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.
UPDATE: This blog was updated in February 2021, but due to the continuing impacts of COVID-19 on Maui’s tourism and entertainment industries, some of the businesses, events, or activities mentioned below could possibly change their operations temporarily or permanently. As things are changing constantly amidst this pandemic, 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)
(COVID UPDATE: Warren & Annabelle’s has temporarily suspended operations in their theater but are accepting tentative bookings for future dates. Watch their website for the latest reopening news!)
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)
(COVID UPDATE: The live show reopened in late February with limited seating, and George Kahumoku, Jr. is live-streaming shows on a regular basis. Watch their website for the latest news!)
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 food 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)
(COVID UPDATE: The indoor theater shows have been temporarily suspended, but the MACC has been very creative about continuing to bring great entertainment to Maui throughout the pandemic with outdoor drive-in events and live-streamed concerts. Check their website for the latest schedule of events.)
Tune in to a truly local radio station! Mana’o Radio (KMNO 91.7 FM) is Maui’s only 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 at home 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. (COVID UPDATE: The Sunday fundraisers have been temporarily suspended.) Follow Mana’o Radio on Facebook for more on their latest shows and events.
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)
(COVID UPDATE: This show has been temporarily suspended. Watch their website for updates!)
WE BID ALOHA TO SOME PAST MAUI SHOWS WE LOVED: If you have been to Maui and are wondering about some shows you enjoyed in past years, I’m sorry to say that Ulalena, Burn’n Love (the Elvis show), and Na Lio Maui (the horse show) ceased operations a few years ago. You’ll find some of the original Ulalena musicians and dancers performing at the luau at Grand Wailea these days (see below).
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 still 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!
(COVID UPDATE: Luaus that are operating during COVID have changed their formats in order to follow health and safety protocols. So you likely won’t be seated at long luau tables with strangers brushing shoulders or serving yourself from a buffet line.)
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 here are my personal favorites – the ones I take my friends and family to most often:
FAVORITE LUAUS IN WEST MAUI
Old Lahaina Luau: A beautiful waterfront setting, fun and interesting things to do before the show, friendly staff, great food, and an authentic and traditional Hawaiian show. (Be aware that there is no fire dancer at this show because they strive to present only authentic Hawaiian dances, and fire dancers are from other parts of Polynesia.) This luau is extremely popular and sells out well in advance, so make advance reservations.
Feast At Lele: Feast at Lele, operated by the same people as Old Lahaina Luau, features a smaller, more intimate venue than the typical luau . . . more like a fine dining luau experience. This unique luau offers a lovely show and a five-course, sit-down (no buffet) gourmet dinner of Pacific Island foods. Tables are individual — you can reserve a table for two, if you wish, or a table just for your family and friends. And it’s the only Maui luau I know of that is directly on the beach. Really. Your feet will get sandy.
FAVORITE LUAU IN SOUTH MAUI
Aha’aina Wailea Luau at Grand Wailea: At the Aha‘aina Wailea Luau, set oceanfront overlooking Wailea Beach, your party is seated at your own individual table and you are served there, dining by candlelight. Excellent food (menu here) and one of the most creative luau shows I’ve ever seen, including Hawaiian hula and Polynesian dances, fire dancers, a stunning “cloud goddess” hula, and a graceful aerial dancer (pictured) who dangles from the palm trees. If you saw the long-running Ulalena show from past years in Lahaina, you’ll recognize some of those performers here at the Aha’aina Wailea Luau.
Check out my other suggestions for Things To Do on Maui.
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Candy Aluli, Publisher
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