Credit to Maui Nui Luau at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa

Photo Credit to Maui Nui Luau at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa on Maui, Hawaii

The Luau, Tasting History

The luau in Hawaiian culture combines food and community and has become a cherished tradition. With its origins tracing back centuries, the luau has become a custom that offers insight into the islands’ past and a chance to “taste” history.


The roots of the luau stretch back to a pivotal time in Hawaii’s history – the abolition of the kapu system in 1819. For generations, strict laws known as “kapus” governed daily life, dictating gender roles, food taboos, and societal order. The breaking of the kapu marked the end of the Hawaiian religion and culture based on these rigid class systems.

Dining Together:

One major outcome was the lifting of bans on women eating with men and the mixing of men and women during meals. Communal feasting featuring once-forbidden foods became a joyful symbol of this new era of freedom and equality. These early gatherings were known as “‘aha‘aina” – meaning “to dine together.”

Modern Luau:

The modern luau evolved from ‘aha’aina rooted in ceremony and celebration. While luau today feature entertainment and a diverse potluck of foods, traditional elements carry historic meaning. For example, dishes like kalua pig, lomi salmon, and poi embrace cooking methods and ingredients used for centuries. The ti leaves used as platters date back to the earliest feasts on the islands.


Through native dances, mouthwatering food, and reverence for tradition, the luau pays tribute to the past while serving as a symbol of Hawaiian culture. Attending a luau allows visitors to connect with Hawaiian heritage in a uniquely meaningful way – through community, storytelling, and of course, food. From its earliest origins, the communal meal remains at the heart of aloha spirit.


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