Hello Friends and Family,

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Maui: Old Lahaina Luau

What Hawaiian vacation would be complete without an authentic luau? What is a luau you ask? It is a Hawaiian feast usually featuring a pig cooked in an imu — an underground oven. Traditionally, many foods might be served in addition to the pig — such as chicken, fish, `opihi, sweet potatoes but especially poi, the pounded root of the taro plant.

Most people from the mainland turn their noses up at poi, claiming that it tastes like wallpaper paste. I had no idea that so many mainlanders had tasted wallpaper paste but there is no accounting for the tastes of haoles. Poi was a staple of the ancient Hawaiians and is still enjoyed by many contemporary residents of Hawai`i. Maybe it's an acquired taste but honestly, I like it.

And the best commercial luau that I know of in all of Hawai`i is the Old Lahaina Luau. They serve many traditional Hawaiian dishes with a few concessions to the picky mainland palate. Also, in ancient luaus, diners ate their food with their fingers. You certainly have that option in the modern variant but utensils are also available. I prefer the ancient practice.

One other feature of the Old Lahaina Luau is that they offer both seating on mats (with low tables) and chairs with traditional western tables. Guess which is authentic and thus what I prefer?

And what luau, ancient or modern, would be complete without dancing? Hula (Hawaiian), o'te'a (Tahitian), haka (Māori of New Zealand), aiva (Samoa), tauʻolunga (Tonga) and other dances will entertain — and offer rewarding but challenging photographic opportunities.

As soon as we stepped on the luau grounds, John and Patty were handed a mai tai to get the party started. They also provided POG for children and adults who don't drink.

You can tell that they are really excited about trying that poi. Well, if they don't like the poi, they can always revert to the mai tais.

Prior to dinner, the Old Lahaina Luau has demonstrations of ancient Hawaiian crafts and games. This photogenic young woman was giving hula lessons to both children and adults, specially with some of the implements that are part of hula dancing — `uli`uli (small gourd containing stones attached to a feathered "crown"), ipu (open gourd), pu`ili (split bamboo) and others.

This guy was making hats out of palm leaves.

And this young man was using a bamboo stake to remove the outer husk of a coconut then splitting it open to reveal the coconut water and meat inside. He also shaved off some meat which we were offered to sample. Fresh and delicious!

This young woman was making mats from coconut leaves — and when I asked if I could take her photo, she hopped up and almost left. I thought she didn't want me to take her picture but she was being called to help elsewhere. She kindly consented to one quick photo — and I am so happy she did.

As the sun set over the Pacific, it lit up the clouds — almost as if we were receiving notice that the party was ready to get under way.

An authentic luau will include the traditional ceremony of removing the pig from the imu. I guess I was so engrossed in my other photo opportunities that I did not recognize that it was going on. So all I have is the "before" picture.

Soon after, dinner began buffet-style. It was so good. And now time for the show. Not much more to say, so just sit back and enjoy the images.

Life is good.

B. David