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A Review of the Polynesian Cultural Center for Families

A Review of the Polynesian Cultural Center for Families

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Want to know if the Polynesian Cultural Center is a family-friendly attraction in Oahu? I visited for the first time as a parent. Keep reading for my review!
This review of the Polynesian Cultural Center for families was written by Hawaii travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

The last time I was at the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) was 5 years ago when I was pregnant with my oldest. I remember thinking how cool it would be to take my son someday.

When I was had the opportunity to visit again, I jumped on the chance. This trip was extra special because I got to share this experience with him as a preschooler!

Run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, PCC is a very family-friendly attraction in Oahu. But it’s a superb visit for visitors of all ages!

Any parent knows that many places are much different when you visit with kids! Having visited previously as a child-free person, I was curious what it would be like with my 4-year-old.

If you want to know what there is to do at the Polynesian Cultural Center for families, you’ll want to read my review below.

Want a Hawaii travel guide? I’ve got detailed guides and 7-day itineraries!

What Is the Polynesian Cultural Center?

The Polynesian Cultural Center is a living museum nestled on the North Shore of Oahu. It’s been the top tourist attraction in Oahu for the past 55 years.

In fact, it’s Hawaii’s number one paid attraction! More than 1 million visitors experience the PCC each year.

It’s a fun place where people of all ages can learn about the Polynesian cultures and how they’ve shaped Hawaii.

Run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, PCC a non-profit organization. The center employs students from Brigham Young University Hawaii, most of which are from the Pacific Islands themselves.

The PCC centers around 6 villages that represents 6 Polynesian cultures. Each village offers traditional hands-on activities that represents each of the respective cultures.

A highlight of the center evening show, “Ha: Breath of Life. There are also family-friendly buffet luaus. And there’s an array of interactive activities and experiences.

Take part in hands-on workshops or play traditional games. You can book guided canoe rides or try all kinds of delicious Polynesian food!

Make a full day of your visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center with these tickets! They include access to the park for 3 days, as well as dinner and seats at the Ha: Breath of Life show.

Before You Get There: The PCC App

A new feature of the Polynesian Cultural Center is its app! It has everything you’ll need inside the park and it’s convenient for planning a visit.

On the app, you can purchase, download, and print tickets. You can also use it to check in when you arrive.

There’s an interactive map of the center, as well as a section where you can plan your day down to the hour! It’s a great place to check out daily schedules or search for activities based on your interests.

The PCC app is free to download and available for both Apple and Android devices.

Things to Do at the Polynesian Cultural Center

Island Villages and Activities

The Polynesian Cultural Center focuses on 6 main Polynesian cultures: Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, and Aotearoa (New Zealand).

Each of these cultures is featured in an Island Village. At each village, you’ll find hands-on activities and cultural demonstrations each Polynesian culture.

Activities run from 12:30 to 6 PM every day. They’re interesting enough for those unfamiliar with Polynesian cultures, but they’re definitely geared towards kids.

Daily Schedule of Events

When you arrive at the Polynesian Cultural Center, you can also grab a little pocket program. This includes the daily schedule of events, presentation times and optional activities for that day.

We grabbed an extra one so my preschooler could thumb through it and help decide where to go next.

Read my review of the Polynesian Cultural Center for families!
When it comes to family activities on Oahu, exploring the Polynesian Cultural Center is great for a Hawaii family vacation. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Cultural Presentations

Gates open at 12:45 PM and you’ll see that the Polynesian Cultural Center is set up around the 6 villages and a lagoon running through it all.

You’ll work your way through the villages as you please. It works out perfectly, with each village offering cultural presentations each hour between 1 and 5 PM.

The first place we stopped was the Samoan Village. Having been here 5 years ago, I knew that my kids would be entertained by their cultural presentation.

Our presenter showed us how to make fire in mere minutes on stage while telling jokes. Both my boys stared at the smoke and flames in awe!

Samoan cultural presenation at the Polynesian Cultural Center is one of the fun things to do on oahu
During this Samoan cultural presentation, this man created fire in front of our eyes. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

We also learned about traditional Samoan food. In Samoa, food is cooked in an Umu, which is an above ground oven. Their food can be cooked in 45 minutes!

This day, taro root and green bananas were on the menu. We were invited to come back later in the afternoon to sample some.

The Samoan Village offers lots of family activities on oahu at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, Hawaii
At the Samoan Village, they prepared taro root and green bananas to share with guests later in the day. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

During the food presentation, there was a man shaving fresh coconut meat using a knife attached to a wooden seat. My 4-year-old was very intrigued to see what he was doing.

The man offered my son a handful of the fresh coconut. He was so excited to taste something that was created right before his eyes!

If you're looking for family activities on oahu, the Polynesian Cultural Center has hands on demonstrations, presentations, crafts, and food samples.
My son watched in awe as this man scraped the meat out of a fresh coconut. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Huki: A Canoe Celebration

Something very unique to the PCC is their canoe pageant, called Huki. I think it’s one of the most entertaining family activities there!

Every day at 2:30 PM, the entire park is invited to head to the lagoon to watch a Polynesian show that takes place on boats. Representatives from each island dance on their canoes as they make their way around the whole grounds.

And if you aren’t sure your kids can sit through a luau, it’s a great alternative activity on Oahu for kids.

The Polynesian Cultural Center has a canoe pageant featuring Polynesian dancers dancing on the river and is lots of fun on Oahu with kids.
When spending the day at the Polynesian Cultural Center, their Canoe Pageant is a great way to see Polynesian dancing. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Hawaiian History and Culture

Of course, since we were on Oahu with kids, we prioritized learning a bit more about Hawaiian history and culture. In the Hawaiian Village, there was a young lady who taught us the art of ancient Hawaiian fishing.

She carefully gathered her net, threw part over her shoulder and in one clean sweep, threw the net into a perfect circle.

My 4-year-old talked about this presentation the rest of our trip. He was so impressed!

The Polynesian Cultural Center is full of family activities on Oahu with kids.
This Hawaiian fish net throwing demonstration mesmerized my son at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, Oahu. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

We also got to explore a “hale,” or Hawaiian house. We happened to walk in right as someone was leading a tour, which was perfect!

The tour guide explained that long ago, men and women ate in separate houses. She also talked about how land was divided up so that each family had a slice of mountain down to the ocean.

The Polynesian Cultural Center is full of Hawaiian history and culture.
This replica of a Hawaiian shelter was fascinating. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

This hale was really interesting because it was thatched using leaves that seal together when it’s raining, and the air is damp. But when it dries, it shrinks and allows the home to ventilate!

I’m so glad we got to listen in to the tour because I don’t think we would have realized what an advanced society it was! Especially since it was so isolated from the other Polynesian islands.

Book a Family Photo Shoot

Whenever we travel, we almost always book a family photo shoot with Flytographer. They are super easy, affordable, AND guarantee that I’ll be in some photos. You can get $25 off if you book through this link or use the code HAWAIITRAVEL.

Do the “Shaka!”

Has someone at the Polynesian Cultural Center told you to “hang loose?” Hamana Kalili of Laie, HI (where PCC is located) originated the unique hand-sign now called the Shaka while working on the sugar mill railroad.

It’s when you extend your thumb and little finger and curl the other 3 fingers into your palm.

The Shaka has since gone global, spread by surfers, Hawaii residents, millions of visitors and even US President Obama, who grew up in Honolulu!

Celebrate the Shaka (aka hangloose) sign at the Polynesian Cultural Center
This statue of Hamana Kalili commemorating the “shaka” is a fun photo op on the walk to the Polynesian Cultural Center. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

See the Joseph Kekuku Statue

You know that twangy sound in classic Hawaiian songs? That’s Joseph Kekuku’s work. He was born in Laie, HI and invented the Hawaiian steel guitar as a boy. Then, he traveled the world sharing Hawaiian music through his Hawaiian steel guitar.

He’s one of the reasons Hawaiian music became a global sensation!

This photo op is just one of the things to do in oahu with kids at the Polynesian Cultural Center
This statue celebrates Hawaiian ukulele music. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

The Hukilau Marketplace at PCC

One of the newer features of the Polynesian Cultural Center is the Hukilau Marketplace. It’s become a popular destination in Laie just on its own!

That’s because, if you wish, you can visit the marketplace outside the rest of the park. But we love adding it into our PCC itinerary.

It has a nostalgic, 1950s era vibe. The whole place really gives you a feel for what the North Shore was like back in Hawaii’s Golden Age. They have food stands, sit down restaurants and shops.

Where to Eat at Hukilau Marketplace

Elsie’s Aloha Ice Cream is one of the cutest food stands I’ve seen. They serve New Zealand and tropical Hawaiian flavored ice cream, sundaes, banana splits and more with plenty of toppings to choose from!

If you’re looking for a colorful Instagram background, here you go!

The Hukilau Marketplace at the Polynesian Cultural Center has fun things to do on oahu with kids.
The Hukilau Marketplace at the Polynesian Cultural Center is a fun place to eat on Oahu with kids. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Other food options at the Hukilau Marketplace include:

  • Pounders (farm fresh island style dining)
  • Aunty Emily’s Polynesian Bakery
  • Delice Crepes (from Tahiti)
  • Fia Fia Farms (specializing in mango smoothies)
  • Hale Pop’s (gourmet hot dogs)
  • Sam Choy and Tita’s Seafood Poke
  • So’Da Bomb (the first soda truck on Oahu)
  • Tita’s Grill (plate lunch)
  • Tutu’s Sweet Shop

Shopping at Hukilau Marketplace

The Hukilau Marketplace is also an up-and-coming shopping destination. They also offer live music and dancing daily. While we were there, they were advertising outdoor movies, too.

Shopping at the Hukilau Marketplace inside the Polynesian Cultural Center is a great family activity on Oahu
If you’re looking for a quirky souvenir, how about this stuffed Easter Island Moai statue? Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Shopping options include:

  • Goo’s Plantation Store
  • Hapa Home
  • Nona’s Tropical Threads
  • Amusement Ink (aibrushed tattoos)
  • Hukilau Salon
  • Magic Memories (photo service)
  • Mana `O Polynesia (imported South Pacific handicrafts)
  • My Island Spa
  • My Island Spa Toe Rings
  • Na Hoku (fine Hawaiian jewelry)
  • Paradice (Hawaiian shave ice)
  • Pearl Factory
  • Polynesian Wood Carving
  • Tahitian Treasures

Why the Polynesian Cultural Center is a Must for Families

Do I think the Polynesian Cultural Center is one of the best family activities on Oahu? You bet! Check the latest rates and availability.

If you’re looking for things to do in Oahu with kids where they won’t be bored, head to the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie. Here’s why:

It’s Baby-Friendly and Toddler-Friendly

The paths are paved, so it’s easy to maneuver a stroller anywhere at the PCC and Hukilau Marketplace. There are also stroller parking areas outside each of the presentation buildings.

And it’s easy to find clean restrooms and snack stations throughout the space.

When visiting Oahu with kids, the Polynesian Cultural Center is one of the best family activities on oahu
The Polynesian Cultural Center was a blast for my family exploring Oahu with kids. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

My 17-month-old toddler had a great time watching the presentations, tasting the food. We were fortunate that he could stand in the back row to watch some of the performances.

We were also ushered into the handicap seats a few times to ensure our kids could see the presentations.

Sample Free Polynesian Food

My kids are always up to try new foods. The runaway hit this trip was tasting the fresh coconut. My 4-year-old carefully walked with his hands full of coconut so he could share with his brother. Both boys gobbled it up!

There were also opportunities to try poi, coconut bread, taro and green bananas.

Fresh coconut was a hit on Oahu with kids at the Samoan Village at the Polynesian Cultural Center on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii.
Both my boys devoured this fresh coconut at the Samoan Village at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, Hawaii. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Try Hands-On-Crafts at the Polynesian Cultural Center

My 4-year-old’s favorite activity was weaving a lauhala fish. I loved watching the demonstrator involve my son in creating it, while taking the lead.

The whole thing took about 2 minutes and my son walked away with a fish that he could “cast” and reel back in. This was something he played with our entire trip!

For older kids and adults, there’s also an instructor who will stand back and instruct you in making your own.

The Polynesian Cultural Center has tons of fun things to do on Oahu, like hands on crafts, cultural demonstrations, and audience participation.
The Polynesian Cultural Center has so many family activities on Oahu, like weaving lauhala to make a fish in the Tahitian Village. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

And for kids exploring the New Zealand village, they can get a temporary tattoo! My son was bummed that we didn’t make it over there in time for that.

There are Family Activities

My son spent 10 full minutes trying to make fire the Samoan way. There was an area with long wood, short sticks, and coconut husk.

You are supposed to move the stick really, really fast until the area gets hot and then put the coconut husk to start the fire.

This was an unsupervised area, which makes me think actually starting a fire might not be common. But my son gave it a full effort!

Learning how to start a fire is one reason the Polynesian Cultural Center things to do in Oahu with kids
My preschooler was determined to make a fire using traditional Samoan tactics. Spoiler alert: he was not successful. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

In the Tongan Village, families can hop into an outrigger canoe and paddle around their tropical lagoon. In the Tahitian Village, you can learn how to throw a spear and learn how to dance.

And in the New Zealand Village, kids can try to master the Maori poi balls!

When visiting Oahu with kids, the Polynesian Cultural Center has so many fun things to do on Oahu.
My son and I laughed so hard when trying our hand at the New Zealand poi balls which may be one of the most fun things to do on Oahu. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Enjoy a Variety of Snacks and Treats

As I’ve said before, my kids are motivated by food. We got hungry during the day but didn’t want to miss out on all the family fun at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Thankfully, we found a food stand that sold grab and go food. There were kid-friendly options, including hot dogs, traditional New Zealand hand-held meat pies, and Spam musubi.

We grabbed a few musubi and the cashier told us that locals like to put mayonnaise on it. Then she handed me a few packets.

Now, I’ve been eating Spam musubi for the past 20 years and I’ve never heard of anyone doing that. So, we tried it. It’s a GAME-CHANGER! Go ahead, try it and remember that I told you first!

The Polynesian Cultural Center has lots of snacks that are perfect for families on Oahu with kids.
My son was stoked to drink a smoothie out of a pineapple at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

And trust me, of the best ways to end an amazing day at the PCC was to enjoy this fancy smoothie. It was the perfect addition as we soaked in the music and the Hawaiian breeze.

Attend the PCC Luau or Ha: Breath of Life Show

Since we traveled with a toddler this time, I knew we’d only have the stamina to explore the park. We didn’t make it to a show this time.

However, I’ve attended both the Polynesian Cultural Center Luau and the Ha: Breath of Life show and I recommend both for families.

If your child is a fan of Moana, they will be entranced by the theatrics of the Ha: Breath of Life show. I’m looking forward to taking my kids back in a few years! Check the latest rates and availability.

The Polynesian Cultural Center extended me a media rate for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Are you interested in other family activities on Oahu? Check out some of my other posts!

Family Guide to Oahu with Kids
Toa Luau is Oahu’s Newest Family-Friendly Luau
Aulani Tips to Maximize 2 Nights at Disney Aulani Resort in Hawaii
Is the Disney Aulani Character Breakfast on Oahu Worth the Price?
How to Maximize the Disney Aulani PhotoPass Service

Honolulu Cookie Company Features Pineapple Shaped Cookies
Oahu Travel Hacks + Budget Tips for Families


Find out why the Polynesian Cultural Center is a top attraction on Oahu, Hawaii. for families Click to read more or pin to save for later. www.marcieinmommyland.com #polynesianculturalcenter #laie #oahu #hawaii #hawaiiattractions #familytravel
Heading to Oahu with kids? Find out why the Polynesian Cultural Center should be at the top of your list of Oahu attractions! Click to read more or pin to save for later. www.marcieinmommyland.com #polynesianculturalcenter #oahu #oahuattractions #familytravel #hawaii #hawaiianculture
Read my review of the Polynesian Cultural Center for families!

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    emily

    Wednesday 28th of March 2018

    I love this culture! It is awesome that your son got to do so many hands on activities there!

    marciecheung

    Wednesday 28th of March 2018

    Yes, he loved learning how to do things for himself! So much fun!

    Angie

    Saturday 24th of March 2018

    What a fun experience! I love activities like this that exposes kids to different cultures. I think it’s really important.

    marciecheung

    Saturday 24th of March 2018

    It's super important to expose kids to other cultures.

    Rachel

    Friday 23rd of March 2018

    This looks so fun. I love learning about other cultures. I think that is a perk to traveling and it makes me sad when people stay right in their comfort zones.

    marciecheung

    Friday 23rd of March 2018

    Yes! Always better to explore and ask questions!

    Amanda

    Friday 23rd of March 2018

    This looks SO fun! I love that they everyone gets to learn about history and culture, in such a fun and unique way. The canoe pagent sounds so neat too!

    marciecheung

    Friday 23rd of March 2018

    The canoe pageant was such a cool show! My kids thought it was amazing!

    Melissa

    Thursday 22nd of March 2018

    Looks like a great place for family and a wonderful experience to share with kids!

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