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“Our favorite place on Oahu”

Polynesian Cultural Center
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Polynesian Cultural Center Luau
Ranked #2 of 15 things to do in Laie
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Fee: Yes
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: One of the top Hawaii attractions includes the Polynesian Cultural Center, which features a 42-acre facility on the North Shore of Oahu. Founded in 1963, the nonprofit Center was created so that the students of nearby Brigham Young University Hawaii could work their way through college by sharing their island heritage with visitors. The students come from an area that covers approximately 12 million square miles of the Pacific Ocean.
Useful Information: Activities for older children
illini country
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“Our favorite place on Oahu”
Reviewed November 10, 2007

My husband and myself spent an informative and fun filled day at the Polynesian Cultural Center this past September. Our experience was greatly enhanced by a very courteous and knowledgable personal guide. The hands on demonstrations made the various villages much more memorable and insured the cultural center as a favorite place to visit on Oahu. We enjoyed the parage of long canoes and the excellent luau. If we get to return to Oahu in the future, the Hawaiian Polynesian Cultural Center will definitely be a place to see again.

6 Thank dickillinicountry
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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6,391 reviews from our community

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New Jersey
Level Contributor
13 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 49 helpful votes
“Excellent Adventure”
Reviewed November 6, 2007

My husband and I spent a day at the Polynesian Cultural Center in early October. We learned a lot that day about the various cultures of the islands that make up Polynesia. The last couple of reviews are quite surprising to me, but perhaps it is because they did not spring for the guided tour. I feel that the guided tour is almost essential if you really want to get a lot of information about the villages you are visiting. We booked the Ambassador Prime Rib Package, since we had
already attended a great luau at our hotel and we knew the Horizons show would showcase a lot of the native dances of the islands. We also
added on the transportation offered by the PCC.

We were picked up at our hotel about 10:30am. We had a great guide on the bus who gave us information about the various areas of the island we were passing on our way to the PCC. He was also quite funny. Once we arrived at the PCC, we were assigned in small groups to a guide for
the entire day. Our guide led us from village to village sharing lots of information and answering any questions. She was quite informative and a lot of fun. She also made sure we had places to sit for presentations in the villages. We were so busy learning about the 7 different cultures presented at PCC that no one wanted to break off to go to the IMAX movie. We also did not take the tram to the Mormon Temple. Other than mentioning she was a student at BYU in the very beginning of our tour, I did not hear another word about mormonism. Unless you opt to take the tram tour and visit the temple, you will not hear about their religion.

With the Ambassador Prime Rib package, we had a dinner buffet in an air conditioned restaurant, which was nice after a full day in the heat. We shared our table with another couple from our tour group and it was a nice break before the fantastic Horizons show. We were lucky enough to be in the center section, 2nd row from the stage. The earlier you book your tour, the better your seat will be. I booked our package about a month before we left for Oahu. The bus dropped us back at our hotel in Waikiki about 10:30pm.

This was by far one of the better tours we took while in Oahu and it is well worth the money to have a guide. I would recommend booking an ambassador tour (either luau or prime rib) if you can afford it, because you will certainly get a lot more out of the day than if you just wander around by yourself.


13 Thank MissusT
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 28 helpful votes
“Sad and disturbing...”
Reviewed October 28, 2007

I went to the PCC hoping to learn about the 7 islands and their cultures, and perhaps some about the connections of them through the concept of "Polynesia." Perhaps my hopes were way too high. I had expected something like the Pequot museum or Plymouth Plantation or Colonial Williamsburg, at the best. And if not that, then perhaps some good exhibits that really communicated the history and cultures (like the new Native American Museum that's part of the Smithsonian). If I had gone expecting some beautiful scenery, some friendly and enthusiastic students and a Vegas style show (at talented student level) with no cultural context and little authenticity, perhaps I would have enjoyed it as much as others did. So basically--if you are looking for actually learning about or experiencing culture this is terrible. If you are looking for a touristy way to see some dance and participate in some activities (especially with kids), then you may enjoy it (particularly if you are not bothered by supporting Mormon proselytizing).

We didn't do the luau and didn't hire a guide.

I went with a friend who is an anthropologist interested in Polynesian and Asian cultures and our partners. And I am a cultural psychologist. So we were all hoping to learn. And we didn't.

The Samoan cultural demo (each show/demo is about 15 minutes) was great--funny and I did learn how they start a fire, open a coconut, get the coconut milk out and that cooking is done by men (that is the entirety of what I learned). And the Aotearoa cultural demo was also good--some songs in Maori language and a nice community feel and process that highlighted in experience some of the community aspects of the culture. But this was 30 minutes of about 6 hours. The rest of the cultural demos we saw were mostly dancing, drumming, or a fake "pig hunt" with audience participation. The evening show was all flash and show, no culture (at least the first half, as we left after that--all the dances and music were similar, so there seemed little point in another 45 minutes of it). What was, I think, most disturbing was that there was almost NOTHING else.

There were very few exhibits--just the huts or other buildings with little in them. Almost no information on signage to explain anything and where there was (e.g. to discuss the portraits) there was a clear bias towards how the native peoples were improved by Christianity--but little about what their own cultures were/are like. There was nothing written anywhere to discuss the cultural practices or values, the history of the land or the people. And the cultural demos and tour talk we overheard offered little in this vein either. So there was basically nothing to give ANY insight into the people or the culture either historically or currently. The website of the center has MUCH more info than the actual Center (and the website costs nothing to visit).

Equally disturbing was that it was clear in the demos and, particularly in the evening show, that the dances and music were tailored for tourists (e.g. the clothes worn were color coded to the different village colors on the guidemap, the music was almost all in the same tempo with the same instruments, there were neon poi balls in the show, etc.): I imagine that there was SOME influence of the actual cultures but it was impossible to figure out what was real and what was for the tourist show.

I did know that it was run by BYU and the Mormon Church before I went. And I didn't experience the constant Mormon advertising that others have complained about. But the more subtle ways that bias was reflected were really disturbing to me. And while I am glad that the Mormon Church is offering scholarships to BYU to students from these places (its good that someone is), I was aware that the high entrance fee was likely also supporting their general efforts at proselytizing. And I am not sure how I feel about this: many of the students from these Islands know little about their cultural heritages because of the legacy of colonization and conversion and now they are learning their cultures from the Mormons. Is this the way we would like to learn our own cultures and have them presented to others?

28 Thank tasnOahu
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Boston, Massachusetts
Level Contributor
5 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
“The Mormon Epcott center”
Reviewed October 28, 2007

This is definitely not worth the price of admission. If the displays had any kind of history or real information other than missionary impressions that would help a lot. That said, if you are going here's some tips:

The evening show: Vegas style show put on by some very talented students. I didn't make it through the whole thing. Some of the outfits and choreography got seriously annoying.

The exhibits:
Do catch Dennis busting open a coconut, making fire from just wood, and generally doing an awesome job.
Do avail yourself of the staff there and ask questions to try and understand what the real context would be. The people we talked to were generally very helpful and knowledgeable.
Try get context from the demonstrations, since that is your only hope of finding out any actual cultural information.
Do not read the signs unless you want to find out how much better off everyone was after they accepted the missionary religion.

9 Thank theriex
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Henderson, NV
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
“The Polynesian Cultural Center is a must see”
Reviewed October 14, 2007

It was our first trip to Hawaii and we chose Oahu to go to first. When we told our family and friends that have already been they said to make time to go to the Polynesian Cultural Center. We are so glad we took their advise. We went with the Ambassador Package and it was well worth it. To see all the different cultures and the luau after was such a fantastic day. We too now highly recommend going to the PCC when on Oahu.

8 Thank ginnygiraffe
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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