One of our top must-see places in Oahu is the Polynesian Cultural Center, a totally immersive experience that allows you and your family to encounter the living history of the more than 1,000 distinct islands that make up Polynesia.
This expansive family attraction is about an hour drive from Waikiki, and promises a full day of entertainment.
Get the most out of your time at this exciting Oahu attraction with these tips and ideas from our Insider’s Guide.
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Tips for Visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center
- Consult the PCC map before visiting to help you save time and plan an itinerary – after all, it does span 42 acres!
- Feel free to talk to any of the villagers to ask more questions about the exhibits, for help and information, or even just to chat! They’re very friendly and more than happy to be of assistance. That said, the PCC discourages tipping its employees.
- Buy your tickets in advance to save on admission prices and skip ticket lines.
- Photography and videography is more than welcome at the PCC, but flash photography during any of the evening performances is prohibited.
- For those of you with small children or people needing assistance, the PCC has a number of strollers, wheelchairs, and scooters available for a minimal rental fee. Be sure to call ahead to reserve wheelchairs in particular.
When to Visit
Since the PCC has so many different fascinating areas and performances to entertain guests, it’s easy to spend an entire day here. Plan to arrive around 11:30 to be there when the box office opens to maximize your time.
However, if you’re planning on staying for their award-winning “HA: Breath of Life” show (which lasts until after 9 pm), you may want to consider coming later in the afternoon.
What to Bring
- Sunscreen and a hat – you’ll be outside all day
- A camera or other recording device
- Bottled water and snacks if you want to avoid purchasing them on site
- Comfortable shoes (preferably not sandals)
What to Do There
Visit the six authentically recreated villages that make up the heart of the Polynesian Cultural Center. Featuring historically accurate as well as contemporary facets of Polynesian life.
The villages include Aotearoa (New Zealand), Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga. Each is filled with different demonstrations and reconstructed artifacts, and you won’t want to miss any of them.
Each location is populated with natives from these Pacific cultures, who will introduce you to different arts and activities particular to their home during designated presentation times.
HA: Breath of Life Show
The “HA: Breath of Life” show is a must-see, and we can’t recommend it enough. It’s a music and dance extravaganza that combines a compelling storyline with dazzling performances – all while you enjoy a tasty authentic meal.
It’s an additional cost on top of your admission, but it’s well worth the price. (If you have a Go Oahu® Card 3, 5, or 7 day pass, you can choose the “HA: Breath of Life” & Ali’i Luau show as your bonus attraction to get in for free!)
Ali’i Luau Buffet
The Center also offers luau and buffet dining options in the evening; the most popular is the Ali’i Luau, which has been described as Hawaii’s most authentic luau. You’ll see traditional hula dancing, receive leis, and have a great time.
In ancient Hawaii, it was customary to celebrate special occasions with ohana (family) and friends.
Held in a covered outdoor venue against a background of waterfalls and lush gardens, the Ali’i Luau is a royal celebration of their cultural heritage which includes the Royal Court procession, presentation of the imu (underground oven) and delicious traditional food and lively Hawaiian entertainment.
Menu highlights include steamed tropical fish, shoyu glazed chicken, teriyaki marinated strip loin, poi, lomilomi salmon, poke, and more.
Activities, Demonstrations, and Exhibits
The PCC also offers a plethora of activities, demonstrations, and exhibits that fascinate kids of all ages. The activities are spread across the six villages of the Center, so they each showcase a different aspect of Polynesian culture.
Some recommended activities include learning to make fire and crack coconuts in Samoa, getting a (washable) Maori tattoo in Aotearoa, and playing ancient forms of checkers and bowling in Hawaii.
Test your strength, flexibility, and coordination. It looks very easy but is far from it. The intricate movement allowed women to keep their hands flexible for weaving and helped the men with their strength and coordination.
Fun for the whole family, this activity gets everyone involved in a native-style canoe race. These canoes are replicas of those used by island natives in the past. Divide into teams and see who has the best canoe skills.
So go ahead and take that family photo for the holiday card now – your friends will all be jealous.
Tahitian Spear Throw
Why throw a bocce ball when you can learn to throw a spear? A spear, as in a long, pointy stick to vanquish your enemies; well, in this case, a coconut. A coconut on top of a pole 20 feet away, to be precise.
Tahitian natives will coach you on the best combination of skill and luck required to show that coconut who’s boss.
For culinary masters, amateurs, and those who just like to eat a good meal, this is a great way to get involved in native cuisine. Stop by early in the day to help prepare classic Samoan dishes using ingredients like coconut, taro, and fish, with dishes and utensils made of leaves, husks, sticks, and stones. You won’t see this on a cooking show! Be sure to come back later in the day to try your tasty creation.
The Samoan villagers make starting a fire look easy and effortless. Don’t be fooled. It takes a lot of muscle, practice and skill. In the family hut in Samoa, you can try your hand at starting your own fire by rubbing two sticks together. Here’s a hint, you must use two pieces of wood from the same tree.
Give your feet and legs a well-deserved break. Hop on a canoe and allow a paddling guide to lead you through our lagoon. You’ll pass native villages, the famous “Elvis Presley” coconut tree and several other highlights as you leisurely ride from one end of the Center to the other.
Authentic Food & Snack Bar
When you’re done throwing, climbing, rowing, and cooking, take a break at the Banyan Tree Snack Bar, which serves up authentic cuisine like specialty plates and sandwiches, as well as a few snacks and drinks.
Be sure to check out the Polynesian Marketplace for some shopping time. You’ll find a great selection of handcrafted pieces, all displayed in traditional village markets and galleries.
Wood & Tiki Carving
Artisans in Aortearoa also showcase their traditional woodcarving abilities with immersive demonstrations and a collection of some of the finest contemporary carvings in all of Polynesia.
Rainbows of Paradise Canoe Pageant
The “Rainbows of Paradise” canoe pageant, celebrated at 2:30 pm daily, is actually “Hawaii’s only waterborne show.” It feature natives Polynesians in festive traditional garb who offer historic dances and musical performances from within the confines of a canoe!
IOSEPA “Voyage of Discovery”
The IOSEPA “Voyage of Discovery” presentation explains the brave voyages of early Polynesia settlers who took their modest canoes out into the deep ocean for purposes of exploration, hunting, and migration. Performances occur twice daily at 1 and 4 pm.
While it’s located on the opposite side of the island from Waikiki, the Polynesian Cultural Center is within easy to moderate driving distance of a number of other great attractions.
The wild paradise of Waimea Valley is the perfect place for exploring the lush beauty of rural Oahu, and is filled with hiking opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.
Family-favorite Kualoa Ranch is 4000 acres of beautiful landscape that features exciting movie tours, horseback riding, jungle tours, ancient Hawaiian artifacts, a traditional fishpond and tropical gardens, and the chance to visit Secret Island Beach.
For those of your golfers out there, the Kulima Golf Course is a popular spot to stroll around and play a few holes.
There are also multiple beaches that are perfect for surfing, snorkeling, or just sunbathing.
Places to Eat Nearby
Since the Polynesian Cultural Center is located in the small, relatively remote village of Laie, there aren’t a lot of dining options other than the Center itself. Fortunately, the PCC offers a stellar selection of meals and menus that will appeal to even the pickiest of eaters.
Lunch options include:
- The Banyan Tree Snack Bar
- Carver’s Workshop
- Hoku Pa’a
- And several others!
For dinner, you have your choice of:
- Prime Rib Buffet
- Island Buffet
- or Luau Dining.
Need to Know
Open Monday – Saturday, 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm.
Evening Show, 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm, daily.
Directions & Address
55-370 Kamehameha Highway
Laie, HI 96762
Public Transportation: TheBus is a great public transit option to Laie; consult their website for trip planning help from your hotel. Keep in mind that you may have to transfer lines if you’re staying in Waikiki.
Driving: If you do decide to drive yourself, parking is free!
Save on Admission
Remember, with the Go Oahu® Card you can save up to 55% on combined admission to the Polynesian Cultural Center, plus many more top Oahu attractions.