In traditional Hawaiian culture, the feast and festivities of a Luau were used to celebrate special occasions. So, while in Hawaii to celebrate my aunt’s 70th birthday, a Luau was high on our to-do list.
We chose the Smith Family Garden Luau at Smith’s Tropical Paradise on the island of Kauai. While sorting out my grandma’s slides from her trip to Hawaii in 1991, I found that this is the luau she attended while on the island, so since we were back in Hawaii with her two daughters and two of her granddaughters, it felt like the perfect place to celebrate!
Smith’s Tropical Paradise was created over sixty years ago by Walter Smith Sr. and his wife Emily along the Wailua River. Today, four generations later, the company has grown as the Smith family continues to welcome guests to explore their beautiful gardens, take a boat ride to the Fern Grotto, and enjoy a feast and show at the Garden Luau.
We started with a two-mile boat ride along the Wailua River with Captain Walter Jr. III sharing stories about the island and his family’s company on our way to visit the Fern Grotto.
Once docked, there’s a short walk through the lush rainforest to the Fern Grotto—a geological wonder of Kauai. Here, the ferns grow upside down from the roof of the grotto, which was formed millions of years ago.
When my grandma visited thirty-one years ago, guests were able to walk right into the grotto and be surrounded by the ferns. Unfortunately, this is no longer an option as rocks have begun to fall from the ceiling and the grotto was deemed unsafe for entry.
So, in order to continue tours here, they built a large platform out front. While here, we were treated to several Hawaiian songs performed by one of the crew on ukulele while another showed us some traditional hula dances. More of these were performed on the boat ride back.
From here, we headed over to explore the gardens at Smith’s Tropical Paradise, where we were greeted with a shell lei before boarding a tram for a tour around the thirty-acre botanical garden.
Since I began sorting through Grandma’s travel slides, I’ve enjoyed seeking out places she’s been on my travels and trying to get a similar photo to the ones she took.
The, entrance may have changed a bit in the past 31 years, but I’d say it still looks pretty similar!
Then you were free to wander around the beautiful, lush grounds including a Hibiscus garden, Japanese Garden, Bamboo Rainforest, multiple ponds, and more. The grounds were gorgeous with all the lush green foliage and brightly coloured flowers, with the mountains creating a lovely backdrop!
At 6 p.m., the Imu ceremony begins where they dig the Kalua pig out of the earthen imu oven.
The host explains about the Hawaiian cooking method called Kalua and what food to expect during dinner before sounding the conch shell and giving the food a blessing.
The Smith family entertains during cocktails and dinner with Hawaiian songs, stories, and hula. So we grabbed a Mai Tai and a Blue Hawaiian and enjoyed the music.
The dinner was delicious and included many traditional Hawaiian dishes like Kalua pig, beef teriyaki, sweet ‘n’ sour mahi mahi, lomi salmon, fresh poi, Hawaiian sweet potato, various salads, and dessert including tropical fruit, coconut cake, and rice pudding.
The Rhythm of Aloha show began at 8 p.m. in the outdoor Lagoon Theatre, complete with an erupting volcano!
The show was great—full of music and dance with some history of the island woven in. There were traditional hula dances from Hawaii and Tahiti, Samoan fire dances, and traditional dances from New Zealand, Japan, and the Philippines.
It was a fun show and made me want to learn to hula! (Pre-Covid, guests were invited up to participate, so hopefully that will open again soon!)
It was a wonderful way to experience some Hawaiian culture with my Ohana, made even more special as we shared the same experience as my grandma!
The entire Fern Grotto tour takes about one hour and twenty minutes. Tickets are best purchased online ahead of time. Tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for children. Tours currently run Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
*If you are going to the luau after the boat tour, select the 3:30 p.m. time.
The Smith’s Family Garden Luau dates vary based on time of year. Check the website for more details. Adult $125.00, Jr. (7-13) $35.00 & Child (3-6) $25.00. The luau includes entrance to the gardens, dinner, drinks, and the show.
If you just want to tour Smith’s Tropical Paradise gardens, you can Monday, Wednesday, and Friday between 8:30–4 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be bought at the entrance.