Hawaii Mom Blog: Polynesian Cultural Center




April 25, 2013

Polynesian Cultural Center

Click on all photos to enlarge.  Note: I received complimentary admission, dinner, and show tickets.

Our family recently visited the Polynesian Cultural Center, an attraction I haven't been to in almost 30 years.  As you can imagine, a lot has changed since I first visited, and we were excited to immerse ourselves in the Polynesian cultures and experience all that we could in a single day.

Highlights of Our Visit:
Island Villages:
Upon arrival at the Polynesian Cultural Center, we immediately went to the recently renovated Hawaii village.  We watched a show during which we learned all about ancient and modern hulas, and after the show we got an up-close view of various structures typical of an ancient Hawaiian village, such as the Hale Ali`i, or Chief's House, and the Hale Mua - a Men's Work House in which men worked, ate, and worshiped (women were forbidden from entering).

Our kids got to try some Hawaiian games, such as pala`ie (trying to get a ball in a small hoop), konane (similar to checkers), ula maika (similar to bowling), and hu (kukui nut spinning tops).

We also visited the other villages, which included Fiji, Tahiti, Tonga, Samoa, and Aotearoa.

Throughout the villages we learned more about the various islands, participated in activities, sampled some food, and watched some very informative and entertaining shows.

My kids particularly enjoyed the Fiji show, in which they were able to make music with bamboo sticks.  They also tried their hands at fishing in Tahiti, spear tossing in Tonga, and fire-making in Samoa.

We also went on a canoe ride (my oldest son's favorite part of our visit) that took us on a tour through the Center's lagoon.  It was approximately 20 minutes long, and our canoe steersman was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic, teaching us greetings in various Polynesian languages, and also pointing out interesting facts, such as how the Bure Kalou, a Fijian Temple, is only 1 of 3 in the world.

Rainbows of Paradise Canoe Pageant:
At 2:30 every afternoon, a colorful display of dancers representing the six island villages and the Hawaiian Royal Court travel down the lagoon on canoes.  There are plenty of benches and walls to sit on in order to watch the pageant, but find your seats early to get a good view.  If you happen to get hungry or thirsty while waiting, a canoe comes by selling Island Deelite - Tropical Fruits with Rainbow Sherbert for $5 (it's a nice, large serving), as well as cold drinks.

Hawaiian Journey IMAX Film:
I've seen several IMAX Films, but Hawaiian Journey was by far the best I've seen.  Not only did we get to watch a film with breathtaking views of Hawaii, but special effects, like being able to feel the ocean spraying against our faces (a very light mist), and the rumblings of a volcano, made the film even more captivating.  The film is approximately 14 minutes long, and there are "regular" seats in the theater for those not wishing to experience the special effects.
Island Buffet:
There are several dining options at the Polynesian Cultural Center, and we were fortunate to dine at the Island Buffet for dinner.  

The buffet consisted of a salad bar, fresh fruits, several entrees (Oriental Chicken, Pork with Honey Mustard Glaze, Clams and Calamari, Pan Seared Island Beef, and more), various starches (rice, mashed potatoes, etc.), and of course - desserts, including Guava Cake, Coconut Cake, and Chocolate Cake.

I thought the options were plentiful and overall the food was delicious!

Laie Tram Tour:
The Laie Tram Tour took us off-site, with a quick stop to the Brigham Young University-Hawaii Campus, and then to the Laie Hawaii Temple (The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints temple) Visitors Center, where we had 15-20 minutes to tour the grounds and visitor center (the temple is closed to the general public.).  The temple was simply breathtaking.  The entire tour lasts approximately 35 minutes, including drive time.

For those wondering why the tour stops at the BYU-Hawaii Campus and Laie Hawaii Temple Visitor Center, it's because these two facilities play an integral part of Polynesian Cultural Center's past, present, and future.  According to the Polynesian Cultural Center's website, it was opened by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to "to help preserve and perpetuate the more ideal aspects of Polynesian culture, and to provide work opportunities for students at the adjoining Brigham Young University Hawai'i."

Hā: Breath of Life:
In one word, Hā: Breath of Life is AMAZING! Over 100 performers bring to life the story of Mana and his journey from childhood to a manhood, and all that he endures and learns throughout his growth.  The performances, the costumes, and the story itself all contributed to a magnificent show.  I especially enjoyed the fireknife dancers, and my 4-year old son really enjoyed them too.  When asked what he enjoyed the most about Polynesian Cultural Center, he replied "The 'fire party.'"

The show is approximately 1 1/2 hours long, with a 10 minute intermission (during intermission, Island Deelite is served for $5, or complimentary to those who purchased specific tickets).

Visiting with a Child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Prior to visiting, my oldest son (who has an ASD) and I browsed through Polynesian Cultural Center's website, and went on the 3D Tour so he'd have an idea of what to expect during our visit. I know every child with an ASD behaves differently in various situations, but for my son, the more information we give him about a place, the less anxious he is.

During our visit, we were concerned about his wandering because of how big the Polynesian Cultural Center is (since many with an ASD are prone to wandering), but he never wandered far, and the various shows and activities worked well in terms of giving him things to focus on.

He did have a few meltdowns, however, but fortunately there were many places to sit around the Polynesian Cultural Center, which helped whenever we needed to take a break or help him calm down.

For those who have kids on a GFCF diet, or any other type of special diet, you can check out the allergen charts on the Polynesian Cultural Center's website.  Although they cannot guarantee there will be no cross-contamination of allergens, the charts can help you make informed choices when it comes to dining on-site.

Final Thoughts:
Our visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center exceeded my expectations.  There were so many interesting exhibits, entertaining shows, and fun activities that our entire family could participate in. I just wish it weren't so far away (about a 1-hour drive from most major cities on Oahu).

Another thing I'd wish for is expanded hours. We arrived when the gate opened at 11:45am, and I honestly don't know how anyone could do everything or see everything there is in one day (they do have an "Add a Day" option for $9.95 - valid for those who purchased an all-day ticket package, which allows you to return to the Island Villages within 2 weeks.). Despite being there all day, we were unable to see and do a few things, but we still did a lot.

I do have to mention that the employees were all tremendously helpful and friendly - always asking us if we need directions to a village or informing us about what shows were coming up next. 

Overall we truly enjoyed our visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center.  We can't wait to go back (and take our mainland relatives!) and do and see things we didn't get a chance to on this visit.

Below are more photos from our visit. Enjoy!
Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Polynesian Cultural Center: 55-370 Kamehameha Hwy., Laie, HI 96792; 808-293-3333

General Admission:

  • Island Villages: Adults $49.95; Child (ages 5-11) $39.95
  • Admission & Evening Show Package (Includes Free Island Buffet Dinner): Adult: $69.95 Child (ages 5-11): $54.95 
  • There are numerous other package options for the Polynesian Cultural Center. You can "create your own experience" or choose one of several packages. Click here for details.
Kama`aina Rates:
  • Island Villages: Adult: $39.96; Child (ages 5-11): $28.76
  • Admission & Evening Show Package (Includes Free Island Buffet Dinner: Adult: $55.96 Child (ages 5-11): $43.96 
  • Kama`aina can take advantage of other awesome deals. Check the Kama`aina page for current promotions. 

  • Kids can pick up a Passport to Polynesia upon entry, which they can get stamped at various venues. Once they get at least 4 stamps, they can present it to Shop Polynesia for a free souvenir prize. The passport also contains some valuable coupons!
  • People start looking for seats to watch the Canoe Pageant about 20-30 minutes prior to start time, so find a seat early, preferably in the shade, because it can get very hot.
  • The Laie Tram Tour runs every 20 minutes from 3:00pm to 6:40pm. If you purchased dinner and Hā: Breath of Life tickets, a good time to go is after an early dinner - you'll be back in time for the show.
Hours of Operation:
Monday through Saturday

  • Gate opens at 11:45am; Island Villages close at 6:00pm
  • Island Buffet: 5:00pm-7:00pm
  • Ha Breath of Life: 7:30pm - 9:15pm
For operating hours of shops and other dining venues, click here.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting, though that must have been a very long day and evening. I took my Canadian friends there in 1998, and they were very impressed. It seems the Center has really improved the overall experience with more interactive things to do.


The posts published on Hawaii Mom Blog are personal experiences and opinions only. Press releases and other information from business are shared if believed they may be of interest to Hawaii Mom Blog readers. Press releases/information from businesses do not reflect personal opinions. Unless otherwise specified, products are provided by the sponsor free of charge, and no monetary compensation is received. Hawaii Mom Blog assumes no liability for any malfunction, injury, or other loss or damage, whether direct, consequential, or incidental, arising out of services, companies, or products that have been featured, reviewed, given away, advertised, or written about on Hawaii Mom Blog. Click here for the Terms of Use.