Although never a recognized country, Polynesia was once considered the largest nation on Earth, with the island nations in the Polynesian Triangle all tracing their roots to the same ancestral homeland and connected by language and lore. You can experience many of these cultures at the famous Polynesian Cultural Center, set on the North Shore of Oahu. Explore some of the eight island village exhibitions; discover Maori facial tattoos, experience the “ha,” or breath of life, and how it helps connect all cultures across the Polynesian chain; enjoy a canoe tour; and stay for an evening luau.
The Polynesian Cultural Center features distinct exhibition areas covering the islands of Hawaii, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga, and Rapa Nui (Easter island). Book full-day admission tickets for full access to the site, a dinner experience with a luau option, and the thrilling “Ha: Breath of Life” night show, or half-day afternoon tickets for access to one island village, dinner, and the night show. Many travelers also visit as part of a circle island tour of Oahu, which may also stop at other notable sites such as Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, or the Dole Plantation.
Things to Know Before You Go
- All major areas are wheelchair accessible, and American Sign Language interpreters are available for most shows. Wheelchairs and scooters can be rented on site for an additional fee.
- A number of gift shops and restaurants are set throughout the park, including the main Hukilau Marketplace.
- A limited number of foreign language tours are offered starting at $25.
- Lockers are available on a first-come, first-served basis and run from $5 to $15.
- While cameras are welcome around the site, photos and video are not allowed during the “Ha: Breath of Life” show.
How to Get There
The Polynesian Cultural Center is set in the North Shore town of Laie, about 38 miles (61 kilometers) or one hour from Waikiki Beach in Honolulu by road. Most travelers drive independently or choose a tour that includes round-trip transportation. Free parking is available on site.
When to Get There
The Polynesian Cultural Center is open Monday to Saturday from 11:45am to 9pm. The island villages are open from 12-5:30pm, and canoe rides are available until 6pm. Dining begins at 5:30pm and the evening show, “Ha: Breath of Life,” runs from 7:30 to 9pm. Because the center offers so many activities, it’s best to plan what you’d like to see and allot your time accordingly.
Visiting as Part of a Circle Island Tour
Because the Polynesian Cultural Center is open in the afternoon, many full-day circle island tours spend the morning visiting sites on Oahu’s east and north shores such as Waimea Bay and the Halona Blowhole before arriving at the center around noon. If you’d like to experience the nighttime events including dinner and the show, choose an extended circle island tour that includes the evening entertainment.