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Is a Kauai Luau Worth $200?

The price of a Kauai luau is $200 for a familyYou won’t be hearing much from me for the next couple of weeks. Our trip to Hawaii is almost here! Our main costs for this trip were just over $500 because we used rewards from our Hawaiian Airlines Visa, Chase Ink cards, and Barclay Arrival cards. That includes 3 round trip flights, 7 nights in Kauai, and a rental car for the week. There will be other expenses, and I’m reaching out to my readers to decide how much we should spend and on what. The main thing we are trying to decide is whether or not to spend almost $200 for a Kauai luau plus a few other things we’d like to do. I’d love to hear some opinions.

Oh Yeah, We’re Also Going to Vegas

Did I mention that Hawaiian airlines only flies out of a few mainland cities, mostly in the Western US? The closest to us was Phoenix, but it was 15,000 points less to go out of Las Vegas, which is only an hour longer in driving distance. We are going to spend two nights in Vegas before our flight and one night there on the way back. The last time Jim and I went to Hawaii, we had an overnight flight that got in at 6AM. Then, we drove 6 hours home. It was one of the longest days of my life, and I vowed to take it more slowly if we ever went back again. So while Vegas will add more expense, I think it’s worth it, especially with the 7 year old going this time.

Since we do have a young child, this won’t be a gambling/drinking/ party time Vegas trip. I imagine we will spend some time at the pool, see the fountains at the Bellagio, and try to cover her eyes as much as possible. I think she will enjoy all the lights and fake landmarks, probably more than me. We are staying at a Hilton time share condo type place that I booked eons ago during a promtion. It’s so cheap that we don’t want to use points, and it has a kitchen that will save tons on food costs. We also decided to go see Blue Man Group if we can get half price tickets right before the show. I’m not paying $300, but would go for $150. We’ll use some of our yard sale money for that.

Is a Kauai Luau Worth $200?

I really want to go see a luau while we are in Hawaii. It seems like the authentic thing to do. I did attend one on my first trip to Hawaii 15 years ago. Jim has never been to a luau. He could care less about people dancing in grass skirts, but I think the daughter would like it. It seems there are 4 or 5 to choose from, but they are all around $80 or more for adults and $30-$40 for kids. You get the full feast, drinks, and show included in the price. I will certainly look for coupons when I’m there, but it will be expensive regardless.

At the Grand Hyatt Kauai, where we are staying, they offer free keiki (kids) hula dancing on a couple of the nights during the week. I guess it is done by younger students of hula, while the big luaus are by professionals. This is completely free. We could forgo the traditional luau, eat an awesome meal for way under $200, and see the free hula show. Would that be a good option or should we do the real thing? I’m leaning toward cheap, but please correct me if I’m missing a real treat.

Other Expenses

We are probably going to eat out for dinner every night on this trip. I don’t see us going anywhere extravagant, but it will probably be at least $50 per meal. Jim also wants to go golfing. We decided on two courses that will be around $90 for the after 2PM rate. I also really, really want to get a massage. We probably will rent snorkel gear. I’m sure there will be some other things we want to do. We aren’t really souvenir people, so experiences and food will be where we spend our money.

We’ve been saving money from things like Ebay, consignment sales, rebates, bonuses, and anything else that isn’t normal income for this trip, and we have just under $1,000. I know Hawaii is expensive, but I’m hoping we can have lots of fun and feed ourselves for less than this. It might not be exciting or spontaneous to plan and budget for trips as much as I have on this one, but it’s much better than having a spending hangover after getting home. In the past, our spending was out of control on trips because we felt that we deserved to have a good time. This trip, we will come home with only good memories and none of the credit card debt. I can’t wait!

Would you spend $200 for a luau? Any tips for visiting Kauai with a kid?

 

Image:Wikipedia Commons

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.

39 comments

  1. Vonnie and I went to Kauai about 13 years ago (our daughter is 12…..hmmmm……), and stayed at that exact hotel. We also did the Luau. It was expensive, but it was totally worth it. It wasn’t just the food, there’s also a show. Was the food worth the cost? probably not….but the entire experience WAS. When Vonnie and I go back (we have dreams to visit the islands again), we’d do the luau again in a heartbeat.
    Travis @debtchronicles recently posted..Pay the mortgage or credit cards first? Which do you let be late?My Profile

    • So, did you do the Luau at the Hyatt? That’s one of the one’s we’re considering and it would mean no driving. I think on vacation, it’s Ok to spend on things you would never do at home, and a luau is certainly one of those.

  2. That’s a good question Kim. I think I’d go with the luau. I know it may be expensive, but how often do you make it to Hawaii? I’d be concerned about not doing it and then regretting it when you get back. As for the Blue Man Group, you should do some searching online for discount tickets. We found some when we went in January that were like 40-50% off, but we decided to go to Penn & Teller instead.
    John @ Wise Dollar recently posted..How to Save on Your Last Minute Summer VacationMy Profile

    • We are going to check those half price ticket outlets and see what’s available that might be suitable for kids. If it works out, great. If not, we’ll go watch the pirate battle at Treasure Island.

  3. We went to the Old Lahaina Luau on Maui and while it was really nice and entertaining, we felt a bit underwhelmed by it especially considering the price. And that one was the highest rated one we could find…

    Still an enjoyable evening, but we wished we had done something else.

    Have a great vacation!!
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  4. I think the luau is worth it if you’ve never been. One thing I’d cut back on is meals out. Even if it’s just dinner that can really add up. Maybe every other night buy some sandwich stuff and go have a picnic, or try the plate lunch thing which is big in Hawaii, and cheaper.
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    • One of our hotels has a kitchen, so that’s certainly a real possibility. Eating out sounds so fun until you’ve done it a few nights in a row. Then I just want to make something myself that doesn’t include fries or bread.

  5. I would do it. If this is the one time you’ll ever go to Hawaii, spend the money and find a way to offset the $200 when you get back home. Skip a couple of times eating out, take on an extra gig, or something else to cover it.

    Look at it as a once in a life-time experience for only $200.
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    • The good thing is that we already have money saved up. The luau would mean not doing something else or maybe not eating out as much. It’s probably worth it.

  6. I’d go to the luau! I’m jealous of your Kauai trip. We went a few years ago and I really wish I could just pick up my friends and family and all of us move there haha :)
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    • It does seem like the perfect place to live, but we’d probably have to live in a tent because houses are so expensive.

  7. I have never been to Hawaii or attended a luau so I cannot comment on the cost benefit analysis. That being said, if it is a traditional Hawaiian experience and you don’t know the next time you and your family will be in Hawaii, then I think it’s probably worth it. And your daughter is old enough that it will be a wonderful memory for her for years and years to come.
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted..My Biggest Financial BruiseMy Profile

    • When I was there a million years ago, I thought it was cool, but it might seem cheesy now. It is probably one of those things locals wouldn’t be caught dead at but tourists feel it’s the true essence of Hawaii.

  8. I’d do an authentic luau at least once, for the experience. I think your daughter will really enjoy it and because she will, you will. I love Hawaii, although it’s been several years since we’ve been there. It was actually our vacation spot when the girls were really small and couldn’t take a full of day of adventure without a nap or getting cranky. :) It’s such a beautiful place and it sounds like you have some fun things planned. And it does feel even better when you know that it is all paid for too! l
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  9. Hi Kim,

    I differ a little bit on the other suggestions above. We just got back from our vacation (in Colorado) and our biggest expense was gas followed by food. As far as picking activities, there are TONS and TONS of free or almost free things to do in Colorado, as I’m sure you are well aware… So I didn’t feel like I missed anything when I didn’t pay the $100 to ride the train to the top of Pikes Peak (we chose the $10 drive up Mt. Evans).

    Personally, I would find something that the entire family is 100% excited about before I spent that amount of money. I’m more of a “live like the locals” kind of gal through my travels, so I tend to ask around where people like to eat and where they go. I’ll admit, I’ve never been to Hawaii so I know it must be a very different experience, but overall my thought is inline with you and go on the cheap.

    Whatever you decide, have a blast!

    • Thanks for the suggestion. Colorado is a really cheap vacation, in my opinion of course. If you ever make it to the Southwest part, let me know. There are tons of free or low cost things to do.

  10. I don’t know about Hawaii, but I can comment on Vegas. Stay away. I live in Vegas. It is averaging 110 degrees these days. It is miserable. Sorry, but I would not travel here for fun, at all, ever.
    Brad @ How to Save Money recently posted..Using Deals to Save MoneyMy Profile

    • We actually love to go to Vegas, but only every couple of years or so. I would not normally go in July, but that’s where the best flight was from, and it’s probably still cooler than Phoenix, which was our other option. We’ll be inside most of the time anyway.

  11. If you plan to go to oahu in the future I would save my.money on a luau and see it in oahu. If you like crab legs there’s a buffett in friday night at the Marriott that’s excellent. Local noodle shop has saimin, called Hamura saimin that’s popular. Bullshed is a good steak and scallop place. Definitely drinks at sunset at the st. Regis in Princeville is a sight to see.
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    • Someday, we are going to Oahu and Big Island. I really want to see Pearl Harbor and the volcanoes. Strangely, I have no desire to go to Maui. Thanks for the local recommendations.

  12. I’ve only been to Maui so I’m not sure how different the islands are. I would say I’m jealous of your Hawaii trip but I’m also headed there in January so I really can’t complain haha. I think a Kauai luau is worth it if you are really into food and/or Hawaiian culture. I know that my father-in-law went to one while we were in Hawaii and he really enjoyed it.
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    • I’m really excited for your free trip. That’s such a huge prize and will be awesome in the middle of winter.

  13. Yes! You should spend the money. Your trip was basically free due to credit card rewards so don’t cheap out on the full experience!
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  14. I think the luau is worth it. I thoroughly enjoyed the one we attended years ago. Gave me some neat insights into Hawaiian culture…and the food was excellent!
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  15. We’ve been to Kauai a couple of times now and have yet to do a Luau. With the ages of our kids (3 and 5) and the fact that they are picky eaters, we just haven’t been able to justify the expense. But when they are older and able to appreciate it more, we certainly will be doing one!

    From what I understand, I’d look into Luau’s outside of the Grand Hyatt. The Hyatt Luau is very expensive and I’ve read that there are better, cheaper options elsewhere. But the convenience is obviously great if you’re staying there.

    Just as an FYI, if you do choose the Hyatt Luau, make sure you check the schedule when you arrive. They aren’t every night and one of our traveling companions was shut out last year because the night they were planning on going, it was cancelled because of another event.

    If you’d like to take a look at our travel expenses from last year, I broke them down here:
    http://milespointsandthepursuitoftravel.com/2013/03/16/final-breakdown-of-kauai-travel-expenses/

  16. I probably wouldn’t spend money on a luau but we have spent $400 to take a flight around Denali and land on a glacier on the mountain. And twice we’ve taken excursions to hike to locations where grizzly bears fish for salmon. So its all a matter of what enjoyment you think you’ll get out of it. Have fun!

    • Thanks Kathy. I have no problem spending money on amazing experiences. It’s just hard to know before what will be amazing and what will be meh.

  17. Oh Kauai is so beautiful! Be prepared for the expense of groceries and restaurants. Food is so much more expensive, but it’s still cheaper to buy at the grocery store than to eat at restaurants.
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    • I think our first stop from the airport is to the grocery store. When we were there a decade ago, everything was expensive. I’m sure it hasn’t gotten any cheaper.

  18. We went to Kauai for a wedding in 2012. The wedding was held at a Luau place and so it was included as part of the wedding dinner. We had a great time. Can’t believe it costs $200 though. I wouldn’t say it’s worth that, but keep in mind I’m super frugal now. Have a great trip! Kauai is awesome. It was my first time to Hawaii and probably will be my last.
    debt debs recently posted..Debt Update and MVP Blog AwardMy Profile

    • The old me would not have given a second thought, but parting with $200 for a few hours is much tougher now.

  19. We didn’t do a luau when we were there, but we did do the Na Pali Coast tour by boat. Absolutely breathtaking. We almost didn’t do it because of the expense and the people we were with didn’t want to do it because they already had. But they encouraged us to do so. We didn’t regret it at all! One of the better parts of our entire trip and well worth it. I snorkeled, my husband did not, but we both loved it. There were a couple of kids on board. It was a smaller group.
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