72.1 F
Amy Fujimoto | AlohaWithLove.comhttps://alohawithlove.com
I grew up in Hawaii and when I'm not traveling the islands, I write down my Mom's recipes, hike with Daisy the waddling rescue, work on my 200+ gallon aquaponics system, and dream about my future van conversion so I can do some more traveling.

Comment below so we can discuss!

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links to buy something I may earn a commission with no additional cost to you. This helps keep Aloha With Love running, thank you! Learn More.

If you’re ever offered the chance to help cook a pig in an imu, please jump at the chance! This traditional cooking style of using an imu (underground oven) to cook kalua pig is less and less common these days, but once in a while I’ll come across someone who not only knows how, but does it often for parties and celebrations. When an imu is being prepared, locals know to expect a big social event that revolves around the imu. It will take at least the whole day to prep the pig, heat up the imu and cook it as everyone talks story and party-goers pop in every so often to see the cooking process. Once the pig is in the imu and covered, everyone relaxes and snacks on pupus as the pig slowly roasts. If they’ve timed it right (and local experts are great at this), the pig is cooked to perfection and just in time for dinner.

Preparing hot rocks in the imu.
Preparing the imu | Courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority

Cooking a pig is usually done for big gatherings so you can expect some really good homemade local food like laulau, haupia, poi, lomi lomi salmon and poke. And since most local parties here are potluck style, everyone will be bringing their best non-Hawaiian recipes so look forward to eating until you’re close to bursting! Kalua pig is not the only food that comes out of the imu though. I’ve eaten kahuku corn, sweet potatoes, chicken, fish, bananas and even breadfruit, which was divine. My next goal is to find someone to cook me some kalua turkey for thanksgiving!

Prepping the pig for the imu.
Courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority

The really fun thing about helping out with cooking in an imu is that there are a variety of tasks that involves several people. If you’re free and willing, you’ll get sent to cut down 2-3 banana trees, gather as many banana leaves and ti leaves you can find, cut kiawe wood, and make fire kindling. You may even be assigned to kitchen duty where you’ll be wrapping not only the pig, but also any other meats and vegetables that will be cooked in the imu with chicken wire and leaves. Of course, this will all be accompanied with fun and laughter as everyone works together for the main dish.

Covering the imu and the whole pig with a tarp.
Covering the imu | Courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority

Once all the food has been placed in the imu and the tarp is covering the top to keep the heat in, it’s time to sit back and relax. In general, you’ll cook the pig for at least 6 -7 hours, but many people will cook this for longer and even overnight. The meat cooks very slowly since the heat is constantly escaping and the leaves keep everything juicy as the smoke flavors everything just right. As you can guess, there’s a lot of partying and good old fun during this downtime, so enjoy the atmosphere, environment and people you’re with!

Things To Do

If you don’t have a chance to attend a local luau and see firsthand how to prepare an imu, then your next best bet is to go to a luau where they serve kalua pig – so ono!

The most famous luaus in Oahu with a ton of reviews are the Paradise Cove Luau at Ko Olina, the Polynesian Cultural Center Luau with a full-day pass and night show and Germaine’s Luau (this one was a lot of fun and the show was awesome).

If you’re on a different island, the luaus will be smaller, but just as enjoyable. I particularly like the Old Lahaina Luau in Maui, the Lava Legends and legacies Luau on the Big Island and the Luau Kalamaku at the Kilohana Sugar Plantation in Kauai. All are very likely to sell out fast so make your reservation way in advance to make sure you have good seats.

Local Tip: Sadly, I’ve been in the situation where luaus have run out of food – if you get the cheapest ticket, try to find out where you can sit so you’ll get to the food bar earlier (the staff usually choose which tables go first). Or, if you have money to spend, splurge on that pricier ticket.


Papakolea Is One Of Four Green Sand Beaches In The World

I think it's really cool that one of the four green sand beaches in the world is right here on the Big Island! The chances of this happening give you a really neat outlook on geology and makes you...

Stop At Mahaiula Beach After You Arrive In Kona

Drive north from Kona International airport (KOA) for 20 minutes and you'll reach the first beautiful white sand beach in North Kona. Mahaiula Beach is one of three white sand beaches in Kekaha Kai State Park and it's a...

Hike To Makalawena Beach In Puu Alii Bay

Makalawena Beach is the least visited beach of the three white sand beaches in Kekaha Kai State Park. While it may require a little extra effort to reach, it's not without charm or beauty. If you want to add...

Kua Bay Is The Gorgeous Beach That Has Everything

If you're looking for azure waters and velvety-soft white sand, look no further. Kua Bay is a spectacular sight and as perfect as a postcard. For those arriving into Kona International Airport (KOA) and looking to hop right into...

Kekaha Kai State Park’s 3 Magnificent White Sand Beaches

Kekaha Kai State Park is so much more than just 3 white sandy beaches - although that's already setting the bar up pretty high! You've got a couple of options when you visit Kekaha Kai State Park. If you...

Walk The Kukio Beach Path For Coastal Views

Kukio Beach is a fun beach that has a little bit of everything. There are turtles to see, a long paved path along the coastline, free parking, a small beach safe for children, and even some snorkeling opportunities. Not many...

Real. Local. Non-touristy.

My emails will make you smile!

I'm all about living life in Hawaii with passion, honesty, and respect. So if you like legal hikes, authentic experiences, and a kind and humble personality, I'm your local girl!

You'll love reading my fun and down-to-earth emails from a local perspective. I'll send you my personal tips, travel suggestions, and DIY project ideas that are perfect for Hawaii living.

Sign up below and you'll be added to my email list!

Aloha with love, Amy

One whole pig in one big imu