Drift Away To A Faraway South Pacific Paradise At The Tahiti Nui’s Luau Night
Cars were streaming into the Tahiti Nui parking lot, not too soon after we arrived. When we walked onto the lanai, there were a few people eating an early dinner outside. Inside the Nui’s bar area, entertainers were performing for a few folks sitting at the bar. The bartenders were getting warmed up, prepping and cleaning; awaiting the busy night that was soon to follow. We passed the Wine Bar on our left as we crossed the lanai and headed to our destination, the Tahiti Nui’s Luau Room.
Already the Luau Room was filling up quickly. The place was half full when we approached, the clock now reading 4:30PM. Tahiti Nui staff was running about bringing out more chairs, straightening out table cloths and bins that would soon hold delicious Hawaiian food. The bartender was making drinks behind the bar, shaking, stirring and pouring into a preset arrangement of multiple rows of empty cups, all just waiting to be filled with irresistible Mai Tai. Visitors who had arrived early were milling about, conversing with one another and happily sipping their drinks.
Finding our seat near the bar area, we observed that the newcomers had made a fast arrangement of claiming their seats. No sooner than we had taken our own drinks, did we realize that the Luau Room was nearly full. There looked to be about fifty to seventy people in the room, which was roughly the size of a small family home. Every possible seat had been occupied, and every possible square inch of space was filled, clearly to the satisfaction of the Tahiti Nui staff.
Music was continuous, pleasant, and increasingly more inviting. Once the room filled and no one was concerned with finding a spot to sit any longer, the attention had fallen solely on the musicians on stage, who switched periodically between Tahitian music accompanied by rhythmic, tribal, and enchanting drumming. It seemed that the drummers didn’t need to stop in between songs to rest, think, or even take a breath. The ukulele and the vocals on the other hand, had a softer, almost dreamy tone. Both the Tahitian drumming and the ukulele playing of the Hawaiian songs seemed effortless. Easily the music made me feel relaxed and willing to let my mind drift with the musical notes and dream of the old days in the South Pacific, visualizing brilliant blue lagoons, verdant fields and blossoming pikake and hibiscus flowers. It didn’t take long to visualize canoes cutting through the tumbling waves to meet pristine, golden beaches.
The entertainers on the stage were the directors of the event. After a few requests as well as a couple of jests and jokes here and there, it was clear that everyone was expected to go outside. This, the crowd was told, is where the imu pit is located. The imu is the most important part of the luau, really. It is where all the food is cooked. And, it is where all the fun begins.
Standing in a semi-circle around the imu pit the crowd witnessed a traditional and authentic reenactment of an age-old tradition: the removing of the cooked wild boar from its underground oven filled with steaming hot rocks. It can’t get any better than this, really, because just when you thought you saw it all you are then asked to sample some of the fresh-cooked meat. The kalua pork of the wild pig is fresh, salted just right with traditional Hawaiian sea salt known as “alae,” which is prepared on the island of Moloka’i. I nearly could not contain my excitement when they asked me to try some, and I literally said out loud, “It can’t get any better than this!” You needn’t even ask why people travel thousands upon thousands of miles to the South Pacific, after hearing of the delicacies that await you at the Tahiti Nui luau.
The delicious smell and small samples of kalua pig are enough to make anyone burst at the seams and literally lose it, in the sense that you are waiting at a gourmet restaurant and feel like drumming your silverware on the table, demanding your meal (except in a more excited, less angry sort of manner.)
When the time finally came for my boyfriend, Keoki, and I to dig into our meal, which we greedily collected in an assembly-line-style buffet, it didn’t take long to clean our plates. I got kalua pork and cabbage, poi, macaroni potato salad, chicken long rice, fried rice, and sweet sour fish. These were just some of the many delicious options – let it not be forgotten that there was a delicious haupia coconut desert as well as fresh fruit, such as pineapple and melon, too. I had not eaten all day just for this moment. And much to my grief, the moment didn’t last long. But let me tell you, my stomach had never felt so satisfied in weeks!
Finishing your meal is the beginning to “Da Nui” grand finale. Once you look up from devouring all the wonderful eats, you see an insane amount of hip movement, which is sure to overstimulate your senses, as if the food didn’t do you in already. The stage lights in combination with the rapid flashing of colorful grasses and leaf skirts, accompanied by the booming of the drums, well, is more than the average person can fully comprehend. Then again, Tahitian dancing is definitely no ordinary experience. This part of the performance, where the dancing is the fastest and all the talented dancers have gathered together in unison on stage, is where the luau really begins to draw to a close. And it is this moment of the Tahiti Nui luau that truly is the most memorable.
When the event has finally ended and all who have come are given their thanks and their “mahalos” and “ahui ka kous,” the visitor leaves this treasured, age-old traditional luau that sends the mind to a faraway fanciful Tahitian and Hawaiian paradise of our past and realizes: At last it is over, but much too soon.