On the north shore of Oahu, you can visit seven Polynesian cultures in one day, experience a Luau and take in a big show.
In the quiet town of Laie and adjacent to the Brigham Young University-Hawaii Campus, lies a spot you can experience a taste of seven Polynesian Cultures.
About an hour’s scenic drive northwest of Waikiki, on the island of Oahu, the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) has taken visitors to experience some of the cultures of Polynesia since 1963. Founded by the Church of Latter Day Saints, it serves as a important tourist destination, and employs many students attending the BYU campus who are often here from the islands represented at the center.
The center started on 12 acres, and has “villages” based on 7 major cultures in the multitude of islands that make up Polynesia as it spans large portions of the Pacific Ocean. There are also exhibits dedicated to other groups but they do not have the entertainment that the villages provide. You are free to bring cameras along with you.
As you enter the PCC, you pay for the level of entertainment you want. It is not as expensive at touring the seven regions of Polynesia, but it is a hefty sum for a guy like me. We went during a special promotion, that gave a discount to Hawaii residents. The basic level includes a day in the park. You can also purchase a delicious Luau dinner buffet, and a large stadium show separately.
Close to 20 years ago, I did the complete package with a friend. It was a magnificent experience. This day, we only toured the park. After paying, there is a program with a schedule of entertainment. A couple times each day, the “villages” offer you a taste of their culture and events to participate in, whether dancing, crafts or traditional games. The “villages” consist of Samoa, Tahiti, Marquesas, Maori New Zealand, Hawaii, Tonga, and Fiji.
The first village we visited was Maori New Zealand, Aotearoa. The men and woman representing each village were warm and friendly and ready to share their culture. From their accents, most representatives were from their respective islands. We were given exhibitions in their language, culture, music, and dance.
Then we entered Hawaii, yes we were already there, but not in historic period.
Midway through the shows a outrigger canoe parade takes place on the man-made river running through the center. Music and narration bring dancers and entertainers down the river. Get a seat early as this portion fills up fast.
After the parade, we toured the village for Tonga.
Not pictured are the island villages of Tahiti as the show was done indoors, and I did not have a flash, and Samoa, when I ran out of film. The Samoan village had to be my favorite just on the entertainment alone. The MC, an artist and a BYU Alumni, had everyone laughing. He could even tell jokes to Japanese and Chinese visitors in the audience. I never thought demonstrations on the uses of a coconut and its parts could be so funny.
There is also a replica LDS mission church…
And an area dedicated to Rapanui, but no shows here.
You can also take a ride through villages via the river when the parade is not going.
A guide pushes your boat through and entertains you with jokes and information about the areas.
It is an extremely entertaining experience. The people do their best to make you feel welcome and entertained. As a resident in Hawaii, I see cultures boiled down made almost parodies of themselves, but these are real representative of their culture who want to share a quick sample of their homeland’s history.
If you get the opportunity, take a chance on the Polynesian Cultural Center for an entertaining day.
All photos were taken with a Canon AE-1 with 28mm lens.