A new luau on Oahu exudes the spirit of Hawaii — it takes your hand and invites you to move in step with the music and dance, humor and joy of this special place.

The most authentic thing about a luau in Hawaii is the feeling of community joining in celebration (a baby’s first birthday, graduation, holidays). They celebrate fellowship as much as occasion. This sense of community seems lost in luau productions that are essentially stage performances. While entertaining in their own way, they feel like a re-creation of tradition: an artificial demonstration of what was or might have been at a point in time.

Return to Waikiki celebrates and honors the past as a living part of Hawaii today. It is a labor of love for the community of organizers: Sakara Blackwell’s event planning, food from DH Catering and the music of MAKANA. But, as with a luau, the experience is more than a sum of the parts. Many people cooperated to create the atmosphere and entertainment, which incorporates vaudevillian elements along with traditional and contemporary music and dance.

The setting in the International Marketplace is key, as well. Both Sakara and MAKANA emphasize its importance as the last area of Waikiki untouched by development. The luau area adjoins an ancient banyan tree under the stars. It also reflects the theme of Return, as Waikiki has long been a gathering place. Before travelers gathered in hotels, Hawaiians met there to sing, dance, eat and celebrate life in these islands. The entire evening is an invitation to experience Hawaii as a living community of people united in spirit with family past and present in this place.

I attended the Return to Waikiki luau last night at no cost to me as part of a press/industry preview. I was prepared to enjoy the food (it was ample and fabulous); I also knew I would enjoy MAKANA’s music. I intended to compare the experience with other luaus in terms of entertainment value, price and proximity. But it is a different kind of experience.

Return to Waikiki retains the very best sense of community celebration in a luau, and firmly places it in Hawaii. It can be experienced on many levels — as a wonderful meal and musical entertainment, as education about Hawaii history, and as the collaboration of people who want to share their love of Hawaii through food and music with honored guests.

Hawaii music as star of the luau.


  1. The show was so authentic, very intimate, and just all around a great performance of true Hawaiian music by Makana. The food was great, and the atmosphere was really nice. I will definitely be recommending this to my clients!

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