I don’t care how long you’re on the island of Oahu. Even if you only have one day, even if you only have time for one stop. Make sure you visit the Polynesian Cultural Center.
In the interest of full disclosure, I worked at PCC a very long time ago. Also, while they did offer me a discounted press pass, I secured my admission tickets elsewhere. However, despite having worked at the PCC I had never seen it from the perspective of a guest! I had regretted for 17 years that I hadn’t seen the villages.
It’s hard to know where to start when writing about the Polynesian Cultural Center so I’m just going to jump right in.
No one should miss the canoe show. What a highlight! The dancers maintain their choreography and rhythm while the canoe pushers/drivers navigate the canoes along the lagoon, avoiding contact with other canoes.
This heavenly choir serenaded us as part of the canoe show. I love the importance Polynesians place on music.
My family’s top three villages are Aotearoa, Tonga, and Samoa.
I maintain a deep respect for the Maori village and I feel an affinity to them that I can’t explain. Even if you don’t feel the same way, you have to agree that their elaborate carvings are stunning.
Tonga’s presentation of drumming as an integral part of their culture incorporates the audience in a fun, interactive way. We were all laughing!
Samoa was a personal highlight for our family. We have an enduring fondness for fire dancing. We also love the coconut husking and milking, and the tree climbing. It’s amazing! The only thing that matched these feats of strength and skill was the charismatic MC who kept us all laughing.
After the formal presentation my boys wanted to try their hands at fire dancing without the fire.
And making friends.
At the Tahitian village my husband dusted off his drumming chops,
and the boys went fishing.
In Hawaii we sampled poi, and played games, my boys opting out of the chance to learn to hula.
Rapa Nui (Easter Island) doesn’t have a formal village, but it was the perfect spot for my Proof of Mum photo. The five of us waited in front of those five moai and waited for the next person to walk by.
We opted for the luau for our dinner. While I’m aware that PCC offers several great food options, the luau was the only option I considered. After all, we were in Hawaii!
The Ali’i Luau employees greet every guest with a lei and a photo op. All the seats have good views of the stage and easy access to the vast buffet tables. Kalua Pig is my favourite luau food. At PCC they cook the pig in the imu, as is traditional. Luau guests observe the pig coming out from the imu, then it’s quickly prepped and put on the food lines. Delicious!
During the entire meal we were entertained with a full show. Hula dancers, fire dancers, even keiki (children.)
The day ends with the night show. Hā: Breath of Life is a stunning spectacle of song and dance and storytelling and drumming and fire. It combines legends and features from across Polynesia into one intergenerational fable.
And when it’s all over, all the songs, chants, dances, storytelling, firedances, drums, you can’t help but feel as though you were a part of something special. Polynesians value family above all else, and they have welcomed you into their fold. These really are your cousins, and you all spent the evening together around the fire. You feel bonded to them for life. More importantly, you find yourself changed. It’s inspiring to observe the similarities among the different islands within Polynesia, and the ways in which they celebrate their differences. If the camaraderie of PCC doesn’t make you want to be a better person then I don’t know what will.
Do I have any regrets? Yes, two. First I regret not being the first person in the gate when they opened. I wish I could have maximized every minute. Secondly, and this would have been more possible if I had done the first, I didn’t peruse the Marketplace. Maybe it would have bored my family, but I definitely wanted to pick up some souvenirs. (Don’t feel too sorry for me, it isn’t like we didn’t buy ANYTHING, we bought several beautiful works of art from the gallery in the Samoan village.) But next time I’m going to save even more time for shopping.