Everything I Ate At The Polynesian Cultural Center’s Ali’i Luau

Wondering if the food at the Polynesian Cultural Center’s Ali’i Luau is any good?

Wondering if it’s worth the money to splurge on the Ali’i Luau experience over the Gateway Buffet dinner at the Polynesian Cultural Center?

In this post, I’ll share with you everything we ate on our most recent visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center in 2024.

We personally thought the food was great, but I’ll describe our luau experience in more detail so you can ultimately decide if it’s right for you.

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What To Expect At The Ali’i Luau At The Polynesian Cultural Center

The Ali’i Luau is a traditional luau set up, where a couple hundred people will attend and dine around the main stage. When you arrive, you’ll get lei’ed and have the option to take a group pic (for purchase).

Upon getting seated, you’ll get a fun little welcome drink! Ours was a non-alcoholic pina colada inside of a pineapple. The food is served buffet-style for about 30 minutes before the entertainment begins.

In terms of food, you can expect typical luau buffet-style food such as taro rolls, multiple types of poke, Imu Pua’a Pork (a pig cooked onsite IN the ground), pan-seared local fish, teriyaki brisket, huli chicken, fried saimin, salads, assorted fruits, and desserts.

If you’re vegan or vegetarian, there’s stuff you can eat too!

Vegan options include Tofu Poke, Pulehu Broccolini (Gluten-free), Hekka a, Uala Hasselback (Gluten-free), Vegetarian Fried Rice, Pickled Cucumber w/ Kahuku limu, Sweet Potato Salad, Poi, and Kabocha Pumpkin.

There’s also a whole salad bar at the Ali’i Luau.

The salad bar has all kinds of fixings including sunflower seeds, mushroom slices, garbanzo beans, olives, cherry tomatoes, corn, red onions, cheese, ham, bacon bits, cucumber, and croutons.

Along with the food is a side of live entertainment. The entertainment usually lasts around 30 to 45 minutes and is comprised of a mix of professional performers (hula dancers and young kiddies) and bits where the host calls people up to the stage to dance.

Everything I Ate At The Ali’i Luau Buffet

Alright, let’s get to the fun stuff, what the food actually looked and tasted like!

Let’s start with the hot foods. Pictured here are the following:

Teriyaki brisket

Pipikaula (beef short ribs)

Pan-seared local fish

Crispy garlic shrimp

Chicken and squash

Hulihuli chicken

Half-pictured here is the veggies section, consisting of things like lomi lomi salmon, pickled cucumbers, kabocha squash, broccolini, Okinawan potato salad, fried rice, steamed rice, fried saimin, and more.

Then, there’s the cold section. The poke bar was impressive because it basically tripled in size compared to when I last experienced it. This time around, there was Spicy Salmon Poke, Kimchi Tako Poke, Tofu Poke (located at the hot foods bar), and Shrimp Poke.

The PCC website’s menu notes Ahi Shoyu Poke, Spicy Local Fish Poke, Tofu Poke (Vegan), and Ulu Uala Poke. This menu was not exactly what we had in our luau, so do take it with a grain of salt!

At the Ali’i Luau, you’ll also find a couple of other stations serving fish, fish jerky, and the main attraction … drumroll please…. the Imu Pua’a Pork!

The kalua pork was truly amazing. The first time I tried the buffet back in 2015 or so, I remember it being just okay — nothing special.

This time around, each bite we had was SO tender and juicy! We even got seconds, and even then, the pork was so good! Not a dry piece whatsoever.

If you’re able to get in line early, definitely try to get a piece of pork skin. It was so flavorful and crunchy. I’ve gotta say, we were all really impressed with how the pork tasted. To the point where we’d say it was a top 3 highlight of the luau!

The next call out is this basket of taro rolls. I know, you probably don’t want to get full off of bread, but these soft and fluffy taro rolls are so worth the calories and the stomach space! These rolls are another top 3 luau food for us.

For those of you who are craving veggies while in Hawaii, this is your chance to stock up on unlimited salad!

At this point, we all had full plates and had to start eating before exploring the luau more. As you can see below, we opted for a little bit of everything, including a little cup of poi. I definitely went hard on the broccolini in order to get my greens in!

Luau Highlight #3: The Okinawan potato salad was so good!

After my first plate, I was feeling EXTRA bloated. I had very little stomach space left and two options: eat a boatload of desserts or eat a boatload of fruits.

Everyone in the group chose to fill up on desserts. I chose to gorge on papayas, longans, and kiwis! These fruits are usually quite expensive back home, so I needed to fill up while I could.

The papayas were to die for! Hawaii’s papayas are truly nature’s masterpieces. Well, at least in my eyes.

Is The Ali’i Luau Worth The Money?

If you’ve never done a luau before, I’d say that the Ali’i Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center is worth the money.

Honestly, the food was REALLY good! Having done the same luau back in 2015-ish and once again in 2024, I found the food to be immensely better than it was when I first went years ago!

I did this luau with three other people (two are really judgy and picky when it comes to food) and we all agreed the food was pretty darn good for being a buffet-style meal.

The only thing worth calling out as a potential negative is the fact that PCC does not serve alcohol. You’ll find soft drinks and tea, but no alcoholic drinks.

Looking for a luau that serves alcohol? For a traditional luau experience with alcohol, we think there are better ones out there like Paradise Cove Luau and Toa Luau.

However, if you’re looking for a jam-packed day of immersive fun, learning, cultural activities, and entertainment with a luau, I’d say PCC is unbeatable and 100% worth the money!

If you’re down to visit the Polynesian Cultural Center, I’d recommend you at least opt for the Ali’i Luau Package. This is our go-to package whenever we visit with friends.

We’ve never tried the Gateway Buffet, but being $50 cheaper than the Ali’i Luau Package, it could be a more budget-friendly option to the Ali’i Luau.

And if you’re celebrating something special (like a birthday, honeymoon, anniversary, etc.), I’d say splurge and go for the even-more-premium Super Ambassador Package. We opted for this package on our latest visit as it was my cousin’s 35th birthday and we were treated like royalty! It was amazing.

Book your Polynesian Cultural Center tickets on the official site here.

I hope you found this Polynesian Cultural Center review helpful. If you’re looking for additional Oahu travel tips, check out my other posts here:

What To Pack For A Week In Hawaii: 60 Essential Things To Bring

125 Bucket List Things To Do In Oahu, Hawaii

Go City Oahu Review: Is The Pass Worth The Money?

33 Fun and Free Family Activities In Oahu

Essential Oahu Tips For First Timers: Things You Need To Know

Oahu North Shore: 12 Stops For A Perfect Day Trip Itinerary