Plan a day visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center, up in the North Shore in a small town called Laie, and explore countless experiences that it has to offer! Sometimes referred as the Disneyworld experience of Hawaii, this Oahu attraction will entertain you from shows and fun activities throughout the day, and continue into the evening with a Grand Hawaiian luau. Finally, end the night watching a fantastic production called Ha “Breath of Life”…not to be missed!
Before diving into the experience, it’s nice to know a little about the history of the Polynesian Cultural Center. They opened their doors to the public in October 1962, with 39 structures that were constructed with material shipped from the South Pacific, and constructed by over a hundred volunteering missionaries on a 13 acre estate.
They even had a 600 seat amphitheater that filled up on Saturday nights! And although this was the beginning of the park grounds, there were visions, creations, and activities that took place throughout the prior century, including a hukilau and luau experience for visitors in the 1940’s.
There is so much to see and discover at the Polynesian Cultural Center that you will need at least a couple days to explore all it has to offer! And you will be happy to know that your entrance ticket is now good 3 days beyond your first visit, if you wish to return and visit additional shows and village areas.
The park opens up at 12 PM daily (except closed on Sundays), and I’d advise arriving at opening, or even earlier to explore the new Hukilau Marketplace.
In fact it’s easy to get carried away wandering through all the shops and delicious eateries before reaching the entrance to the real entertainment! Maybe plan an early lunch here before getting started! I’m a big fan of Ray’s Kiawe Broiled Chicken that recently joined the Marketplace.
Make sure to enter the park grounds giving a big hang-loose shaka to the larger than life size statue of the late Hamana Kalili of Laie, who is famous for creating the popular Hawaiian shaka greeting. Take a picture with him, and learn the story of how the unique shaka sign came about.
The Polynesian Cultural Center features 7 villages, including the Pacific regions of Hawaii, Fiji, Samoa, Marquesas, Tonga, Aotearoa (New Zealand), and Tahiti.
It’s hard to say which of the 7 villages to visit, as they all have special offering and culture worth exploring. But I would like to highlight the Village of Samoa being most popular, followed with the newly renovated Tonga Village.
A good example of a village experience would be visiting the community of Tonga, where you can explore a replica of the Tongan Summer Palace, create a dynamic toy from coconut fawns, and take a stab at a popular Tongan shuffleboard game, or test your accuracy with throwing spears.
Make sure to also watch a tongan stage performance in an outdoor amphitheater that is humorous, exciting, and quite entertaining!
If that’s not enough, go on a guided canoe ride that boards right outside the village and travels throughout the resort lagoon.
Whatever you decide, don’t miss the Canoe Pageant that takes place 2:30 PM daily in the main lagoon area. Arrive early to get a good seat, as there will be a parade of canoes representing the different cultures of Polynesia with festive costumes and electric dances!
These performances are captivating and differ from one another. The Canoe Pageant is the most anticipated events in the park next to the luau.
Also somewhat newer to the Polynesian Cultural Center is an incredible Immersive Cinematic Experience. Currently showing is the “Hawaiian Journey”. If the cinematography of Hawaii’s beautiful landscape doesn’t move you, maybe feeling the rumble of the volcano, or the ocean spray from a barreling wave, or the feeling yourself going over a 100 foot waterfall might do the trick.
It’s simply amazing to view Hawaii’s raw beauty in a giant IMAX HD experience! The Hawaiian Journey runs about every 30 minutes.
The Ukulele Experience Gallery – If you love the magical sounds of the ukulele that was originally introduced to Hawaii by the Portuguese back in 1879, then make sure to stop through the new Ukulele Experience Gallery.
See tools and machinery used to help make the instruments, take a free ukulele lesson, and try to resist not purchasing one of the many different types of ukuleles on sale, ranging from $179 to $3000. Kamaka is one of the original makers on the island, best in sound, and most $$$$...if you are wondering.
If you managed to see all that the Polynesian Cultural Center offers, or looking to kill some time before your luau starts, consider taking a 35 minute open air tram ride tour around Laie and the BYU campus. Learn more about this special north shore town, and BYU’s involvement in the operations of this Oahu attraction.
Voted as one of the best luaus on the island, the Polynesian Cultural Center puts on a memorable experience! From elegant hula performances to wild fire dances, your eyes will be glued to the stage with a fun filled evening of entertainment!
You will get a close up view of the Kalua Pig imu being unveiled, followed with an ono delicious meal, indulging in many of the island treats. Don’t load up on too much poi, as you’ll need to save room for some tasty island dessert!
Not to be missed Broadway-like production! As soon as you think you’ve seen all that the Polynesian Cultural Center has to give, there is a grand night show called Ha “Breath of Life”.
This 90 minute production tells a story of life from beginning to end that weaves through the different Polynesian cultures. The magic of the open air stage, the special effects, and the performances given, is what makes this an award winning production. This show usually sells out, so don’t wait to get your tickets!
Arrive early and plan to spend a whole day at the Polynesian Cultural Center. There is too many great attractions, shows, and things to do! On that note, remember that your purchased ticket is good for 3 day after your visit, in case you would like to take advantage and see more.
Pay a little extra and sign up for the guided tours. Instead of trying to navigate through the 11 acre estate, coordinate show times and avoid missing important attractions, let the trained guides to lead you into a more pleasurable experience, which includes some prime seating in certain packages.
Consider the “Circle Island Packages” when purchasing your tickets, which includes transportation from Waikiki based hotels. Keep in mind that it will be a long ride back to town in the dark…
– PCC offers strollers, wheel chairs, and
motorized scooters for rent.
Shrimp Farms – Some say that a trip to the North Shore is not complete until you’ve had a shave ice, while others say the garlic shrimp trucks are a must! Save your appetite until you reach Kahuku, where the shrimp farms are located.
You’ll find Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp, Romy’s Kahuku Shrimp & Prawns, and Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck out there waiting for you with lots of garlic shrimp.
Kim Taylor Reece Gallery - Down the street from the Polynesian Cultural Center is a beautiful gallery featuring the creative photography of Kim Taylor Reece. Kim has captured the magic and beautiul of Kuhiko (traditional) Hula being performed on stage and unique settings.
Stop in if you're in the neighborhood and get ready for a special treat that not many visiting tourist get to see. The Kim Taylor Reece gallery is about 20 minutes east of Turtle Bay Oahu Resort & 5 minutes away from the Polynesian Cultural Center.
Kualoa Ranch - another great Oahu attraction just 15 minutes down the road! The Kualoa Ranch is a playground filled with lots of fun and adventurous outdoor activites. These grounds are also most popular for their movie setting for box office hits like Jurassic Park, and popular TV shows like Hawaii Five-O.
Today Kualoa Ranch attracts visitors from all over to tour the tropical jungle filming areas, and engage in many of the activities. Check out your options including riding ATV’s, horseback riding, paddeling kayaks to a secret island, ziplining across the tropical jungle, and many more adventurous activites!