Polynesian Cultural Center of Oahu

The Polynesian Cultural Center is without a doubt Oahu’s numero uno attraction. The sprawling 42 acres introduces visitors to the cultures of the Polynesian islands. You can experience canoe tours, fire making, basket weaving, Tahitian spear throw, and purchase traditional goods at the Hukilau Marketplace.

The award winning Ali’i Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center involves a Royal Court procession, the presentation of the Imu (pork baked in traditional oven), a traditional feast and Hawaiian entertainment.

The theater show titled “Ha: Breath of Life”is the story of lovers Mana and Lani. It is a stunning display of special effects, animation, dance, musical and fire knives.

Note: If you rent a car from AAdvantage, you get one free admission ticket in their travel magazine “Oahu Driving Guide: Vacation Planner”. This is how I got into the Polynesian Cultural Center for free!

Further Reading

Top Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii

AOTEAROA

First up in the Polynesian Cultural Center is the island of Aotearoa. Literally meaning “The Land of the Long White Cloud”, Aotearoa is the only Polynesian island to experience four seasons.

The New Zealand Maori were not only fierce warriors, but also great craftsmen. All their buildings were made from natural elements such as the bark and trunks of the punga fern. The wall panels (poupou) represent the history of the tribe, with each symbol representing an ancestor with facial tattoos, rolling eyes, protruding tongues, and legs in a fighting stance. The eyes of poupou carvings were made of blue paua shells.

FIJI

With an archipelago of more than 300 islands, Fiji is a multicultural country. Traditionally Fijians prefer a tuber and coconut based diet. On special occasions, food is cooked underground which is called a lovo. Fish and meats are marinated in sauces and garlic.

Palusami is made using taro leaves, filled with thick coconut cream, onions, salt and meats. The palusami together with the marinated fish and meats is placed in a hole filled with hot rocks. The hole is covered with banana leaves and the food is allowed to cook for 2-3 hours.    

One of the highlights at the Polynesian Cultural Center is the Vale Ni Qase . It was the name of the house where Fijian grandparents lived. During the day, children were left in their grandparents’ homes. By telling the stories of legends, myths and customs, the grandparents passed down the history of the village to the younger generation through the oral tradition.

HAWAII

Known for beaches with black, red and green sands, volcanic activity, lush rainforests and rugged landscapes, Hawaii is the 50th state of the United States of America.

Below is an example of a family dwelling house, Hale Noho. This where a  family would store their personal belongings and sleep together. Many families had extended kith and kin, so multiple sleeping houses for individual families were built.

This exhibit at the Polynesian Cultural Center is that of a Iosepa, an all wood, double hulled Hawaiian voyaging canoe. This is an impressive 57 foot representation of what the sea faring skills of Polynesian explorers looked like.

TONGA

Made up of 170 islands, Tonga’s history is unique in the Polynesian Cultural Center. It is the only Pacific island nation to never be colonized by a foreign power.

Their traditional attire include beautiful bracelets, neck garlands, a feather headdress called tekiteki, and woven waist mats called ‘ta’ovala.

Drinking kava, a drink from dried roots is part of social gatherings. Food preparations involve roasting piglets along with root crops, meats and shellfish. These are laid in the center of a tray made of palm leaves woven together (apola). Fresh fruits and decorative flowers are added as garnish. 

TAHITI

The culture and traditions of the Maohi ancestors include javelin throwing amongst the gods, surf riding by kings, and canoe races with Aito strongmen. Dances are accompanied with drums, conch shells and nasal flutes.

Tattoos are considered a sign of beauty as are flowers. Hibiscus blossoms are worn behind the ear or in floral crowns. The Tiare Tahiti flower, which can only be found in Tahiti, is used to greet visitors at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

RAPANUI EXHIBIT

Don’t forget to check this out at the Polynesian Cultural Center! Commonly known as Easter Island, Rapa Nui is a remote volcanic island in Polynesia. It is famous for the nearly 900 monumental statues called moai, created during the 13th-16th centuries.

The Rapa Nui people built homes known as Hare Vaka, because when completed the house resembled an upturned canoe. Since the islands were low in elevation, such structures were thought to sustain high winds.

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