When friends who are first-time visitors to Hawaii come stay with me, I often recommend a trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center located on the northern end of the Windward coast. I like to think of this place as the Williamsburg of Hawaii.
There are seven distinct areas representing the different islands – Tonga, Tahiti, Marquesas, Hawaii, Fiji, Aotearoa (New Zealand) and Samoa. The “islands” feature the houses, crafts, activities, music and games of each area.
There’s lots to see, so you’ll want to plan your day so you don’t miss the various performances — especially the 2:30 p.m. “canoe pageant” that features costumed dancers performing on boats on the central waterway.
There are also mini-concerts of traditional island instruments and demonstrations of traditional skills like climbing a palm tree or opening a coconut. But best of all are the activities you can participate in yourself, like learning to do the hula; weaving palm fronds; playing the drums; or throwing a spear.
For those who are interested in the educational aspect, many of the islands include re-creations of typical houses and high-quality authentic exhibits of arts and crafts. One of the coolest things about the park is that the people working there come from the islands they represent. And in the evening, there is a luau and show featuring the tradition and culture of the various islands.
For those of you who live here, they have a great kama’aina deal going on now where you can get an annual pass for only $20. This will get you into the park all year long, plus you can receive a 20% discount on admission for up to four guests. Lucky you live Hawaii, yeah?