Located in Laie, on the northern shore of Oahu, the Polynesian Cultural Center (or PCC) is a unique attraction among the sand and surf of the Hawaiian Islands. This 42-acre living museum treats visitors to some of the most interactive and educational interpretations of life in the South Pacific as a means to educate the public about these important cultures.
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Polynesian Cultural Center History
Owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the LDS or Mormon Church) the PCC was initially founded with the co-mission of educating the public about the cultures of the South Pacific and providing jobs and scholarships for local students at Brigham Young University-Hawaii campus in Laie. Indeed, the LDS Church has a long and rich history in the South Pacific dating back to their early missions to Tahiti in the 1840s. Throughout that time, LDS members have continually lived among, preached to, and grown to love and respect the Polynesian people and their rich cultural heritage.
LDS Church leaders long envisioned building a temple in the South Pacific as a launch point for other missions. The LDS Church already owned a 6,000-acre plantation that is today Laie, HI and began to build its Temple in 1915. Soon after, the burgeoning cosmopolitan vibe in Laie prompted young church leader, David O. McKay to call for the subsequent construction of a school of higher education. This dream was finally realized in 1955 when construction was completed on what was then called the Church College of Hawaii. This school, which has since been renamed Brigham Young University-Hawaii, was the catalyst for the building of the PCC.
The roots of the Polynesian Cultural Center go back to the same leaders who initially envisioned BYU-Hawaii. Namely, a young man by the name of Matthew Cowley hoped that his love for the Maori people of New Zealand would one day be translated to the center at Laie. He said that he hoped, “to see the day when my Maori people down there in New Zealand will have a little village there at Laie with a beautiful carved house…the Tongans will have a village too, and the Tahitians and Samoans and all those islanders of the sea.” It is from this vision that the PPC was created over forty years later, in 1963.
Prior to the formal construction of the PPC, members of the Laie Temple and the students at BYU-Hawaii had already been developing programs designed to educate visitors to the Hawaiian Islands about the native people of the South Pacific. The tradition of hukilau, for example, a fishing festival followed by a traditional luau feast, had been practiced in Laie since the 1940s and drew in people by the busloads from nearby Honolulu. In addition, a song and dance production called Polynesian Panorama was developed by BYU students and performed to standing room only crowds in Waikiki.
Church leaders recognized the potential to take these ideas and reshape them for both the purposes of raising funds and employing BYU students as well as honoring the cultures they so deeply admired. Over 100 “labor missionaries” came to Hawaii begin construction of the PPC which formally opened to the public on October 12, 1963. Since then, decades of expansion has taken the original 12-acre site and expanded it to an impressive 42-acre complex complete with IMAX Theatre and seven different “villages” dedicated to the different island cultures and nations of the South Pacific: Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, the Marquesas Islands, and New Zealand.
Polynesian Cultural Center: The Main Attraction
Part amusement park, part living historical museum, the main attraction of the PPC for many visitors is the chance to experience authentic Hawaii and other Islands of the Pacific. This is a very family-oriented area that caters to kids of all ages with performances, activities, educational opportunities, and shows. Some of the most popular attractions include tree climbing, a canoe race, spear throwing, canoe tours, and interactive shows at each of the seven villages.
In addition, those looking for a really unique experience can choose to stay for the evening and participate in what has been voted the Most Authentic Luau in Hawaii. The Ali’i Luau includes the traditional bestowing of the lei upon entrance, authentic island food such as Kalua pig and poke salmon, as well as traditional Hawaiian entertainment. In keeping with the family-centered theme of the PPC as well as the teachings of the LDS Church, no alcohol is allowed at the PPC or the Ali’i Luau.
Why the Polynesian Cultural Center is a Must-See
For those who are travelling to Hawaii for more than just sun bathing, the chance to really experience the culture of these islands and others like it is priceless. The work done by the LDS church over the last 150+ years positions them as the perfect ambassadors to these island cultures and allows those still unaware of their beauty the chance to experience it in a warm, inviting environment.
Where to Buy It
There are a number of ways you can enjoy admission to this attraction.
Pay Full Price and purchase a ticket from Polynesian Cultural Center either online or in person.
Purchase a Tourist pass. The Polynesian Cultural Center is available on the Go Oahu Card.