For once, being summoned to court wasn’t a bad thing. At the edge of the 62-acre Hilton Waikoloa Village resort, a winding path led to a luau at Kamehameha Court. The traditional (touristy and fun) South Pacific feast and dinner show takes place in front of a stage, with the entire facility named for the first King of Hawaii, who united the surrounding islands and inspired mass quantities of what turned out to be some solid food, which was a component of an even more memorable experience.
They led me to a chair at the communal table closest to the stage, which should have served as a warning sign, but didn’t register right away. Typically, people sit at King tables for $109 apiece, which includes two cocktails, access to the buffet, parking, tax and tip. There’s also the option to pay an additional $26 for preferred Ali’i Seating, meaning tables in the front row, bottomless beer, wine and mai tais, and full table service. Tablemates from the mainland were already devouring family-style Hawaiian food, including fruits like shell-on lychee, mango, pineapple, starfruit, and shocking pink, seeded dragonfruit. The first “course” also included starchy taro cubes, bay shrimp and classic ahi poke that had a little more sinew than my other Big Island stops, but still tasted pretty good. They also served lomi lomi, which means “massaged.” In this case, they “massaged” chopped salmon and mixed it with tomato and onion. Lomi lomi is traditionally paired with pasty taro poi.
The serious spread also included Kalua pig, Kalua referring to the way the pig’s cooked, normally in the ground. This juicy shredded beast arrived with a pair of dipping sauces: tangy plum and sweet honey mustard. We also received plentiful steamed vegetables, a heap of steamed white rice, and lau lau, a dish featuring edible tea leaves wrapped around pork.
My favorite side consisted of sliced orange yams and purple Molokai sweet potatoes, skin-on and coated in coconut milk. My drink of choice was local Kona Longboard Lager, though they also had tropical blended cocktails like mai tais, and more.
With food flowing, our M.C., a joyous singer in a muumuu with a sultry voice, started telling the story of the South Pacific through song and dance, complete with a troupe of male and female dancers. The show started with a hula lesson, followed by a Polynesian “fashion show” and a hula’ing cowboy. The men went shirtless and sported tribal tattoos. The women wore little more and rocked their hips in frenzied rhythm.
As servers presented dessert – an array of cakes, pies and a pudding-Jello hybrid known as haupia – they treated us to more “Legends of the Pacific.”
…several alluring dancers, one of whom led me on stage. The finale concluded with all the women dancing around me, which was obviously a lot of fun. However, it’s probably for the best that there’s no video…to my knowledge.
Note: Big Island Visitors Bureau organized a four-day island tour. My two-night stay at Hilton Waikoloa Village, and my seat at the luau were part of my complimentary experience.