Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Venue Review: Polynesian Cultural Center

It’s all About Ohana at the Polynesian Cultural Center

Realizing that I would lose an entire day of my trip to paradise has kept me from visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center for years.  However, it got to the point that I had to ask myself, “Why?”.  Why would I consider visiting a place so full of history and island culture a waste of my time when I highly value ohana (family/home)?  Silly and wrong thinking.  I am so glad I finally made the commitment of a single day, because I found the experience to be an enrichment of the soul and exciting to boot.  It is definitely not a waste of an entire day. 

Getting there isn’t easy

Unless staying on the north end of Oahu, getting to the cultural center takes time.  It takes over an hour to reach the Polynesian Cultural Center from Waikiki.  Much of this is on a busy highway that has more than a few potholes.

But then again, don’t most of our highways need repair?  I’ll save that last comment for another article. 

Arrive early, but not hungry

It’s best not to dawdle when you arrive.  We made the mistake of stopping at the Pounder’s Restaurant for coconut crème pie (Yummy!).  As amazing as this was, it cost us time in the park and you’ll need every second of your time to see every show. 

The park is separated into different islands: Aotearoa (home of the Māori), Fiji, Hawai’i, Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga.  The peoples of each “island” present a traditional performance—usually a dance and lecture every 30 minutes or so. 

Unfortunately, we missed the Islands of Hawai’i presentation.  As wonderful and enjoyable the remainder of the shows were, I can only imagine this one is as well. 

Please watch these snippets of three shows I recorded to share with you. 

Are those people dancing on those boats?

Of all the performances in the park, the Canoe Pageant is the one to see.   Dancers from each island perform traditional dances atop a canoe, more of a raft, which is guided down the river that flows through the center of the park.  The pageant is narrated so guest learn even more about each of the Polynesian culture.  It was fascinating and something I will remember fondly.  I mean really, what could be better than large rafts topped with energetic dancers?  Well, perhaps it could be watching the unique play, Hā; The Breath of Life.

Hā; The Breath of Life

As wonderful as I imagined the play to be, I still wasn’t sold on sitting for 90 minutes at night after a long day of exploring.  To be honest, I thought I would want fall asleep soon after my behind hit the bench.  But, no.  There was no possible way anyone could sleep though this lively performance. 

Over 100 performers of each Polynesian island perform in this beautifully acted play.  The story revolves around a couple who flee their island as a volcano erupts.  Luckily, they arrive at an island just in time for the wife to give birth.  Friendly villagers—played by Tongans—take them in and offer them a home.  From this point, we watch the boy grow into a man, fall in love, fight off intruders and finally have a child of his own.  Each scene is played by a different island people.  I LOVED it!

The audience wasn’t allowed to record any of the Hā; The Breath of Life performance.  However, there are several YouTube videos available that share portions of this unique show.  Have a peek:  

Why the fluttering hands?

While I enjoyed exploring and learning about each culture, I had a nagging question while watching the energetic and prolific Maori dancers.  During their dances, they flutter their hands quickly.  I knew it meant something, but wasn’t sure what that “something” is.  Luckily, we have Google and Bing to aid us in circumstances such as these.  Evidently, the fluttering hands symbolize shimmering waters, heat waves or breezes depending on the dance.  Makes sense! 

  • Arrive early and skip dining before entering the park.
  • Take the “Island Canoe Ride” to the end of the park to begin your journey.
  • There is more to each island than the performances.  Please check out their website for more information about what you will find. 
What are your experiences?