ISO best foodie/entertainment/view experience on Oahu or Maui
Luau's with good food and drink, sadly, do not exist.
My suggestion to you is to take that $200-$300+ you will spend on your luau and have a couple of great dinners and afterwards go to the Grand Wailea or catch the end of Feast of Lele on Maui or House without a Key at Halekulani's in O'ahu for mai tai's and pupus and catch the show from the high end hotels.
That's my two Aloha cents
have you eaten Hawaiian food before? most visitors do not find it fits their palates well.
typical food at luaus:
laulau - steamed taro leaves with a piece of pork, chicken, or fish, or a combination, and a piece of fat in the middle
chicken long rice - chicken and rice noodles with a little broth
lomi lomi salmon - chopped tomatoes, onions, green onions, and salted salmon (many places skimp on the salmon)
squid luau - coconut milk, squid, and taro leaves (it's very rich and looks like duck crap)
poi - mashed taro root (consistency of paste and very bland)
kalua pig - shredded smoky roast pork
haupia - coconut gelatin
poke - generally cubed and seasoned raw fish, varieties are endless
I enjoy them to varying degrees, from excellent (lomi salmon, haupia, poke, laulau) to meh/take it or leave it (poi, squid luau), and mostly do not make them at home, although some of them can be found at stores already prepared. definitely try poke (lots of threads on that).
I have only been to the paradise cove luau on Oahu as a commercial meal with a show. it was ok. if you have never seen hula or fire knife dancing, you may want to go to one of these. most times people just have backyard luaus which are catered for special occasions.
if you want to skip the show and just try Hawaiian food, there are several restaurants that serve such fare. my rec is avoid onos Hawaiian food. extremely small, expensive portions, and terrible tasting food. do not confuse this with onos seafood. again, lots of threads on this.
i'm downgrading your expectations so if you do happen to like the foods you'll be really happy.
if you are adventurous, you'll like some of them. remember, i said lomi salmon, haupia, poke, and laulau are favorites of mine. i really like chickne long rice too, but the damn food is so slippery it' s hard to get into your mouth.
when is your trip to the islands?
but the experience might be fun. at paradise cove you get to see a pig put into an imu (hot rocks in a hole in the ground), buried, and eat it later as kalua pig. you can do various crafts like lei-making, see Polynesian dances, and drink beer (skip the cocktails). souvenirs are ok here. the views are great when it's still bright, the beach here is picturesque.
your hotel will have various brochures like this week Oahu where you can get coupons and compare luaus.
It might be fun if you like canned entertainment aimed at the lowest common denominator. A much more authentic and enjoyable experience on O'ahu would be drinks, Hawaiian music, and hula performed by one or two highly regarded dancers at Halekulani's House Without a Key, fabulous sunset views and ambiance, and then go to dinner at a place that is known for great chow. Lots of threads on places like Helena's if you really want local style Hawaiian food..
Watch a video of a commercial luau, knife/fire dance, etc rather than paying for a bus ride surrounded by packaged tour groups and focus your dining on recs from local hounds, not people selling faux Hawaiian experiences and lousy chow to tourists.
Itryalot, sounds like you won't find what you are looking for on Oahu, but you may find a different story on Maui.
It's not a lu`au exactly, but you might really enjoy the Feast at Le'le on Maui. This is a sit down dinner with private tables at I'o restaurant, outdoors in a beautiful beach front setting.
You will be served courses representing 4 Polynesian traditions interpreted by chef James McDonald, using fresh local seafood and organic produce from their own upcountry O'o Farm. The Hawaiian portion includes the traditional lu`au favorite kalua pork, if that is a lu`au must for you. Each course has very good wine pairings or you may order the same cocktails served in the restaurant, not watered down.
Each course is also accompanied by traditional dancing from the same geographic location. These are usually very good dancers, and the diners are seated right by the stage. The service is excellent. They are happy to personalize a menu for any dietary needs including vegetarian, or allergies.
The sooner you reserve the better your table. If you are not sure, reserve with a phone call and you will not be charged, online reservations will charge your credit card. You can cancel within, I think, 24 hours of reservation time.
Also on Maui, if you are staying south, is the new Ulalena Lu`au at Makena Beach and Golf Resort. The setting is gorgeous, and Ulalena is a very well reviewed Hawai'ian dance show, now adapted to a lu`au format. The food is again, not the typical lu`au food and is served at your table rather than offered buffet style. I haven't tried it yet, but it sounds good. We did have dinner at Makena's restaurant in January since we were staying there, and were surprised at the excellent quality. Makena is undergoing a real transformation since new ownership took over a couple of years ago. And from what we've experienced, the new lu`au is definitely worth a try. I believe it's offered on Sunday and Wednesday nights.
Hope you have a wonderful trip!