Best Lu'au on the North Shore of Oahu
Well, we did Germaine's last Thursday. The show was fine, and the pork was good, but everything else was just decent. The "free" drinks were a bit of a joke. I definitely wanted a little more out of the night. I was at Smith's (if I remember correctly) on Kauai a few years ago, and enjoyed the experience more. The kids enjoyed the show, though, and that's what was really important.
I moved to Oahu four years ago and have had many people visit me, so I've been to Paradise Cove, Germaine's (twice) and the PCC (also twice). These are my observations: Paradise Cove seemed a little more laid back than Germaine's (which had a college kids on spring break vibe both times I was there). The kalua pork was also better, but I wouldn't attend any of the luaus for a great food experience. Both were beach-side and had great sunsets. PCC has the largest (and for me, most-entertaining) show, which is separate from the dinner. There's no alcohol at the PCC, but I generally feel better about going there because it's run by BYU (and is a non-profit), with revenue going to fund the education of the students who work at the PCC. It's definitely not intimate, though, with both the dining area and auditorium packed for the dinner and show. Good luck deciding!
re: wild onion
We've done the PCC event three times. I love the experience of the PCC (especially hanging around the "villages," after their show, just to talk to the kids. I always wished that the lu`au portion was up to par with the rest of the day. Since we're usually hosting family members on vacation, and sharing our love of the Polynesian culture, I'd still do the full-day VIP package, but duck out from the dinner, and head back to Turtle Bay for a grand meal at Ola.
Now, that said, the best lu`au on O`ahu, that I have ever experienced was at Sea Life Park, and was catered by PCC. This was for a custom event for my client, and the entertainment was up to PCC standards, but the food was out of this world. I have no idea how/why it was so great, while the food at PCC has always left me wondering. I do not even know if Sea Life Park even has a regularly scheduled lu`au, or how good it would be, as this was a special event.
Sorry that I do not have more useful info,
re: Bill Hunt
Oddly enough I never hear the Sea Life Park Luau discussed. I went to their website, and sure enough they do have a Luau 3 nights a week (wed, fri, sun.) Their menu is below. As you can see, it's not exactly "authentic native fare". I have no idea how good bad or indifferent it is, or how good the show is. It is certainly a long drive from the north shore where the OP is staying.
from the sea life park website:
Our delicious buffet dinner consists in:
Tossed Salad with Dressing
Tofu with Shoyu Ginger Potato
Macaroni Salad & Cucumber
Tako Namasu Jell-o
Fresh Fruit Tray Teriyaki Beef
Grilled Medallion Mahi-Mahi
Poi Chicken Long Rice
Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls & Butter
Dessert: Assorted Cakes and Pies
Coffee or Tea
Totally different than the one that my client put together, but that was LONG, long ago. For that one, the entertainment was from the PCC, and I assumed that the food was, also, but could be way off base on that one. The food was actually on par with a good night at a Roy's, or maybe the Pineapple Room, though more geared towards the lu`au experinece. I had not even thought to check the SLP Web site - duh!
And yes, it IS a trek from Haleiwa, or even Turtle Bay. Matter of fact, unless one is in Kaneohe, it's a trek from anyplace else.
It's gotta' be a tough call, trying to structure a commercial lu`au. You have to play to the expectations of the masses, make a $, and also try to keep some integrity and purity in the event.
It also seems that there was a lu`au at Waimea Falls Park, but that might have been for the Makahiki [SP?] Festival in October. Lotta' great hula competitions and I thought they also did a lu`au along with the festivities - again, long ago and probably since disbanded. I know that the concession at the park has changed greatly over the last half-dozen years. I did not find anything on any lu`au there now. Would have been close by for the OP.
Let's put it this way...commercial luaus target the tourist industry trying to imitate what Hollywood had created. Even the term "luau" is a common misnomer derived from the tourist trade. Germaine's and also the Polynesian Cultural Center do an excellent job entertaining the visiting newcomers but as far as being genuine luaus, it's far from being that. Probably the only "genuine luaus" are the ones local residents put on at private family parties for birthdays, marriages, wedding anniversaries, etc.. And at most times you'll find the food more exotic than the pineapple wedges and fried mahi mahi at commercial gigs. But if you're looking for a real fun bus ride, endless tropical drinks topped with a little colored umbrella and a friendly tour guide, go with Germaine's. I have to admit, I've done that years ago and we had fun.
Well, This is probably a lost cause, but I saw a few things about Germain's. It's actually on the Windward side (I think), but seems a little less touristy (if that's possible). I'd like to find something on the island that's more authentic and intimate, but I fear it doesn't exist. Something pains me about the prospect of paying too much to watch a big fake show, which has little to do with the culture, and lots to do with profit.
both Paradise Cove and Germaine's are on the west side. each has it's proponents. Germaine's generally gets better marks from locals. Clinton says it well. If it is something you want to do, go and have a good time - and you can have a good time, but don't kid yourself that it is an authentic Polynesian experience. Some of the food has polynesian roots, most of the music and dance will be authentic, well... sort of.