherever you sit (some attendees even said they preferred the rear tables, which weren’t as elbow-to-elbow as those down front).

The best is saved for last. If one fire knife dancer is good, and two fire knife dancers are better, then four fire knife dancers must be best of all. It’s quite a thrill to see four of these dancers in action, and this sequence was certainly the highlight of the show, judging by the crowd response.

It all adds up to a fun night out, especially if you don’t want to leave Waikiki. General admission is $99 per adult, $49.50 for children age 4-11; for $125/$62.50, you’ll get a flower lei, better seating (general admission includes a shell lei), and first crack at the buffet table. Children under 4 are free.

Note: from December 3 through early February the Luau will take place on the Great Lawn next to the lagoon.

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