The Polynesian Cultural Center
(PCC) is a tourist operation run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
. The primary goal of the visitors are to learn about and experience Polynesian cultures. Some of the profits (not clear how much) from the operation go towards scholarship
s for college students from the islands covered by the PCC at Brigham Young University
PCC covers seven islands: Tahiti, Tonga, Marquesas, Hawaii, Fiji, Aotearoa (New Zealand), and Samoa. Each island has its own area, very similar to World Showcase at Disney's Epcot, although without the rides. Each island has a short show (about 25 minutes each), static displays, such as buildings, art, and tools from the culture, as well as people demonstrating activities within the culture. The people for each island, according to the PCC, are from the island being represented. From our observation, there appears to be one permanent employee for each island, as well as multiple students, probably BYU-Hawaii students doing work study.
PCC opens at 12:00. They will provide bus service from Wakiki, and minibus service for slightly more from most other locales. You can also drive there, if you have a car. You cannot meaningfully do everything in one day, but your entrance ticket is good for up to three days.
We spent the majority of our time in Tahiti, Tonga, New Zealand, and Samoa, so I cannot comment on the other islands. I do not know how much variance there is in the displays. Please let me know if the shows change significantly. The demonstrations are irregular, and take some persistence to catch a particular demonstration. Note that almost all the workers in an island will assist with the show, so few demonstrations will be going on during these times. Thus, even if you do not see the shows, you must be aware of when they are.
Tonga's show is mostly a drum show. They invite three people from the audience to come up and play drums with the Tongan. While entertaining (the Tongan we saw was both funny and very good at inducing other people to be funny), this show reveals very little about the culture of the Tongans, other than they have drums, so I would suggest skipping it. They demonstrate making tapa cloth being made from mulberry bark, although I was unable to catch this. I did not see a demonstration of the nose flute. I did learn to play lafo, an shuffleboard-like game, as well as spear tossing, which they used to use to settle arguments peacefully (person within the circle wins the argument), both of which I found enjoyable.
The only thing I saw in Tahiti was the show. In the show, they taught a couple of dances (one hand dance, and one standing), gave an overview of the different island groups in Tahiti, demonstrated coconut husking, cracking the coconut (quick demo), and removing of the coconut meat. Their cultural demonstrations are coconut bread-making and weaving palm branches, neither of which did I attend.
The Samoa demonstration started with making fire using coconut fibers, as well as extracting coconut milk (quick demo), cracking the coconut (quick demo), and climbing palm trees in bare feet (quick demo). There was a large overlap between this show and Tahiti. Although the Samoa show was more entertaining (the main talker was more interactive), the Tahiti show was more informative. I am not aware of cultural demonstrations here outside the show.
In Aotearoa, the show demonstrated poi balls, titorea (not certain of name, but it's basically two 25 cm dowel rods being sort-of juggled), spear handling (New Zealanders had spears, but did not throw them as part of combat), and talked about the hut we were in (their equivalent of tikis are representations of former leaders). Their demonstrations were titorea, poi balls, and (ink) tattoos (important in their culture). Titorea and poi balls were interesting. The tattoos was simply getting one put on, which I did not do.
In Fiji (did not see), the show consists of "unusual displays". The only thing they mention in their pamphlet is participating in playing the derua (bamboo organ).
In Marquesas (did not see), the show consists of a "mock pig hunt", as well as "romantic song and dance". The demonstrations were tattoos, weaving, and carving, although I did not attend these.
The show in Hawaii (did not see) is not described by their pamphlet. They do cultural demonstrations of teaching the hula (the dance, not the hoop), version of checkers, and bowling (rolling rounded stones between two markers), and tasting Hawaiian poi.
Besides the seven island presentations, there is a long canoe pageant at 2:30 covering all the islands (you can see it from two locales in PCC). Although I did not find this compelling, all the workers are participating, so there is nothing else to do.
They have an IMAX theater, which was showing "Dolphins", which I liked, and "The Living Sea", which I enjoyed when I saw it at the Carnegie Science Center. These shows are likely to change.
PCC also offers canoe rides through the PCC, which gives a 30 minutes tour of all seven islands. I did not go on one, but, listening to the canoes as they passed, it appears to be a good way to get a taste of each of the islands in a short amount of time.
There is a luau at 5:00 called "Ali'i Luau". There are two places: Hale Aloha and Hale Ohana. Although there is no difference between the two (except as necessary, such as difference masters of ceremony), consult your tickets to make certain you go to the correct one. We went to a luau on the Big Island prior to coming to PCC's. As compared to our previous luau, the food here was very mediocre, but the entertainment was much better. At PCC, the luau is focused on Hawaiian culture, which gives a much better experience than the mix-mash we got at the other, which tried to cover multiple Polynesian islands.
At 7:30, they have a show entitled "Horizons...where the Sky meets the Seas". This featured acts from each of the islands. Although the display was quite interesting, it was difficult to determine which island was demonstrating at any given time.
PCC offers three different main packages. They all include the islands and "Horizons". The lowest does not include the luau. The highest includes a guided tour and an option of sit-down dining rather than the luau. We did the middle, so I cannot comment on the value of the guided tour.
Overall, the Polynesian Cultural Center deserves the "gem" rating that AAA gives them. If you are on Oahu and are interested Polynesian culture, take a day and go to the Polynesian Cultural Center. It was certainly worth the cost.
Their website is http://www.polynesia.com
You can make reservations through their web site.
No conflicts to report: I am not associated with Hawaii (except as a USA citizen), any island mentioned above, the Polynesian Cultural Center, or the Mormon church.