An hour from THE MODERN HONOLULU, in the pocket-sized town of Laie, sits a 42-acre landmark with a 50-year history: the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC). Visitors can immerse themselves in several Polynesian cultures thanks to replica villages from Tahiti to Tonga. Each village shares something different – outdoor activities, souvenir shops – so plan to spend a day (capped by the PCC’s royal luau).
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General admission allows for the exploration of PCC’s recreated villages, best described as an interactive, living culture/history tour. In Aotearoa (New Zealand), natives demonstrate wood carving and the haka war dance. In Fiji, drum a lali and enter a six-story temple. In Hawaii, learn hula movements and lei-making. In Samoa, create fire with sticks, climb a coconut tree and prepar traditional food. In Tahiti, sample coconut bread or practice spear-throwing. In Tonga, play lafo (a kind of shuffleboard) and do the mauluulu sitting dance. Between village demonstrations, relax on a guided canoe or tram tour. Don’t miss the Hawaiian Mission Settlement, where quilters create and sell their handiwork, or the ukulele kiosk, where you can buy and learn to play Hawaii’s signature instrument.
Sampling Hawaiian food, especially in a luau setting, is a must among experience among things to do in Oahu. The PCC provides several options, from snack bars within its villages to an all-you-can-eat dinner buffet and the Alii Luau. The Polynesian Cultural Center luau strives, and excels in creating luaus in the most classic sense of the word. That means traditional fresh-flower lei greetings, and a feast for the eyes and stomach with culinary staples like the delicious kalua (pit-cooked) pork, dried beef short ribs and rich, ultra-creamy haupia (coconut) bars. The setting is an amphitheater demarcated by waterfalls, palm trees and a lagoon. Note that alcohol is not served or permitted at the PCC. The Polynesian Cultural Center strives, and excels in, creating luaus in the most classic sense of the word.
Costumed performers literally dance atop canoes in the Rainbows of Paradise pageant every day on the PCC’s lagoon. The Voyage of Discovery dramatizes the ancient migration to Hawaii via colossal canoes (using the 60-foot, double-hulled Iosepa). But PCC’s main event (and one of the most popular things to do on Oahu) is Ha: Breath of Life, which tells the life and love story of islander Mana through Polynesian dance, surround-sound music, fireknives and special effects (volcanoes! waterfalls!) in a $3 million, 100-person production. The reservation-only show begins nightly at 7:30 p.m. The PCC also hosts special festivals throughout the year, from January’s Hula Festival to the World Fireknife Competition in May. Ask THE MODERN HONOLULU Concierge if any events coincide with your visit.
“ If you are visiting between November and February, don’t miss Waimea Bay on the North Shore where the island’s top surfers take on 30-foot waves ”
Address: 55-370 Kamehameha Hwy., Laie, HI 96762
Phone: (808) 293-3333
Web Address: www.polynesia.com
Distance/Drive An hour plus from THE MODERN HONOLULU. Allow ample time if driving yourself. Consider going with a group tour – you may want to take it easy after roaming 42 acres of gorgeous Hawaiian countryside all day.
Brief directions from THE MODERN HONOLULU: Drive the H-1 freeway to Likelike Highway. Take the first Kahekili Highway exit, and continue north on Kamehameha Highway for 23 miles. In Laie, PCC will be on the mauka (mountain) side of the highway.