Maui’s Best Shows: Insider Recommendations
There are some wonderful shows on Maui! Here are my personal picks for Maui’s best shows–the ones I recommend to my own visiting family and friends. I’ve seen all of these shows—most of them multiple times—and can confidently recommend them to you.
NOTE: Due to the impacts of COVID-19 on Maui’s tourism, some of the businesses, events, or activities mentioned in this blog may have changed their operations temporarily or permanently. As things change constantly through this transition, please check with businesses directly to verify their operating status and hours. Mahalo!
MY PICKS FOR MAUI’S BEST SHOWS (in no particular order)
Warren & Annabelle’s Magic Show
Get ready to be completely astounded AND laugh your head off–that is, if you can get tickets to this show. It consistently sells out well in advance, so plan ahead. The evening starts with drinks, appetizers, or dinner in Annabelle’s cozy parlor (Annabelle is a piano-playing ghost). Then you are escorted into the small showroom for Warren Gibson’s truly mind-boggling sleight-of-hand magic and hilarious banter. My father was a magician, so I am not usually awestruck by magic acts, but this guy is absolutely amazing. I have seen Warren’s show multiple times and am consistently stumped (how did he DO that???). Plus I laugh ’til I cry. Definitely on everyone’s list of Maui’s best shows! Located in Lahaina (West Maui)
George Kahumoku Jr.’s Slack Key Show: Masters of Hawaiian Music
For an authentic experience in Hawaiian music, I highly recommend this Grammy Award-winning concert series that takes place every Wednesday night at Napili Kai Beach Resort. Hawaiian slack key is one of the great acoustic guitar traditions in the world, and this program features a rotating schedule of Hawaii’s top slack key artists in a casual, laid-back setting, like a backyard jam session. A great place for visitors to mix with local residents who are fellow music-lovers. And host George Kahumoku, Jr. is not only a master musician but very entertaining with his “talk story” about local life. Details and Tickets Located in Napili (West Maui)
The Maui Arts and Cultural Center
This is THE performing arts complex on Maui, hosting a wide range of quality performances, events, and exhibitions ranging from world-famous celebrities and musicians to symphonies and ballet to local Hawaiian cultural programs and festivals. The MACC is the heart of entertainment and the arts on Maui, hosting many of Maui’s best shows. Well in advance of your arrival, I recommend you check the MACC’s schedule for events and performances that might be taking place while you’re here. You might catch a one-time Maui performance by your favorite rock, pop or country music star, a hula competition, a movie under the stars, a beer fest, a locally-produced Broadway play, or a ukulele jamboree. All this and more are possible at the MACC! Located in Kahului (Central Maui)
Tune in to a truly local radio station! Mana’o Radio (KMNO 91.7 FM) is Maui’s non-commercial all-volunteer radio station. Instead of a canned, pre-programmed song list, you’ll hear local people (volunteer djs) playing an eclectic selection of the music they love best. Listen while you’re here on Maui, or live stream from their website. The first Sunday of every month, enjoy a great lineup of live local entertainment from 2 to 5 p.m. at Casanova Italian Restaurant in Makawao (upcountry Maui). $10 donation at the door is a fundraiser for Mana’o Radio.
Napili Kai Foundation Keiki Hula Show
The nonprofit Napili Kai Foundation was formed in 1966 to perpetuate Hawaiiana: to instruct children in Hawaiian and Polynesian dances, culture, language and history and to instill in them a pride in their ancestry. Originally created for the children of Napili Kai Beach Resort staff members, the Foundation has grown in scope and purpose over the decades, today reaching youngsters from all over Maui. There is a waiting list of local children eager to join. Every Tuesday evening at 5:30 p.m. the children–ranging in age from six to eighteen–perform what they have learned in a charming presentation. Professional hula dancers in training! The delightful 45-minute program is open to the public. Admission is $10 for adults (complimentary for guests of Napili Kai); $5 for children (age 6-12; free under age 5), with all funds supporting the work of the nonprofit tax-exempt Foundation. Located at Napili Kai Beach Resort (West Maui)
UPDATE ON MAUI SHOWS: For those who have been to Maui and are wondering about shows they enjoyed in past years, I’m sorry to say that Ulalena, Burn’n Love (the Elvis show), and Na Lio Maui (the horse show) are no longer operating.
What About A Luau?
Yes, I DO recommend you go to a luau. On my first visit to the islands (decades ago, before I made Hawaii my home), I went to a luau…and I have gone to many more over the years with friends and family who were visiting. But, you may say, aren’t luaus “touristy?” Well, of course they are! They are created for tourists to enjoy, and you ARE a tourist, after all. That’s not a negative thing. The vast majority of today’s luaus are very authentic in their presentation of Hawaiian culture – the food, customs, song, dance, history, and mythology. The performers have, in many cases, been studying Hawaiian hula, chant, language, and other cultural arts since they were children. Shows for visitors provide a means to preserve Hawaii’s culture and share it. Luau performers do that with integrity, and they take it seriously. A luau is a wonderful way to introduce our visitors to the Hawaiian cultural experience, and most luaus strive to do this in a fun, entertaining, yet informative way. So, approach a luau with an open mind and a respectful attitude, seeking to have fun but also learn something about Hawaii’s culture, which is ancient and sacred to many. You will come away from a luau happy, full (I guarantee it), and with a much better understanding and appreciation for Hawaii’s unique and beautiful culture. GO TO A LUAU!
There are many luaus on Maui (mostly offered at resorts), and they are all good, providing excellent Hawaiian food, music, and dance. It is very difficult for me to rank luaus, due to their diversity. Each luau is different in its venue and the particular show that is presented. For instance, some luaus include fire dancers (photo above), others do not; some focus on a more Hawaii-specific performance, while others feature music and dance from all of Polynesia. Honestly, I have never been to a “bad” luau. . .they are all fun. But my personal favorite – the one I take my friends and family to most often – is Old Lahaina Luau (West Maui). This luau is hard to beat. A beautiful waterfront setting, fun and interesting things to do before the show, friendly staff, great food, and an authentic and traditional Hawaiian show. This luau sells out well in advance, however, so make advance reservations. Or enjoy one of Maui’s other great luaus! I can recommend, from first-hand experience, the following luaus: Hyatt Regency Maui–Drums of the Pacific Luau (Kaanapali); The Feast at Lele (Lahaina); Grand Wailea–The Grand Luau at Honua’ula (Wailea); Marriott Wailea Beach Resort–Te Au Moana Luau (Wailea). That doesn’t mean the other Maui luaus aren’t great — just means I haven’t personally been to all of them!
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Candy Aluli, Publisher
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