We finally went to the Polynesian Cultural Center while my mom was visiting. The center is dedicated to showing off the culture of the many islands in the Polynesian Triangle, including Hawaii. This is a huge place and it gets great reviews. Everyone says to go when it opens, because this is a full day experience.
I have to admit that we were somewhat disappointed. Part of the problem was that we arrived a few minutes before it opened, and several hours before the tour buses arrived. We entered and wandered around, feeling very lost for a while. Most of the employees were unprepared and unwilling to interact with us until the bigger, money making groups arrived. We could not find an open food stand, or even a bottle of water.
However, once the groups arrived, we started to have a better time. The landscaping here is truly beautiful.
The buildings are all copies from the islands, and some were very pretty.
At each island area, there are cultural exhibits, and several traditional games or activities to participate in. These activities are great for children. I was concerned that Crumpet would be too shy to play, but he joined in at most of the events.
This was a stick tossing game from New Zealand:
Hawaiian checkers. Crumpet beat Dad (with a little help from me):
Trying to make fire (the stick got hot, but fortunately no fire started..):
Fishing for little fish with bread lures... We almost caught a hungry duck:
Crumpet Sr. did some dancing to traditional music. I missed this because I was in the bathroom with Crumpet, but fortunately, my mom got proof!
Crumpet got several warrior tattoos. He is a huge fan of tattoos right now, and loved these. Big meltdown when they came off in the pool the next day...
Children are given a passport when they arrive at the cultural center and they get stamps for each area and activity that they visit. Crumpet got all of the stamps in the book, and was quite proud. (Warning: They give a prize to the kids at the end of the day for filling up the book. Crumpet couldn't wait for his prize, but it turned out to be the cheapest plastic lei I've ever seen. He didn't even take it. So disappointing - I think that the entrance fee could have paid for a nicer prize...)
We saw some moai statues from Easter Island. This was neat because we studied the island not too long ago.
This was a house from Easter Island. It was kept low to the ground to keep it safe from the winds.
We saw replicas of old sailing vessels:
And we watched a bit of the very pretty canoe pageant with canoes decorated to represent all of the islands:
The cultural center also has a luau at the end of the day, but we skipped that. It doesn't get great reviews, and we took my mom to a luau at our favorite beach the night before... There is also a show in the evening which does get great reviews , but we plan to do that another time. We were pretty tired after a day of exploring.
Interestingly, the Polynesian Cultural Center is run by the Mormons here. There are quite a few of them that have settled in La'ie, the town where the center is located. They established a college many years ago, and created the Polynesian Cultural Center as a place for students to work and earn money for school. We took a little trolley ride out to the college's visitor center to learn about the history of Mormons here. It was interesting, and they didn't try too hard to convert us...
We really did have a good time, once we found our way around. If you only had a week or two in Hawaii and wanted to get a feel for the culture and history of the Polynesian Islands, this would be a good place to go.
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