Polynesian Cultural Center
One Of Hawaiiʻs Top Attractions – Laie, Oahu – Hawaii
The Polynesian Cultural Center has been one of Oahu’s top attractions for over 50 years. There are few more authentic examples of the islanders of Polynesia who’s history spans an amazing 7000 miles across the Pacific Ocean.
Ancient Hawaiians were colonizers and descendants from these remote southern islands and the major South Pacific island nations are all represented here. With six traditionally accurate Polynesian villages spread out within this 42-acre park, visitors can immerse themselves in these Pacific island cultures that they would normally have to travel thousands of miles to experience.
We Want Everyone To Enjoy A Day At The Polynesian Cultural Center
There are multiple ways to enjoy this wonderful venue and there are multiple packages to suit every type of visitor in prices ranging from $64.95 to $239.95. The best deal is taking a tour with us. A full tour of the island, transportation from Waikiki, a stop at Pearl Harbor and so much more.
The windward side of Oahu became home to the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) in 1962. The area was mostly agricultural until the Mormon Church purchased a 6000-acre plantation back in 1865 which encompassed the small town of Laie. The church built a large temple here in 1919 and throughout the 1920’s missionary teachings were extended throughout the major island groups of Polynesia thousands of miles away. In 1955 the Church College of Hawaii was built nearby which would go on to become a branch campus of Brigham Young University in 1974.
During the 1920’s church leader Matthew Cowley, returning from missionary work was concerned about the erosion of traditional cultures. In a speech he delivered in Honolulu he envisioned “… to see the day when my Maori people in New Zealand will have a little village at Laie with beautifully carved houses…the Tongans will have a village too, and the Tahitians and Samoans and all those islanders of the sea”.
In the late 1940’s just after the war church members started a hukilau, a traditional fishing festival that included a luau feast and Polynesian entertainment as a fundraising event. Throughout the 1950’s the hukilau increased in popularity and soon busloads of visitors were coming to Laie for the events. Church President David McKay authorized the construction of the Polynesian Cultural Center in 1962 and over 100 “labor missionaries” volunteered to help build 39 structures on the then 12 acre site. Skilled craftsmen used materials imported from these distant islands to build authentic village houses. The completed project would bring much needed employment to this side of Oahu and students to BYU-Hawaii. The Polynesian Cultural Center officially opened on October 12th, 1963. The school’s students would come from throughout the Polynesian islands represented here for the next five decades to work at the Cultural Center.
Through the early 1960’s the 600 seat amphitheater was only full on Saturdays but with promotional appearances on the US mainland, including on TV’s Ed Sullivan Show, visitor attendance increased and the Center expanded the seating in the amphitheater to 1300. Villagers sometimes staged two shows a night during peak-season.
Expansions continued in the mid-1970’s with the addition of buildings including a new 2800 seat amphitheater and the 1000 seat Gateway Restaurant. The 1980’s saw more additions such as an 1850’s era missionary compound, a Marquesan Islands tohua (ceremonial compound), a 70 ft bure kalou, or Fijian “spirit house”, the Migrations Museum, Yoshimura Store and a 1920’s style sweets shop, along with upgrading the village landscaping.
By the 1990’s the intention of new expansions were to ensure that returning visitors would experience something new each time. 1995 saw the addition of a night show, an IMAX theater, a $1.4 million shopping plaza and the Ali’i Luau dinner show. The Center was awarded the “Keep it Hawai’i” award by the Hawai’i Visitor and Convention Bureau and the ‘Oihana Maika’i Award by the State of Hawai’i for excellence in service.
Upgrades in the 2000’s continued with new IMAX movies, longer cultural presentations, mini-museum displays of island artifacts and the all-new Hale Aloha building housing the award-winning Ali’i Luau. Exhibits were expanded to include moai statues of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) which were carved on site by Rapa Nui islanders as well as hand-carved replicas of various voyaging canoes from throughout the Pacific.
Over $1 million in improvements to the front entrance buildings and landscaping were completed for the 40th anniversary in 2003. The introduction of the popular “Free Within Three” campaign allowed visitors to return to the center within three consecutive days at no additional charge. Today visitors have all the time they need to take in the spirit of this world-renown place of entertainment, enchantment and education. It’s an authentic experience of the peoples of the Pacific set in the spirit and beauty of north shore of Oahu!
For the 55th Anniversary of the Center, it was decided to invest $100 million over 10 years. The recent improvement to the Hukilau Marketplace takes the experience to a whole new level. Today the market is a wonderful part of the experience with great food and unique and colorful shops.
The sheer amount of things to do and see can make for a long day. Often visitors and shuttles begin arriving around the noon opening time and if you stay for the Ha-Breath of Life evening show you may not arrive back to Waikiki until after 10 pm. This is why the center has created the “free within three” program which gives you three days of free return admission.
From six authentic Polynesian island villages to the canoe pageant to Go Native activities to a tram tour of Laie to several cinematic experiences, the amount of things to do makes for a full day of immersion into the Polynesian lifestyle!
The Ambassador Packages are popular and include a guide who knows the timing of the shows and can help keep you on a schedule in order to get it all in. Reviewers give high marks for the Polynesian guides fun and friendly tours.
What Guests Are Saying About The Polynesian Cultural Center Luaus & Shows
We splurged and got the Ambassador Package in order to get good seats for the luau. It was way worth it. We had a tour guide lead us through the islands. She took us from show to show. We wouldn’t have been able to see so much on our own. She took great photos of us and was so friendly. It was a fantastic day seeing so many wonderful performances. Highlights included the canoe pageant, the newly opened Cook Islands, and the luau which was delicious and entertaining. We also had a ukulele lesson which inspired us to buy one – they had lots of great ukuleles to choose from. The evening show Breath of Life was amazing. The show or the dinner is worth the price alone, but you get so much. I would highly recommend it. We did it at the beginning of our trip so we had jet lag and we were pretty tired. I would recommend you do it at least a few days after you arrive.MichaelIrvine California
If we had to do it again, I would definitely pick the twilight option and shorten the trip by 2 hours. And also pick the 6pm dinner instead of 4pm. That way you get there just in time to watch the boat parade, go around the islands and have dinner at 6 and the Breath of Life show at 7:30.NeadLos Angeles California
Everyone in my family aged 10-65 all enjoyed ourselves! We purchased the Ambassador package which included a personal tour guide of the grounds, canoe ride, luau dinner and Ha-Breath of Life show. Although pricey it’s worth it. Our guide Pattica was great. He kept us on schedule to see most of the villages but allowed breaks for food and bathroom visits. Be sure to eat at one of the cafes at the front of the center before checking in because your meal doesn’t happen until 5pm! There were food booths at each country but to stay on schedule to see most of them you should bring some nonperishable snacks and bring plenty of water or at least a refillable bottle. There were plenty of water fountains around. Each village was beautifully landscaped and each of the hosts were proud to explain their culture to the visitors. I’m encouraged to visit the other islands for future vacations.Angel B
It was really cool! My kids age 6 to 17 loved every minute. I’d suggest downloading the PCC app and using one of their agendas so you can experience as much as possible. There was so much to see. Everyone was warm and welcoming, plus it was a great education into the Polynesian culture.CammieBoise ID
The heart and soul of the Polynesian Cultural Center are the villages. The authentic representation of the cultures of the Pacific is impressive and visitors can not only see and participate in the traditional lifestyle of six island nations but also meet the islanders who have come from these islands to live, go to college and work at the center sharing with the world their culture, humor, and stories of life in the far reaches of the Pacific.
Explore them all and be sure to try the activities within each village as well as see the presentations and shows the islanders perform throughout the day. It’s a lot to keep track of so if you wish to simplify your experience try a package that includes a native Polynesian guide! They know where to go and what time to be there for shows and activities. You’ll get the most out of your day while spending time with an informative native guide from one of six island nations!.
Presentations run hourly from 12:30 pm to 5:30 pm respectively.
The history of ancient Hawai’i is unique in that these islands were populated by multiple cultures from Polynesia and one of the last to be discovered by the western world. Scholars believe Hawaii was colonized in multiple waves of Polynesians from different south Pacific islands over a 700 year span between 450 AD to about 1200 AD when migrations halted for some unknown reason. Since the journey to Hawai’i was one of the longest in Polynesian history, only the best attempted the voyages. It’s just one of the reasons Hawai’i became a place like nowhere else in the world!
The Hawaiian village is a testament to the intelligence and ingenuity of ancient Hawaiians. Experience the culture first hand with hula lessons, tapa weaving, and poi pounding. Hawaiian villagers can be found in a traditional hale (houses) surrounded by ancient artifacts which they are happy to explain how they were made and their traditional uses to curious visitors. You will feel and learn about the real Aloha of Hawaii from the people who live it!
Aotearoa is the Polynesian name for the islands of New Zealand. Their songs and dances are as powerful as the towering lands they have inhabited for nearly 700 years. They were the last of the Pacific islands to be discovered by the Polynesians and they have built their culture around the strength of family.
From the Haka (a powerful Maori war dance) to the agility of their games to their striking facial tattoos, the Maori people are proud to share their culture with visitors. The spirit of Aotearoa (the name means Land of the Long White Cloud) is carried throughout this village and is happily shared by this strong yet humble people.
The Samoan sense of humor is well known but their wit is based on love, generosity and respect. The Islands of Samoa were settled some 3000 years ago and have genetic and traditional ties with Fiji, Tonga and Hawaii.
At the Polynesian Cultural Center the Samoan Village is one of the most entertaining stops in the Villages. The presentation here is hilarious and impressive with coconut cracking, fire making, fire knife performances and a 40 foot climb into a coconut tree! Come see why Samoans are known as “the happy people”!
Tahitians were the voyaging nomads of the Pacific. The first Polynesians to migrate to Hawaii are said to have come from the Marquesas Islands around 450 AD but they were eventually dominated by Tahitian voyagers starting in the 11th century and many of the Hawaiian Ali’i (ruling chiefs) family bloodlines are from Tahiti as listed in the ancient royal lineage chants. Kamehameha the Great was of Tahitian lineage. A well known Tahitian named Tupaia sailed with Captain Cook on the Endeavor in 1773, drawing him a map listing over 70 islands and their locations.
Tahitians are a warm hearted and colorful people who’s dances are known for their speed and agility. Visitors to the Tahitian Village will enjoy learning this fast paced style of dancing as well tasting delicious Tahitian coconut bread, fishing from a small village pier, spear throwing at coconuts and witnessing a traditional wedding ceremony – ah, love is in the air at the Tahitian Village! Learn about Tahitian Royalty, the Marae (Tahitian Temple), underwater pearl farms and body tattoos, all delivered with a wonderful French accent!
Scholars believe the Tongan islands have been inhabited since around 830 BC but the archipelago of 36 inhabited islands became known to the western world when Captain James Cook first visited in 1773 during the ‘Inasi Festival, a traditional donation of the first fruits of the year to the island’s chief. Cook felt welcomed and entertained by the people, deeming the island nation as the “Friendly Islands”.
The Tongan Village at the Polynesian Cultural Center reflects Tonga’s culture with laughter, hospitality and kindness. Visitors will learn how to paddle traditional canoes, play Tongan shuffleboard and test their skills at spear throwing. Other activities include learning a unique Tongan seated dance and lively music with a chance for audience volunteers to try some drumming during the cultural performances. It’s always a happy occasion in the everyday life of the Tongan Village!
The Fijian archipelago consists of over 300 islands, 110 of which are inhabited. Archeologist believe the islands were colonized around 3000 BC. Pots from Fiji have been found in Samoa and as far away as the Marquesas islands thousands of miles east. Evidence suggests these earliest of Polynesians migrated across the Pacific and possibly on to Hawai’i.
The Fijian culture is a combination of etiquette, amusement, and sincerity. At the Fijian Village, a six-story temple is a backdrop for a powerful Fijian warrior welcome while the women entertain with traditional dance. Activities include how to make coconut oil, drumming the derua (bamboo stick) and getting temporary Fijian tattoos! Along with their traditional protocols, there is much to learn about Fiji from the villagers who are happy to share the exciting stories of their homeland!
Each island village offers a show used to explain the culture of the islands, which makes for a fun and engaging learning experience. Canoe rides passing each island are also popular. The fire making show at the Samoan Village is hilarious along with demonstrations of all the things coconuts are used for. It may take more than one day to get in all the shows unless you book a guide or guided group tour. The guides know the timing of the shows and they’ll help get you to them much more efficiently than you might on your own.
In the center of the property is a large lagoon surrounded by outdoor seating. Canoe barges from each island navigate around the lagoon while live Polynesian drumming and music emanating from the bandstand at the far end.
Dancers perform on the circling barges in traditional costumes just a few yards from seated visitors. It’s a lively show in a completely unique setting!
The Ha-Breath of Life show starts at 7:30 pm and is quite a bit different from the other shows at PCC. The Pacific Theater seats 2,700 with three areas or levels of seating depending on the package you choose.
The elaborate amphitheater show, called “HA – Breath of Life”, features over 100 native Polynesian performers backed by stunning special effects, animation and surround sound. The show tells the story of a chief named Mana and his beloved wife Lani in a saga of love, family, birth, death, tragedy and triumph, all punctuated by cultural dance, music and a fire knife performance!
A big part of a Hawaiian vacation is the food. They go hand in hand with the Hawaiian culture. Ancient Polynesians brought plants and animals with them (known as “canoe plants”) as they migrated thousands of miles across the open ocean. Pigs, chickens, taro, breadfruit, bananas and coconut sustained the new colonies for centuries. Many food items were considered sacred in ancient times with only the best ingredients and recipes being prepared for the “Ali’i” or high chief.
Today the blending of the people and cultures of Hawaii has brought a delightful mix of foods and recipes that you can enjoy at this luau.
Interestingly Hawaiian luau feasts are a fairly recent development. Although feasts and celebrations were common in ancient times, they had specific protocols and purposes that were very different from today.
Before 1819, Hawaiian men and women ate separately, a rule enforced by what was known as a sacred “kapu” (taboo) law. Women were forbidden to eat with men and had separate hale (houses) for eating and separate ovens for cooking. Certain foods were also considered sacred and reserved for men including pork, bananas, coconuts, various birds, and certain fish. If one were caught breaking a kapu law they could be put to death.
When Kamehameha I died in 1819, the ancient kapu restrictions died with him as his queens (Ka’ahumanu and Keōpūolani) convinced the young Kamehameha II to abolished the kapu laws by dining with them. It could be said that this was the beginnings of the traditional luau feast that grew to include dancing and entertainment.
The Polynesian Cultural Center’s award-winning luau draws from authentic traditions in their recipes, ingredients and slow cooking techniques to bring you the flavors experienced by the people of old Hawaii!
With menus to accommodate every palate and diet, this luau shows it’s uniqueness with a massive menu including a traditional dish called chicken lu’au – made of taro leaves and chicken steamed in coconut milk! The food is just one of the reasons the Ali’i Luau is one of the top-rated luaus in Oahu!
The Ali’i luau is so much more than just wonderful food. It’s about bringing people together to experience the hospitality, talent, and spirit of Polynesia. It’s a place where visitors and their families can experience the meaning of Aloha through multiple hula shows sharing the traditions of the Hawaiian culture!
There are many options for food throughout the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu. The Hukilau Marketplace has multiple restaurants, snack shops and food trucks where you’ll find items like local plate lunches, farm fresh island dishes, amazing island flavors of ice cream and shave ice, Mexican food, bakeries, malasadas and seafood.
In addition to the Ali’i Luau Buffet the center also has the Island Buffet, a stunning dining hall venue with 360-degree murals depicting important moments in the history of Hawaii and the Cultural Center. It is fine dining in a casual atmosphere and the huge buffet menu is filled with items like prime rib, seafood and delicious desserts that will have you returning for seconds and even thirds!
Eat, Learn, Shop & Enjoy
The feel of the 1950’s era of Old Hawaii is the theme of this great dining and shopping area at the center. Aside from memorable souvenirs such as Aloha wear, Hawaiian jewelry, Polynesian art, island home decor, and excellent food, there are live performances of music and dance to round out a beautiful day on the north shore!
Having Fun In The Tradewinds
Laie is on the windward side (north shore) of Oahu, meaning it is exposed to the tradewind weather flow which is often a bit cooler with a bit more precipitation than Honolulu on the southern shore. On average the town gets 36 inches of rain per year.
The US average is 39 inches per year. The average monthly temperature is 76 degrees with the coolest monthly average in January and February at 68 degrees. The winter months have the highest chances of rain with Laie receiving some kind of precipitation around 70 days per year. If you visit on a rainy day not to worry, it’s a warm rain and the Center provides plastic rain pullovers to all guests.
The Polynesian Cultural Center Oahu is one of the most unique and expansive cultural experiences in all of Hawai’i. It could be said that the Center is one of the best and most authentic places in the world to experience and learn about these amazing people who ventured out into the open ocean some 1000 years before Christopher Columbus! That’s why it has become one of the most popular things to do in Oahu!
Your time on vacation is really important. Our guides know what you will enjoy and maximize your time at the center. Hitting the highlights, during a day-long excursion of the entire island.
For Those On A Tight Budget
Everybody is looking for discounts and one of the easiest ways to save on tickets and packages is to book in advance. Another option is to contact us and let us know all the places you want to go. We can set you up with a great deal, getting you better overall prices than even the Go Oahu Card! Tours on there range from $74 to $319. There are always options like Groupon, Hawaii Entertainment Book or even at Costco. We can beat all those offerings on a similar quality tour or entrance. Contact us!