A Guide to the Polynesian Cultural Center

Welcome to the Polynesian Cultural Center, a vibrant and immersive destination that offers a unique and enriching experience of the Polynesian culture. Nestled on the beautiful island of Oahu in Hawaii, this center is a celebration of the diverse island nations of Polynesia. Through its various exhibits, performances, and interactive activities, visitors can delve into the rich history, traditions, and customs of the Polynesian people.

The Polynesian Cultural Center

When you step foot into the Polynesian Cultural Center, you'll be greeted with warm smiles and a sense of hospitality that reflects the spirit of Polynesian culture. The center covers an expansive 42 acres of lush tropical landscape, featuring authentic villages representing six Polynesian island nations: Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji, Tahiti, Tonga, and Aotearoa (New Zealand).

Each village is meticulously designed to replicate the architecture, lifestyle, and cultural practices of its respective island nation. As you explore the center, you'll have the opportunity to engage with knowledgeable guides and friendly locals who are eager to share their heritage and stories.

History and Background of the Polynesian Cultural Center

The Polynesian Cultural Center has a rich history that dates back to its founding in 1963. It was established as a nonprofit organization by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with the goal of preserving and promoting Polynesian culture. The center operates under the principle of providing educational and employment opportunities to students from the nearby Brigham Young University–Hawaii.

Since its inception, the Polynesian Cultural Center has become one of the most popular attractions in Hawaii, drawing millions of visitors from around the world. Beyond its cultural preservation efforts, the center has also served as a platform for Polynesian performers to showcase their talents and contribute to the local economy.

Exploring the Cultural Villages

As you venture deeper into the Polynesian Cultural Center, you'll find yourself immersed in the diverse and authentic cultural villages representing six Polynesian island nations. Each village offers a unique glimpse into the traditions, customs, and way of life of its respective culture.

In the Hawaiian village, you'll learn about the ancient art of hula, the significance of lei making, and the spiritual connection Hawaiians have with their land and ocean. You can participate in hands-on activities such as coconut husking or try your hand at traditional games like 'Ulu Maika.

In the Samoan village, you'll witness the incredible strength and agility of Samoan warriors as they perform the vibrant and energetic fire knife dance. Engage in traditional Samoan activities such as coconut tree climbing and cooking in an underground oven known as an 'umu.

In the Fijian village, you'll discover the art of firewalking and experience the powerful chants and dances that tell the stories of Fijian legends. Don't miss the opportunity to witness the incredible precision and skill of Fijian woodcarvers as they craft intricate designs.

The Tahitian village will transport you to the tropical paradise of French Polynesia, where you can indulge in the mesmerizing sounds of Tahitian drums and witness the grace and beauty of Tahitian dancers swaying their hips to the rhythm. You can even try your hand at Tahitian drumming or creating beautiful flower crowns.

In the Tongan village, you'll be captivated by the deep-rooted traditions of the Tongan people, showcased through traditional Tongan music, dance, and arts. Engage in activities like traditional Tongan weaving or watch the impressive display of Tongan 'otuhaka, a warrior dance.

Lastly, in the Aotearoa village, you'll delve into the fascinating Māori culture of New Zealand. Be mesmerized by the haka, a powerful Māori war dance, and the skillful performance of the poi, a traditional Māori dance accompanied by rhythmic movements and singing. Learn about the Māori tradition of carving and try your hand at weaving flax.

Traditional Polynesian Arts and Crafts

At the Polynesian Cultural Center, you'll have the opportunity to witness and even participate in traditional arts and crafts that have been passed down through generations.

In the arts and crafts marketplace, you'll find skilled artisans showcasing their talents in woodcarving, weaving, and jewelry making. Marvel at the intricate designs and patterns created from natural materials like coconut fibers, shells, and feathers.

Take a moment to engage with these talented craftsmen and women, who will gladly share their techniques and stories behind their craft. You might even have the chance to try your hand at creating your own unique Polynesian masterpiece.

Participate in workshops where you can learn the art of creating intricate Polynesian tattoos, known as tatau. Discover the symbolism and significance behind the traditional patterns and designs, and perhaps even leave with a temporary tattoo as a lasting memento of your visit.

Whether you're admiring the skillful carvings, learning the art of weaving, or exploring the beauty of Polynesian jewelry, the arts and crafts of Polynesia are sure to leave you in awe of the talent and creativity that has been passed down through generations.

Polynesian Music and Dance Performances

Prepare to be enchanted by the mesmerizing music and dance performances at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Throughout your visit, you'll have the opportunity to witness a variety of captivating shows that showcase the rich cultural heritage of Polynesia.

The evening's highlight is the spectacular "Ha: Breath of Life" show, a grand production that tells a powerful and emotional story through music, dance, and fire. With a talented cast of performers, vibrant costumes, and impressive choreography, this theatrical masterpiece will leave you spellbound and in awe of the Polynesian culture.

Polynesian Cultural Center Performers

Throughout the day, you can also enjoy smaller, more intimate performances in each of the cultural villages. From the graceful hula of Hawaii to the energetic fire knife dance of Samoa, every performance is a celebration of the unique traditions and artistry of the Polynesian people.

Be sure to engage with the performers, ask questions, and learn about the significance of each dance and song. The Polynesian Cultural Center is committed to preserving and sharing the cultural heritage of Polynesia, and these performances are a testament to their dedication.

Experiencing the Luau Feast

No visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center is complete without indulging in a traditional luau feast. This iconic Hawaiian culinary experience is a celebration of food, culture, and community.

As you enter the luau grounds, the tantalizing aroma of roasted pig, known as kalua pork, fills the air. The feast features a delectable array of dishes, including traditional Hawaiian staples like poi (a paste made from taro root), lomi salmon (a refreshing salmon salad), and haupia (a creamy coconut pudding).

Savor the flavors of Polynesia as you sample dishes from each of the cultural villages, each offering unique and mouthwatering delicacies. From the succulent marinated chicken of Samoa to the tender and flavorful fish preparations of Fiji, every bite is a culinary adventure.

While you feast on these delicious offerings, you'll be entertained by lively music and dance performances that further immerse you in the vibrant Polynesian culture. It's a festive and joyous atmosphere that truly captures the spirit of aloha.

Remember to save room for dessert! Treat yourself to tropical delights like fresh pineapple, coconut cake, and perhaps even a taste of the iconic Hawaiian dessert, haupia pie.

The luau feast at the Polynesian Cultural Center is not just a meal; it's a celebration of community, traditions, and the spirit of Polynesia. It's an experience that will leave you with a satisfied palate and a deeper appreciation for the cultural significance of food in Polynesian heritage.

Interactive Activities and Demonstrations

One of the highlights of visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center is the opportunity to engage in interactive activities and demonstrations that allow you to fully immerse yourself in the Polynesian culture.

Get your adrenaline pumping by trying your hand at traditional Polynesian games and sports. Test your strength in a friendly tug-of-war competition or see if you can master the art of spear throwing like the ancient Polynesian warriors. These activities provide a glimpse into the physical prowess and skills that were an integral part of daily life in Polynesia.

For those seeking a more relaxed experience, take part in workshops where you can learn traditional Polynesian crafts. Try your hand at weaving coconut leaves into intricate baskets or learn the art of making beautiful floral leis. Under the guidance of skilled instructors, you'll discover the patience and precision required to create these exquisite works of art.

Don't miss the fascinating demonstrations that take place throughout the day. From the art of firewalking to the intricate process of tapa cloth making, you'll witness firsthand the dedication and expertise required to master these ancient practices. Feel free to ask questions and engage with the demonstrators, as they are passionate about sharing their knowledge and preserving these traditional arts.

The interactive activities and demonstrations at the Polynesian Cultural Center provide a hands-on experience that allows you to connect with the culture on a deeper level. Whether you're participating in games, creating crafts, or observing skilled artisans in action, these activities offer a memorable and enriching experience.

Educational Programs and Workshops

Beyond the captivating performances and interactive activities, the Polynesian Cultural Center also offers a range of educational programs and workshops that provide a deeper understanding of Polynesian culture.

For those seeking a more in-depth experience, consider enrolling in the center's educational programs. These immersive programs offer hands-on learning opportunities where you can delve into various aspects of Polynesian culture, such as traditional dance, music, language, or even traditional navigation techniques. Led by knowledgeable instructors, these programs provide a comprehensive and engaging way to learn about the history, customs, and traditions of Polynesia.

In addition to the educational programs, the center also hosts a variety of workshops where you can learn specific skills or crafts. From ukulele lessons to hula dancing workshops, these sessions provide a chance to learn directly from talented instructors and gain new insights into the cultural practices of Polynesia.

Whether you're a student, a lifelong learner, or simply curious about the Polynesian culture, the educational programs and workshops at the Polynesian Cultural Center offer a unique opportunity to deepen your knowledge and appreciation for this vibrant heritage.

Behind the Scenes: The Staff and Operations

Behind the captivating performances and immersive experiences at the Polynesian Cultural Center is a dedicated team of staff and an intricate operation that brings everything to life.

The center's staff is comprised of individuals from the Polynesian island nations, each sharing their unique cultural knowledge and passion for their heritage. From the knowledgeable guides who lead the village tours to the talented performers who bring the music and dances to life, every staff member plays a crucial role in creating an authentic and memorable experience for visitors.

Behind the scenes, there is a hive of activity that ensures the smooth operation of the Polynesian Cultural Center. From the meticulous planning of the daily schedule to the coordination of performances and activities, a dedicated team works tirelessly to ensure that every visitor has a seamless and enjoyable experience.

In addition to preserving and sharing Polynesian culture, the Polynesian Cultural Center also serves as an educational institution for students from the nearby Brigham Young University-Hawaii. Many of the center's staff members are students who have the unique opportunity to gain real-world experience while contributing to the preservation of their cultural heritage.

It is the collective effort and passion of the staff and the commitment to excellence in operations that make the Polynesian Cultural Center an exceptional destination where visitors can truly immerse themselves in the spirit of Polynesia.

Preserving Polynesian Culture: Sustainability Efforts

Polynesian Cook Islanders dance in a cultural show

Beyond its role as a captivating tourist destination, the Polynesian Cultural Center is committed to preserving and promoting Polynesian culture in a sustainable and responsible manner.

The center recognizes the importance of environmental conservation and actively takes measures to minimize its ecological footprint. From energy-efficient practices to waste reduction and recycling initiatives, the center strives to operate in an environmentally conscious manner. They have implemented measures such as utilizing solar energy, reducing water consumption, and promoting sustainable transportation options.

In addition to environmental sustainability, the Polynesian Cultural Center is also dedicated to cultural preservation. They work closely with Polynesian communities and experts to ensure that the representations and narratives within the center's exhibits and performances accurately reflect the traditions, customs, and history of each island nation. By engaging local communities and collaborating with cultural practitioners, the center fosters authenticity and respect for Polynesian heritage.

Moreover, the Polynesian Cultural Center actively supports educational initiatives both within its own programs and in the broader community. The center offers scholarships and educational opportunities to students, furthering the understanding and appreciation of Polynesian culture among the younger generation.

By combining sustainable practices, cultural preservation, and educational efforts, the Polynesian Cultural Center not only offers a remarkable visitor experience but also serves as a beacon for the ongoing protection and promotion of Polynesian culture.

A Lasting Impact: The Legacy of the Polynesian Cultural Center

Since its establishment, the Polynesian Cultural Center has left an indelible mark on visitors from all over the world. Its commitment to showcasing the beauty and richness of Polynesian culture has created a lasting impact on individuals, families, and communities.


The Polynesian Cultural Center offers an immersive and unforgettable experience that celebrates the vibrant cultures of Polynesia. Through its cultural villages, traditional arts and crafts, music and dance performances, interactive activities, and educational programs, the center provides a journey into the heart and soul of Polynesian culture. By preserving and promoting this rich heritage, the Polynesian Cultural Center leaves a lasting legacy that inspires appreciation, understanding, and respect for the diverse cultures of Polynesia.

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