The Polynesian Culture Center is betting $38 million dollars on a renovation it hopes will give visitors a reason to return on their Hawaii vacation. It also hopes the five-year project will attract locals to shops and shows, in addition to the spruced-up cultural theme park.

The PCC is the top paid attraction on Oahu. Since 1963, it has employed students at Brigham Young University-Hawaii in villages that re-create the cultures of the Polynesian islands, including Hawaii. For most visitors, a visit to the PCC was a one-time experience, something to cross off the “list of things to do” while in Hawaii. Many locals happily sent their visitors to the park but did not go themselves (or admit it if they did). That started to change with a stage show Ha: Breath of Life. Locals enjoyed the show and recommended it to friends.

Another recent change is the addition of inter-active elements to the villages. Visitors can prepare their own food in an umu (above ground oven) that they helped to build in the Samoan village. The activities are being added gradually, those already underway include Hawaiian quilt-making and coconut tree climbing. While I cringe at the title “Go Native!,“ I’m sure the hands-on activities are popular with families. Future activities will allow guests to paddle an outrigger canoe, dye their own pareau (sarong) or witness a traditional Tahitian wedding ceremony.

The construction project builds on these approaches, renovating the restaurant facilities and stocking them with food from the Pacific Islands. Something called the “Hawaiian Journey” will be a 4D experience in the Hukilau Theater. The news release says it is unlike anything currently offered in the Hawaiian Islands. By next summer, the Polynesian Market Place will offer goods from throughout Polynesia, including a ukulele factory, handicrafts, fresh fruit and vegetables. Best of all for those of us who live here, admission to the marketplace will be free to the public.

Photos provided by: Polynesian Cultural Center

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