Though there are many Big Island luaus, they all display certain similarities:
THE FOOD: Sharing of the "gift of food" is an integral part of every Luau. The main ingredient of any luau is "Kalua Pork" or pig. Preparations for the cooking of the pig begin early the day of the luau. A large pit called an "imu" is dug in the sand. Dry, hardwood Kiawe wood (known in North America as Mesquite) is placed into the pit with rounded river rocks assembled on top. The wood is lit on fire and after a couple of hours all that is left on the bottom are hot coals and incredibly hot rocks which will maintain the heat for hours to come. The rocks are then spread evenly on the bottom and fresh cut banana stalks are placed on top. Finally, a layer of banana leaves provide a bed for the pig. The pig is then placed in the pit and covered with more banana leaves and ti leaves and usually a gunnysack to keep the heat in. Finally the pit is covered with a tarp and beach sand. The rocks heat the juicy banana stalks causing a pressure cooker effect in the imu. After 6 to 8 hours the finished pig is unveiled. The intense steam has cooked the meat so it just falls away from the bone, and the moisture from the banana stalks has kept the meat moist and delicious.
Other delicacies usually provided at a luau are chicken long rice, lomi lomi salmon, haupia (coconut desert), poi (very nutritious), veggies, salad, steaks, roasted chicken, fresh fish, rice, lots of specialty items, deserts and much more. An open bar is usually provided which includes Mai Tai's and other adult beverages while the children are provided with lots to drink. Although you will probably find a number of the items on your plate unusual to say the least, you can be assured that there will be plenty of food available that has some semblance of what you are familiar with.
THE ENTERTAINMENT: Another integral part of every luau is the entertainment included from many of the various cultures of Polynesia. Here you will find some variation with regard to what various luaus provide. Only a very few of the luaus are traditional Hawaiian in that they will provide only dance and song of the hula that is specific to the culture of old Hawaii. The vast majority of the others will provide entertainment that can be found from other cultures throughout the Pacific Rim such as from Tahiti, Samoa (with its famous fire dance), Fiji, and New Zealand.
Luaus are always held during sunset. Most are located on beautiful beach locations with a view of the setting sun over the ocean. They will last about three hours and there is no question that you will not only leave full and happy, but with an extra bit of the "Spirit of Aloha" that Hawaii is famous for.