Oahu Island Polynesian Cultural Center - Captivating, Impressive and Entertaining

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During my last trip to Hawaii, I wanted to experience more than the world-renowned Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head Crater, so I booked a day trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center on the island's north shore.

The Polynesian Cultural Center, by its name, sounds like it would be time wasted, and for many who arrive in Honolulu, sun, sea, surf, and miles of beach is simply enough. For others the island and region's heritage bring the experience of Hawaii to life.

Polynesian Cultural Center  Image Credit: Janet Walker

After a nearly three-hour drive from the center of Waikiki Beach, the chartered bus, filled with tourist, much like me from all points of the world disembarked into this enchanted land that provided a glimpse of what life was like for the early settlers of the Hawaiian Islands and the nations that make up the region of Polynesian.


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A complete package to the center includes a day of independent sightseeing filled with shows, displays and activities for travelers of all ages and at night, for some, and traditional lu'au followed by an evening outdoor live show, "Ha: The Breath of Life," preformed in the Pacific Theater under the stars.

Over my 15-day vacation the weather had been beautiful, every day a sunny day. So, when the day began with mild spritzing in Honolulu, I expected it to fade by the time we reached the north shore. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived the mild winter rain raged into a downpour. We were notified by the tour guide the showers were expected to last a little longer, and we could make our way to the coffee shop to wait it out. It was not ideal, but it did provide the opportunity to review the material dig into the happenings here at the Polynesian Center.


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Covering nearly 42 acres, the Polynesian Cultural Center is the largest cultural outdoor theme attraction and brings to visitors the chance to experience life during the Polynesian expansion. Walking through the park, the winding pathways will travel through the villages of Hawai'I, Tonga, Samoa, Aotearoa, now called New Zealand, Fiji, and Tahiti. Within these villages guests can witness many different customs and traditions all of which originate within the island nation.

Polynesian Cultural Center  - Island Nations Represented in Polynesia - Image Credit: Janet Walker

Walking through the "villages" seeing the artifacts is much like ancient Egyptian culture, the advancement of the civilization and culture, was surprising.

Polynesian Cultural Center  - Island Artifacts  - Image Credit: Janet Walker

Throughout the day, PCC performers present traditional theatrical presentations such as the Ohana Huki Canoe Celebration preformed on the water, and guests can visit the nation villages and learn to weave a fish with palm fronds, or tie sailing knots. All guests are given a Passport to Polynesia guidebook upon entry that includes a schedule of the day's events.

Polynesian Cultural Center  - Ohana Huki Canoe Celebration - Image Credit: Janet Walker

Access to the PCC comes up the option of the lu'au and evening show or just the dinner package. I chose both. Of course, the traditional lu'au one imagines is somewhat different when catering to two groups per day, as it is the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Polynesian Cultural Center  - Ohana Huki Canoe Celebration - Image Credit: Janet Walker

Guests are welcomed to the open-air dining room by Polynesian women presenting them with traditional purple orchid leis. The dining area features stadium table seating with viewing of the stage, for the after-dinner show and so everyone can see the imu which is Hawaiian for underground oven where the pau'a or pig is roasted throughout the day and is unearthed. Preparing the exquisite smorgasbord of traditional delights is led by Executive Chef Hector Morales.

Polynesian Cultural Center  - Unearthed Lu'au Pau'a - Image Credit: Janet Walker

A master of authentic Hawaiian cuisine, Morales prepares the menu that will introduce the world of exotic flavors and spices which will do more than satisfy, it will create a tropical memory of culinary delights.


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For the pau'a, the pork is rubbed with sea salt and placed in banana leaves and steamed slowly throughout the day. It is the same traditional recipe that has been used for thousands of years. After the pau'a is unearthed, it is carried through the audience.

Polynesian Cultural Center  - Unearthed Lu'au Pau'a Head - Image Credit: Janet Walker

The experience of the Lu'au is built with each layer. The showmanship of unearthing the pau'a, is completed with soft Hawaiian tropical sounds, steel drum, and ukulele gently playing in the background.

A traditional never-ending Hawaiian Buffet follows and presents colorful display of island treats and cuisine including a poke bar featuring Ahi, Spicy Ahi and Clam Poke, side dishes, salads, desserts, fresh island fruits, and for those who are vegan or prefer something other than the traditional pau'a, Chef Morales creates Island Chicken with Huli Huli sauce, baked chicken, roasted white fish and Teriyaki braised beef.

Polynesian Cultural Center  - Lu'au Theater Presentation  - Image Credit: Janet Walker

Seating is not assigned, although hostesses' seat according to party size and table availability. Throughout the meal, as it is a dinner theater experience, the Lu'au presentation is the Onipa'a Celebration which is a tribute to Hawai'I's last ruling monarch and only sovereign queen, Lydia Lili'u Loloku Wewehi Kamaka'eha or Queen Lili'uokalani who reigned on the island nation from 1891 to 1893. An artist, the dinner theater is composed of words and music which she created.

Through voice over, the heritage of the Queen and her story is presented through traditional dance by a gifted troupe of men and women. The presentation is unique and well done.

Polynesian Cultural Center  - Lu'au Theater Presentation  - Image Credit: Janet Walker

In addition to the traditional lu'au, those who decide to visit the Polynesian Culture Center can also include the "Ha: Breath of Life" show staged nightly in the Pacific Theatre, imagine a spectacular Broadway show staged in an open-air theater, with lush island plants, flowers and trees as the backstage, torches, and fire dances against traditional presentation of story through song and dance.


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The story presented is the universal story of family shown through six different cultures. The show begins as a couple, she pregnant, and her husband, flee their home and arrive on the island of Tonga. They are greeted with love and welcomed into the new village as a family.

Polynesian Cultural Center  - PacificTheater Presentation  - Image Credit: Janet Walker

A son is born, and this begins the story of the circle of life and cultures that comprise Polynesian. Each island represented, Hawai'I, Tonga, Samoa, Aotearoa, now called New Zealand, Fiji, and Tahiti, become part of the child's life as he travels through the stages to manhood.

The show is breathtaking and magnificent as it combines the traditions of life with fire, song, and dance, which is what audiences flock to see. Throughout the traditional hula dance is presented.

The finale, of course, the flaming knife dance, as members of the troupe demonstrate impressive, fearless, skills. More than 7 million visitors to the PCC have seen the "Ha: Breath of Life" show.

The Polynesian Culture Center is well worth one day away from Waikiki and the sea, sand, and surf. Complete the trip and memories with a traditional lu'au, and an evening with a stunning, exotic, gorgeous, theater presentation.

Sunset - Waikiki Beach - Image Credit: Janet Walker

Access this link for more on The Polynesian Culture Center.

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