When planning a perfect family Oahu Vacation in Hawaii, there is one activity you cannot miss – the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie near Oahu’s North Shore. A quick drive from Honolulu, the Polynesian Cultural Center is not just an education center but the home to 7 individual villages. All of which are a lot of fun for kids and adults alike.
Visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center on Your Family Oahu Vacation
You will need one full day to visit the Polynesian Cultural Center. The center opens Monday through Saturday at Noon and is closed on Sundays. The drive from Honolulu is quick and if you are staying on the North Shore, it is only about 20 minutes away.
We started the day with lunch at Pounders where they serve local farm fresh food, locally raised beef and locally caught seafood. The service was quick and the hearty sized meals kept us going all day long.
Once we entered the Polynesian Cultural Center, we were shocked to see how cool it was. I would describe the initial feeling as slightly Epcot and very Hawaii with a river running through the villages, canoe rides, interactive films about Hawaii and of course the villages themselves.
We started off with a canoe ride to get a lay of the land and loved watching all the activities going on as we passed by each Island. As we disembarked, we headed into our first stop Tahiti. Here, the kids were welcomed with open arms and taught how to make coconut bread, traditional Tahitian dancing and even given a rod and some bait to fish in the river. Charlie came up the winner catching a tiny fish that was promptly returned to the water.
What’s Not to Miss
We realized half way through the day that we needed to keep moving on in order to see everything the Polynesian Cultural Center had to offer. After exploring each village, we compiled this list of do not miss highlights:
- Canoe Pageant: Taking place at 2:30 pm each day, the canoe pageant is simply incredible. Each village is represented as villagers perform local dances and rituals while gliding on the river in canoes. There is humour to lighten up the show but the music and costumes will captivate kids and adults of any age.
- The Island of Aotearoa (New Zealand): Although all the islands have fun activities, Aotearoa is where your kids can really let loose. The activities here are set up in a circle and involve games of all types. A guide will start you off at one game and take you through the entire village. We enjoyed it so much we did the circuit three times. Since returning home, we are still playing one of the games albeit with hockey sticks instead of the traditional wooden rods.
- Tattoos: You will see a lot of authentic Polynesian tattoos at the Polynesian Cultural Center and your kids will want to get in on the fun. Each village has free tattoos. The ink is simply black body paint that dissolves in water. I had no trouble getting the ink off the kids or their clothes.
- Free gifts: There are plenty of people at the Polynesian Cultural Center who spend their days making free gifts for your kids. Simple things like fish toys that cast out and return as well as traditional headbands all made out of palm fronds.
- The Island of Samoa: During the day, catch a show at the Island of Samoa to get your kids prepped for the evening show. Samoans are knows as the happy people and the show incorporates amazing fire knife dances teemed with hilarious story telling.
- Hawaiian Journey Movie Experience: Head into the theatre when you need a break from the sun for a short film about story telling in Hawaii. The film shows you incredible scenery but also has a great message about the people and the land. Your kids will love that the seats spray water and the feeling of flying.
Family Oahu Vacation: Nighttime at the Polynesian Cultural Center
Your family Oahu vacation is not complete until you experience nighttime at the Polynesian Cultural Center. You can kick off with dinner at one of three events. We checked out the most popular offering, the Ali’i Luau. The Luau starts with the removal of a pig from the ground where it has been traditionally roasted and just gets better from there. During the meal, there is plenty of dancing and even some local kids stop by to perform. Dinner is a large buffet with traditional Polynesian foods. We were able to get an allergy list onsite for Charlie’s dairy allergy. All in all, we loved it.
Ha Breath of Life Show
The Polynesian Cultural Center is most known for its incredible evening show: Ha Breath of Life. After dinner, visitors converge to watch an incredible mix of fire dancers, lively battles and Polynesian story telling. The show alone is worth checking out but I would combine it with the previous activities for a perfect day during your family Oahu vacation.