Smith’s Tropical Paradise Luau on Kauai Review

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I’ve been visiting Kauai for the past 25 years and one of my fondest family memories involves Smith’s Tropical Paradise.

My grandmother used to live half the year on Kauai and another half in Seattle. It was amazing because every time she came home to Seattle, she’d bring Kauai Kookies, cool gecko shoes, Hawaiian stickers, and all kinds of souvenirs.

I remember one year, she showed me a VHS of hula dancing because she thought I would like it. It was a video of the Smith Family Luau on Kauai and I was instantly captivated!

It was the first time I’d seen Tahitian dancing, Maori dancing with poi balls, and I could not take my eyes from Pele when she danced while emerging from a volcano! I just had to watch it in person!

A couple of years later, my family managed to visit and she took us to Smith Family Garden luau on Kauai. It was even better than the video!

I was ten years old at the time and I still remember the songs and seeing glimpses of numerous cultures which make up present-day Hawaii.

In fact, experiencing Smith’s Tropical Paradise is the main reason I became I hula dancer when I was a teen. I think it’s the top luau in Kauai.

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Kauai Luau FAQs

What should I wear to a Kauai luau?

Since most of the luaus on Kauai Hawaii are outdoors, I suggest wearing clothes that are comfortable for the late afternoon sunshine. It helps to bring a light sweater for when it starts getting cooler. Usually, men wear Aloha shirts, women wear either dresses or cute tops with pants, and kids wear something with an Aloha print.

Are luaus on Kauai kid friendly?

Absolutely! In fact, going to a luau is one of my favorite things to do on Kauai with kids. There’s tons of activities, experiences, and entertainment. There are plenty of food options for even the pickiest of eaters. You can even bring a stroller to some so little ones can fall asleep with the rest of the family enjoys the show.

Do I need to book a luau on Kauai before my trip?

I definitely recommend booking a luau before you go to Kauai. Most Kauai Hawaii luaus only operate a few days a week, so you’ll want to secure your spot. This is especially important if you’ve already booked other activities and have limited dates available. It can be difficult to reserve luau tickets for the same day or even same week.

Smith Family Luau on Kauai

HISTORY

If you ask any Kauai local which luau they need to attend, they will probably suggest the Smith Family Luau. That is because it’s been around since the 1980s and has a great reputation.

Smith’s Kauai is a family-run business that began with just a rowboat and a borrowed outboard engine more than 50 decades ago.

Today, it’s expanded to add the Fern Grotto Wailua River Cruise, Smith’s Tropical Paradise (a 30-acre botanical and cultural backyard ), Smith’s Weddings In Paradise (a wedding site) along with the Smith Family Garden Luau.

SMITHS FAMILY GARDEN LUAU LOCATION

Smith’s Tropical Paradise and the Fern Grotto tour are located in the Wailua Marina State Park on the east side of the island (3-5971 Kuhio Highway, Kapaa, HI 96746).

Once you’ve turned off the highway, just follow the driveway all the way back to the parking space.

From the North (Hanalei, Princeville, Kapaa): Take Hwy. 56 South through Kapaa to the Wailua River. Go past Kuamoo street, over the lake, and take the first right into the Wailua Marina State Park.

From the South (Waimea, Poipu, Lihue): Take Hwy. 56 North from the Lihue airport. A mile after the Wailua Golf Course, await Marina signs along with the shore on the right. Just before crossing the Wailua River bridge, turn left in the Wailua Marina State Park.

There’s loads of free parking available.

SMITHS FAMILY GARDEN LUAU PRICE

With taxes and fees, here are the luau ticket costs when booking through Viator:

ADULTS (14-99): $103.44
KIDS AGES 7-13: $31.67
KIDS AGES 3-6: $20.06
KIDS AGES 0-2: Free

Kama’aina rates are also be available for Hawaii residents with state ID.

Click to purchase your Kauai luau discounts to Smith Family Luau on Kauai.

Things to Expect at Smiths Garden Luau on Kauai

FERN GROTTO BOAT RIDE

I’m all about luaus that set themselves apart from other luaus on Kauai. The Smith Family also runs boat tours that take guests to the hidden Fern Grotto on the Wailua River.

Take a Fern Grotto boat ride on this Wailua River tour before the Smith Family Luau. Image of a boat docked at the Wailua River.

You will climb aboard a large river boat and slowly float down to Fern Grotto, one of Kauai’s most popular attractions and destination wedding sites. Your guide will talk to you about Kauai’s history and Hawaiian culture.

When you dock, you’ll wander through the jungle until you reach the scenic viewpoint.

There, you’ll watch hula dancers and musicians perform the beloved Hawaiian Wedding Song.

Following that, you are going to hop back to the boat where there’s more hula dancing and live music for the duration of the trip.

Having this Fern Grotto boat ride option makes this one of the best luaus in Kauai.

Insider Tip: Reserve the 3:30pm boat ride and arrive just in time to get Smith’s Tropical Paradise Luau!

SMITH’S TROPICAL PARADISE GARDEN

Included in your luau admission, you’ll have access to this exquisite Smith’s Tropical Paradise Garden.

What’s cool about it, is that it’s sectioned off to emphasize lots of Asian and Pacific Island plants and exhibits.

Image of purplebougainvillea flowers at Smith's Tropical Paradise Garden on Kauai.

It’s kind of like a miniature Polynesian Cultural Center! In reality, that is what the first owners were thinking about when they designed it in the 1960s.

You can hop on the open-air tram (my kids LOVE it) or walk around at your own pace. And bring your camera as there are a lot of amazing photo opportunities and magnificent backdrops.

They have more than a mile of paths that are stroller-friendly. You will see more than 20 types of tropical fruit, like breadfruit, star fruit, jackfruit, soursop and even macadamia nuts!

And there are replicas of native huts and also a giant Easter Island Moai replica. Plus, a cute Japanese-themed garden island.

Additionally, there are peacocks roaming around, which is always fun!

Insider Hint: You can just visit the garden anytime 8:30am-4:pm. It’s $6 for adults, $3 for kids 3-12, and free for children 2 and younger.

IMU CEREMONY

Smith’s Tropical Paradise includes two imu pits. An imu is a traditional Hawaiian underground oven where they cook the pig.

When we were there, the emcee came out and assembled guests around the imu pits. He spoke a bit about how they cook the pig with hot stones and ti leaves, just like their ancestors did.

Image of a man blowing a conch shell at a Kauai luau imu ceremony.

Then, a couple of guys came over and raked the gravel off the top of the underground imu. Then, they opened up the imu and pulled the cooked pig out.

There was a little of smoke, but not too awful.

The emcee continued to discuss the history behind this kind of cooking and why they still do it now. I think he said they go through about 3 whole pigs every night!

My kids were completely immersed in the whole experience and my 5 year old had a lot of questions about how the oven functioned. I really like it when they want to learn more about what they see and how it works!

Following the ceremony, they left the pig on display so people could take a closer look and snap photos.

FOOD & DINNER ENTERTAINMENT

I know one of the top questions families have about Hawaiian luaus is about the food. Whether you have food allergies or a picky eater, you’re bound to find something tasty at Smith’s Tropical Paradise.

Here are the food options:

Kalua Pork

If you go to a luau in Hawaii, you’ll have the chance to eat kalua pork! It’s a nice, smoky flavor and is much juicier than pulled pork you’d find at barbecue restaurants.

Chicken Adobo

This is one of my favorite Filipino dishes. It’s got a vinegar base, which makes it tangy and delicious!

Mahimahi Fish

The Hawaiian mahimahi fish was served with a sweet sauce. It’s a great option if you are not a huge meat eater but like protein.

Teriyaki Beef

This is a solid entree option. It’s like everything you are able to get from teriyaki spots and it is usually a hit with the kids.

Poi

Like most luaus, the emcee made a big deal about how folks aren’t likely to like poi. He suggested people put it in a little cup on their plate.

I believe their poi is really good and tasted good with the smoky kalua pork and fresh lomi lomi salmon.

Potato/Macaroni Salad

One of my favorite things about plate lunches in Hawaii is the scoop of macaroni salad. But, when it is blended with potato salad, it’s next-level yumminess!

Mashed Potatoes

This is a good alternative if you’re more of a meat and potatoes type of person. It’s also a bit hit with children!

Purple Potatoes

I love their purple potatoes! They serve them chopped and roasted, which means that you may just take a little if you want to try. They taste just like regular potatoes, but shinier!

Bean Salad

I didn’t try this, but they had a multi-bean salad available.

Green Salad

They had a basic green salad at the front of the buffet line with a couple distinct types of dressing. Personally, I never do salad as it takes up too much space in my plate.

Bread

There are a few different kinds of bread in many different colors. When we had been there, we had taro bread (which was purple) and guava bread (that was pink.) Out of all of the luau food, my children ate the bread that the most.

Dessert Options

They feature coconut cake, fresh fruit, and rice pudding. I don’t generally like rice pudding, but their version is amazing!

Drinks

They’ve an open bar with mai tais, beer and wine. Additionally, fruit punch and soft drinks are also available.

I could be missing a few things, but that’s basically the Smith Family Luau dinner menu.

Dinner Entertainment

There’s also fun entertainment during dinner. There is a live musical group, several hula dancers, and some silly crowd involvement.

Image of a woman dancing hula at Smith's Family Luau on Kauai.

What I enjoy about how Smith Family does their audience involvement is the fact that it’s all positive. They are not trying to make fun of anybody or only bring up guys to try to hula dance for the crowd.

Instead, they encourage anybody who’d like to understand hula to come up on stage and learn the very easy Hukilau.

My two year old sat on my lap and did all of the hand moves while we watched! It was wonderful!

LUAU SHOW

What I really appreciate about Smith’s Tropical Paradise Luau is that you visit a separate amphitheater to watch the show.

That means you are not craning your neck sitting at a very long table, or looking at dirty dishes in front of you while you’re trying to enjoy the show.

After dinner, you are going to walk to an outdoor theater. There are tons of rows of bench stadium seating and there is not a bad seat in the house.

This luau is the only luau on Kauai that showcases Asian culture along with Polynesian cultures.

These are the places represented in the luau:

Hawaii

You’ll get to find both traditional (hula kahiko) and modern (hula auana) styles of hula dance.

Image of hula dancers on Kauai using split bamboo hula implements.

And they use hula implements such as feather gourd rattles (uli uli), split bamboo (pu`ili), and gourd drums (ipu).

New Zealand

My kids always like viewing the poi ball dancing. The women swing the balls above their heads and criss cross them and it is pretty mesmerizing.

And they light the poi balls on fire! Surely cool for your kids!

Philippines

Dancers perform a traditional Filipino dance where they jump over and in between two large sticks that seated performers clap together. The dance is called Tinikling.

Japan

It starts off with a little story about Japan while the audience watches a man fishing from a rock area.

Image of a Japanese man sitting on a rock and fishing with a bamboo pole as part of the Kauai luau entertainment.

You’ll see women wearing kimonos dance with boughs of cherry flowers dancing with fans.

In the past, they have also done a parasol dance that is really pretty. I am not sure whether they still do it for some performances.

Tahiti

You’ll get to see two different styles of Tahitian dancing. And they even come in front of the stage to dancing on the ledge near the water.

Image of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcanoes as she dances at a Kauai luau.

During The Tahiti segment, you will also watch a captivating dance by Pele (goddess of fire and volcanoes) as she beckons individuals of Tahiti to set sail for Hawaii.

There is an elevator inside the volcano so she rises upward and lowers back into the volcano. It looks really cool during the performance!

Samoa

And also this Kauai luau ends together with the awe-inspiring Samoan fire knife dancing! The performer even uses two knives, which constantly impresses my children!

This show has had minimal changes in the past 25 years, but that is one of the reasons why I like it. The songs and the dancing nonetheless stands up and it is fun whether this is your first luau or you partake every trip!

Insider Tip: You can also skip dinner And just go to the show. It’s unbelievably affordable at $15 for adults, $7.50 for children ages 3-12, and free for kids ages two and younger.

Why I Think Smiths Family Garden Luau is your Best Luau on Kauai

I love how families really can customize this experience to fit in their Kauai itinerary.

You can make it a half day trip by exploring the gardens on foot, taking the Fern Grotto scenic boat ride, riding the tram around the garden, watching the imu ceremony, heading into dinner, and then watching the full show.

Image of a woman wearing a blue tinsel skirt while she dances hula on Kauai.

Or, you may only do the show (without dinner). Or just learn more about the garden. There’s a lot of wiggle room to find the right option for your family.

I also love that this luau in Kauai Hawaii is located on the East Shore. It’s near lots of kid friendly resorts and vacation rentals. Plus, it’s not too bad of a drive from the North Shore or South Shore.

I enjoy that it isn’t at a hotel/resort, which means you can really immerse yourself in the luau experience (and not deal with resort parking fees). I think it might be the best luau in Kauai Hawaii.

5 Best Tips for Smith Family Garden Luau on Kauai:

1. SCHEDULE FOR END OF YOUR TRIP

If you’re concerned about the time difference, consider scheduling this Kauai luau at the end of your vacation.

This way, your children will still be alert enough to enjoy the show (and you won’t have to carry sleeping kids across the grounds and parking lot for your car)!

2. GO ON STAGE

Invite your children to go on stage to understand how to hula dance.

Or, stand near your table whenever they have stage fright. It is a great way to allow your kids to learn about a different culture and they might appreciate the Polynesian show a little more.

3. YOU CAN SAVE MONEY AND JUST DO THE SHOW

I think the food at Smith’s is great and highly suggest doing the complete luau, but there’s a budget-friendly option if you’d like.

If you don’t think your kids are going to eat any of the luau food, or you already have dinner plans, you can just purchase tickets to the show.

And it’s incredibly affordable!

ADULTS: $15
KIDS (3-12): $7.50
AGES 0-2: FREE

By skipping dinner, this makes it the cheapest luau on Kauai! Just be sure to book straight via the Smith Family website.

4. WEAR BUG SPRAY

The luau performance occurs on an outdoor stage surrounded by water. This makes it a place bugs just like to hang out near.

My husband got a lot of bug bites while we were there (he’s got that sweet, sweet blood mosquitoes love)! And we regretted not bringing bug spray .

5. BRING A BLANKET

If you’re going in the wintertime, you could think about bringing a blanket or large beach towel to your show.

It can get cool at night and we saw a great deal of families snuggling under a blanket.

This also helps if you believe that your kids may fall asleep during this show.

General Hawaii Luau Information

Hopefully this post helps you figure out what to expect at the Smith Family Luau. However, if you still have questions, I have an entire post all about Hawaii luau expectations that is worth a read.

There’s a run down of the different types of luaus, menu items, which ones are kid friendly, the best luaus in Hawaii, what to wear to a luau, and more. Get all your Hawaiian luau questions answered HERE!

Wrap Up

I hope this helps you decide if this really is the best luau on Kauai for your family. It’s always helpful to read Kauai luau reviews before you go.

Purchase your Kauai luau discount tickets to Smith’s Tropical Paradise luau.

Looking for more Kauai Travel Resources? Find out where to see the best Kauai sunsets, the ultimate Kauai packing list, whether or not a helicopter ride is worth it, and 10 things to know before your Kauai vacation.