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Travel Blog #76 - Smith's Botanical Garden Luau

The activity that is essential to of any classic Hawaii vacation is a Luau. Going and experiencing a little bit of Hawaiian culture is something that every visitor should do when visiting the islands. Some local food, dance and drinks will always lead to an enjoyable evening (for me). On Kauai, we have one of the most classic luaus that can be found anywhere in the state. It is owned by the Smith family and is set on their magnificent garden estate that is nestled into the banks of the Wailua River.

As we entered the Luau gardens we made our way through their picturesque archway. As soon as we entered we were greeted by a massive reflection pond that was surrounded by various gardens on all sides that extended over the horizon. There was a tram that was waiting just to the right of the entrance as we walked in. The tram driver was offering free tours of the gardens which sounded like a good idea, so we jumped on.

Our drivers narration was amazing! He was able to name every plant that we passed along the way. That feat is easier said then done, because the Smith Gardens are almost like a botanical Noahs Ark for everything that grows in Hawaii. They had every kind of Pineapple, Coconut, Macadamia Nut, fruit and flower that you could imagine.

The tour concluded at the imu pit. Early Hawaiians perfected the use of an underground oven called an imu many centuries ago, that has been used ever since. It's concept is simple. You dig a pit. Then, next to the pit build a bonfire. Throw river stones into the bonfire until they are super heated. Meanwhile, wrap pigs, fish and poultry in banana leaves and season them with Hawaiian sea salt. Once the rocks are sufficiently heated, use tongs to pull them out of the fire and place them in the pit. Once all the rocks have been moved into the pit, pile the banana leave wrapped bundles of food on top of the rocks and then bury it all. Allow the bundles to cook underground with the rocks for the entire day and then uncover everything. The resulting is a slow roasting of any item that is placed in the imu. The pig comes out so tender that you can literally pick up the bone and all the meat will fall back onto the plate.

Smith's Luau had an open bar

The Smith family had a beautiful imu pit, we watched as the luau workers dug up the pig that had been cooking all day. MC Kamika Smith narrated throughout the imu ceremony. After this was done, when the imu had been emptied, Kamika invited us to the dining hall for some drinks at the bottomless bar (unlimited free drinks).

The luau hall was a giant pavilion that had bars on two sides. There was a stage with live entertainment that we enjoyed. Our group conversed and sipped on our tropical beverages (MaiTais were the favorite drink of our table). After a couple rounds of drinks, our table was called to the luau buffet.

The luau buffet is always my favorite part of any luau. I grew up eating Poi, Kalua Pig, Poke, Teriyaki Chicken and Pulehu beef so I jump on any opportunity to have a crack at an all you can eat buffet that is stocked with all of my favorite foods. I made a mountainous plate that was absolutely saturated with Poi, grabbed another drink from the bar and made my way back to the table with an ear to ear grin across my face.

Buffet Luau Dinner

We enjoyed our plates of food as we watched a beautiful dance by one of the Smith sisters. The band played a few more songs before Kamika came on stage and informed everyone that the luau show would be starting in the amphitheater in a few minutes. We finished our drinks, then made our way over to get seated for the show.

The show at Smiths luau is my favorite part of the entire event. It was a Polynesian show, not a Hawaiian show. This means that they had not only the traditional dances from Hawaii, but they also had dances from: Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand, Tahiti, the Philippines, Japan, China as well as a few other Polynesian locations. The show culminated with an amazing fire dancing display which was a crowd favorite. The skillful dancer was very talented at his profession, and I was able to snap some great photos.

Ive been to many luaus across the state of Hawaii and it is rare to find one that has the sort of down home family feel that the Smith family Luau has. This luau has been a central part of what the Smith family has done for generations. The pride the family show in taking part of their family legacy is evident by the extreme attention to detail that is apparent in all aspects of the operation. From the extremely manicured gardens, to the caring attentiveness they show to the needs of their guests. When I watched Kamika Smith (the operations manager) do his duties throughout the night I could tell this is more then a job for him. This is his families legacy, and it is apparent that he takes an immense amount of pride in everything that happens here. All the hard work and effort that has been put into this luau by the Smiths over the years has paid off, because they have created one of the most quality Luaus that can be found anywhere in the entire state of Hawaii.

Travel Blog - Articles #70 to #79

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