Polynesian Cultural Center – A Popular Hawaiian Tourist Destination
If you are planning a visit to O’ahu, Hawaii, and are in love with island culture, including all things Tiki, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Polynesian Cultural Center. This museum located on 42 acres of land opened in 1963 and is dedicated to displaying the local history and traditional culture from Hawaii as well as other islands in the Pacific Ocean.
PCC is owned by Bringham Young University-Hawaii, and many of the performers you’ll see during your visit are student there. The center was founded after lu’au and hukilau gatherings held on the beach during the 1940s and 1950s to raise money to rebuild a local chapel that had burnt to the ground. A luau is a large Hawaiian feast, and hukilau is a traditional way of fishing. A popular song during this era, “The Hukilau Song” performed by Alfred Apaka, was actually written following a visit to one of these events.
The Center is also known as the originator of the ‘shaka’ sign, made by extending both the thumb and the little finger. Known worldwide as a Hawaiian symbol, it was created as a greeting by Hamana Kalili, a local leader who was missing three fingers on his right hand. Kalili provided nets that were used for the first hukilau event, which led to the founding of the Polynesian Cultural Center.
Today, the Polynesian Cultural Center is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the islands. During a visit to the Center, you can observe traditional activities performed by various cultures in the Pacific Ocean. Frequent luaus offer visitors the chance to sample Polynesian fare such as pork cooked in an underground oven. PCC is also the venue for the World Fire Knife Dance Competition, a unique annual event in which contestants dance with flaming swords. Other shows held at the Polynesian Cultural Center include the Ha-Breath of Life, a show combining multiple Polynesian cultures into one event. The largest Polynesian performance in the world, it features the traditional cultures from many different islands, including the Hula and other islands’ songs and dances.
The setting of the PCC is known for its lagoon and canoe ride led by a tour guide. The lagoon is also the setting for the PCC “canoe pageant” known as Rainbows of Paradise. In this event, a parade of canoes showcases dances originating from each of the islands in Polynesia. During the autumn season, take a “haunted canoe ride” through the lagoon.
In addition to these events, which showcase a variety of Polynesian cultures, there are also events and exhibits for each of the major Polynesian islands and cultures. Re-created traditional villages are shown from the islands of Hawaii, Samoa, Aotearoa (the traditional name for New Zealand, home of the Maori people), Fiji, Tahiti, Tonga, and Marquesas. There is also an exhibit dedicated to Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, home of the giant stone heads known as Moai. Special events held yearly to celebrate the cultures of Polynesia include ‘Christmas in Polynesia,’ the Moanikeala Hula Festival, and Te Mahana Hiro?a O Tahiti, a Tahitian dance festival.