The Polynesian Cultural Center allows you to experience Hawaii in context, along with sister islands like Tahiti and Samoa. A new hands-on activity demonstrates how to cook traditional Samoan foods in an umu — an above ground oven. Guests are invited to help build the oven, then to prepare and cook traditional foods such as talo (taro) and ulu (breadfruit).

The activity begins at noon each day with fire building. Large logs are placed in a square with river rocks inside in the shape of a pyramid. Tinder is lit to heat the rocks. While the rocks are heating, guests may help to skin the taro and breadfruit or scrape coconut meat out of shells. When the rocks are hot, they are flattened out and the food is placed on top, then covered with large leaves and burlap bags to seal in the heat. After the “Rainbows of Paradise” canoe pageant at 3 pm, the umu is opened so guests can taste the food they helped to make.

Know before you go:

The PCC opens about noon (except Sunday), so this activity would be a good way to start the day. You will want to arrive by then anyway, as demonstrations pause for the canoe pageant and most of the villages close at 5 pm for the luau and evening show. Since the PCC is a drive across the island from Waikiki hotels, it is a good idea to make this the only activity for the day. There is a lunch BBQ and snack stands sell sandwiches inside the park area. A less expensive lunch option is to visit the Laie Shopping Center before you enter the PCC but it is about a quarter of a mile away. There is a McDonalds across the parking lot but it was very crowded the day we visited.

Prices for admission to the PCC villages begin at about $50 (adult), $36 (child) — which does NOT include transportation or food — and increase as you add the various luau packages, buffet dinner or fine dining and/or the evening show. There are many different ticket options for those who wish to spend only part of an afternoon or evening. However, the combination of the ticket price and travel time makes a quick visit less appealing.

The best information about transportation is on the PCC website. It outlines the various tour options you may add to the price of admission and explains the city bus option. Parking is $8 if you drive yourself. The PCC is located in a beautiful area of Oahu’s north shore, so it is a good opportunity to see a different part of the island no matter how you get there.

About PCC:

PCC describes itself as a “cultural theme park.” It is a re-creation that demonstrates the culture, customs and crafts of Polynesia, including Hawaii. The performers in the villages, luau and evening show are students at nearby Brigham Young University-Hawaii. PCC says it has provided financial assistance to more than 17,000 students from more than 70 different countries while they were enrolled at BYU-H. PCC is closed on Sundays and there is no alcohol allowed any time.

Photo provided by the Polynesian Cultural Center.


  1. We went to PCC last year when we were on Oahu (cant wait to get back).
    I only got a quick ride in the canoe and a look at a few villages as we didn't get there until just before closing. I would recommend getting there at noon as there is so much to see and do in the villages. Lots of traditional buildings, weapons and just the way of life.

    I also recommend the Luau and the Breathe of Fire show…. it was very well done.
    We went there after we left the hustle and bustle of Waikiki for last 3 nights of our stay, we were at Turtle Bay Resort which didnt seem like to far a drive.
    I think anyone who only see's Waikiki and not the head to the North Shore is really missing out!
    We also went Kualoa Ranch while we were up that way (ATV movie tour was great)
    Definately recommend hiring a car to check out all the other spots around the North Shore, and if you try and upgrade sometimes you get a better car cheap because they need it out of the lot. We got a SS Camaro fairly cheap.

    Wow rambling …. can you tell i LOVE Hawaii! haha

    Cya from Australia

  2. Thanks for the comments. My daughter and her husband visited PCC, taking in the luau and "Ha" evening show. They were really impressed by "Ha". They took a PCC bus up from Waikiki, which stopped to let people take pictures several times. It was a nice way to get to the North Shore and include an island mini-tour, but it was also the only thing they did that day.

  3. Looking forward to visiting PCC this summer and watching the the new show "HA"…heard it was fantastic! Will probably have a tasty lunch at the shrimp truck in Haleiwa before PCC.

  4. Great article and tips that will come in very handy for an upcoming visit with my family to our favorite destination, Hawaiian Islands, of course.  Have visited The Polynesian Cultural Center several times and find it a very enjoyable, educational and worthwhile activity.  Always learn new information about Hawaiian and Polynesian culture.  A great experience all the way around.  Thank you for sharing your insights.

  5. I think you missed the most important fact in your list of things you should "know before you go" to the PCC". According to their website the PCC was set up by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as a support for the church and as an employment option for students attending their faith based school. The immediate consequence of this is that alcohol and caffeinated sodas/hot drinks aren't available which was touched on. The hidden consequence is that some of your tourist dollars are going into the Mormon Church.
    Last year this church used somewhere between 20 and 40 million tax free dollars in a political campaign aimed at removing rights from same sex couples in California.
    I think it is important that people have a right to know that their tourist dollars are going to fund a divisive and proselytizing religious organisation before they spend them.

  6. Hi, I posted a comment about Cindy's article on the PCC but it has not been published – just wondering why and why no feed back. 

  7. Hi Brian. We just missed your earlier comment, thanks for bringing it to our attention. The link between the PCC and the LDS church is quite clearly stated on their website. In fact, one of the activities offered at the PCC is a visit to the adjacent Mormon temple. There is no attempt to mislead anyone or to conceal the connection. If the activities of the church are offensive to you, there are many other luaus and activities to choose from on Oahu or the other islands of Hawaii.

  8. The link on the PCC web site is far from clear. Plus I never said they are offensive. They proselytize and actively discriminate against gays and lesbians, something lots of groups do – I just think people should know where their tourist dollars are going. I'm sure most people would still decide to go along. I'd just like to see it being an informed decision.

  9. The LDS church is no more discriminating of "gays/lesbians" than any other religion (many religions, and cultures) that believe in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. They just happen to be really smart, and efficient in their campaign efforts to support traditional family life, and believe it to be a worthy endeavor, as such they have reached out and collaborated efforts with others who share their values.
    The PCC does serve coffee and caffeinated drinks, and that is clearly stated on their website. I would venture to say that the money you spend on your visit to PCC is supporting and paying for the 42 acre attraction, and giving "student jobs" to local students. It is worth noting that not all students of BYU-H are mormon. The tram ride to the Mormon temple visitors center is simply an invitation and/or an option during your visit. The purpose of the PCC is to share the culture of Polynesia, not to proselyte for the Mormon church. They don't have their missionaries at the PCC.

  10. I disagree as I personally think that the LDS are more discriminating than other religions – but I'm glad that you at least agree that they are discriminatory. (If you want to look further into this you could investigate proposition 8 on the net or simply read the employment policies publicised on the PCC web site  – no gays, no beards, no tattoo's, etc.) Why support someone who discriminates?
    Coffee and caffeine drinks are available but only if you ask as they displayed/advertised.
    I'm sure some of the estimated US$30M per year profit does go back into the complex just as I am sure that some also goes into the church to help fund their tax free hate campaigns.
    All students attending BYU-H are required to attend the mormon church while they are at school. And yes, I agree that there is no proselytizing done  at the PCC.
     The church of jesus christ of latter day saints are free to discriminate against whomever they want and do whatever they want with their money. All I have been saying is that people should be made aware of where their tourist dollars are going before they spend them. The religious association with the PCC should be highlighted, not tucked away in the small print on their web site and ignored completely in articles such as your own.

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