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Home » Hawaii Travel Tips » Best Things to Do » Ultimate Guide for Families at the Polynesian Cultural Center

Ultimate Guide for Families at the Polynesian Cultural Center

Are you looking for things to do on Oahu with kids? Keep scrolling for my top tips and tricks for exploring the Polynesian Cultural Center, which is a top North Shore Oahu attraction.

Are you looking for things to do with kids in Oahu? Check out the Polynesian Cultural Center!

The Polynesian Cultural Center is one of the most popular family activities in Oahu. It’s Hawaii’s number one paid attraction, and it has been around for 55 years! This living museum offers a rich educational experience that delves into the heart of Polynesian culture.

In this post, I will discuss our experiences and offer my best tips and tricks for visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center with kids of all ages. You’ll learn why the Polynesian Cultural Center is worth it and how you can capture stunning photos to cherish these memories.

You won’t find another activity like it on the island – not only is it a great way to spend your day but also an incredible experience you can have every day of your life. From the moment you arrive, you’ll be immersed in the tropical splendor of the simulated tropical villages representing different Pacific islands.

Skilled artisans and performers demonstrate various arts, offering an authentic glimpse into the indigenous language and traditions.

Come explore what makes the Polynesian Cultural Center so special! Enjoy the royal feast at the luau experience, participate in traditional hands-on activities, and watch the fantastic production of the Ha: Breath of Life show. Plus, take advantage of the free shuttle tour from Waikiki for a hassle-free visit.

There’s a reason why this is one of the best attractions in North Shore Hawaii! Keep scrolling for my ultimate guide to the Polynesian Cultural Center Oahu!

Keep scrolling for my ultimate guide to the Polynesian Center on Oahu!

Don’t want to read? THIS is the best ticket package to book!

Don’t have time to read a bunch of Hawaii blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Oahu with kids.

Best Kid-Friendly Oahu Tours/Activities

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Polynesian Cultural Center FAQs

Where is the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu?

The Polynesian Cultural Center is located in the small North Shore town of Laie. Their address is 55-370 Kamehameha Hwy. Laie, Hawaii 96762. It’s one of the most popular things to do in North Shore, Hawaii.

Does the Polynesian Cultural Center have parking?

Yes, there is plenty of parking at the Polynesian Cultural Center, and it’s totally free. Near the entrance, there is handicapped parking, and there are even charging stations for electric vehicles.

Is there a Polynesian Cultural Center military discount?

Yes! You can get a military discount for the Polynesian Cultural Center HERE.

What is the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii?

The Polynesian Cultural Center is a top Oahu attraction for families to learn more about Polynesian culture.

Laie, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. - January 09, 2020: Polynesian Cultural Center. Monumental gate into the park with brown giant aboriginal statues. People and green vegetation under blue sky.
Entrance to the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu.

This is the premier Hawaiian cultural center on Oahu. They offer interactive presentations, traditional hands-on activities, a luau, and even a theatrical evening show. Plus, they have stores and restaurants.

It is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon church). They employ students from Brigham Young University Hawaii. Most of these students are from Polynesian islands and this is a way for them to earn money for school.

How Much Does it Cost to Get into the Polynesian Cultural Center?

There are a few different Polynesian Cultural Center tickets you can purchase.

If you just want to explore the villages, you can get the Islands of Polynesia package. This does not include any food or evening shows, but it’s a great way to check out this Hawaii Polynesian Culture Center.

There’s also the exclusive Gateway Buffett package (which is my top pick for families)! This includes a buffet dinner and the Ha: Breath of Life Show. Plus, you’ll be able to explore all the villages.

If you want a Polynesian Cultural Center luau package, there are two options. The Ali’i Luau Package offers a luau dinner, tickets to the Ha: Breath of Life Show, a fresh flower lei, and access to the villages.

The Super Ambassador Luau Package offers premier seating for both the Luau and Ha: Breath of Life Show, a kukui nut lei, and a reserved canoe ride. Plus, you’ll get a guided Polynesian Cultural Center tour of all the villages.

These packages sell out quickly, so book several months in advance.

Is There a Polynesian Cultural Center Shuttle?

Yes! You can purchase tickets for the PCC Shuttle if you stay in Waikiki.

When is the Best Time to Visit the Polynesian Cultural Center?

You’ll definitely want to schedule the Polynesian Cultural Center for a day when you have nothing else booked. It’s an all-day activity.

Otherwise, it’s one of the best North Shore Oahu activities any time of the year.

What to Expect at the Polynesian Cultural Center in North Shore Oahu

Hukilau Marketplace on Oahu’s North Shore

One of the first things you’ll see at the Polynesian Cultural Center is the Hukilau Marketplace.

The Hukilau Marketplace is a North Shore Oahu attraction. Image of the Hukilau Marketplace sign and Pounders Restaurant.
Hukilau Marketplace Entrance. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

This shopping and dining center was designed to look like what the North Shore was like back in Hawaii’s Golden Age of the 1950s. They have sit-down restaurants, food trucks, and several shops.

It’s totally free to enjoy this section of the Polynesian Cultural Center, so it makes a nice stop on a drive around Oahu.

FOOD OPTIONS IN LAIE, OAHU

There are tons of tasty food options at the Hukilau Marketplace. And many of them are the ultimate Instagram background because they are so cute and colorful!

You can get shave ice at the Hukilau Marketplace at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Image of two boys eating rainbow shave ice.
Shave Ice at the Hukilau Marketplace. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung
  • Pounders (farm fresh island style dining)
  • Elephant Shack (Thai food)
  • Sweet As Ice Cream (New Zealand-style ice cream)
  • Beachside Shave Ice (20 flavors of shave ice)
  • Aunty Emily’s Polynesian Bakery
  • Elsie’s Smoothie Shack
  • Kiwi Style Fish and Chips (New Zealand-style food)
  • Guadalajara Grill (Mexican food)
  • Delice Crepes (from Tahiti)
  • Hale Pop’s (gourmet hot dogs)
  • So’Da Bomb (the first soda truck on Oahu)
  • Tita’s Grill (plate lunch)
  • Tutu’s Sweet Shop (tasty desserts)

NORTH SHORE SHOPPING

The Hukilau Marketplace is also an up-and-coming shopping destination. They also offer live music and dancing daily. They even hold special events like outdoor movies.

Shopping options include:

  • Goo’s Plantation Store
  • Hapa Home
  • Nona’s Tropical Threads
  • Kap Culture & Art Gallery
  • Amusement Ink (airbrushed tattoos)
  • Hukilau Salon
  • Magic Memories (photo service)
  • Pukana La Creations
  • Na Hoku (fine Hawaiian jewelry)
  • Pearl Factory
  • Polynesian Wood Carving
  • Tahitian Treasures

LAIE IS HOME OF THE “SHAKA”

Has someone told you to “hang loose?” Hamana Kalili of Laie, HI, originated the unique hand sign now called the Shaka while working on the sugar mill railroad.

It’s when you extend your thumb and little finger and curl the other three fingers into your palm.

The Shaka has since gone global, spread by surfers, Hawaii residents, millions of visitors, and even U.S. President Obama, who grew up in Honolulu.

JOSEPH KEKUKU STATUE

Do you know that twangy sound in classic Hawaiian songs? That’s Joseph Kekuku’s work. He was born in Laie, HI, and invented the Hawaiian steel guitar as a boy. Then, he traveled the world sharing Hawaiian music through his Hawaiian steel guitar.

Image of a boy sitting next to a statue of a man playing the steel guitar.
Joseph Kekuku Statue at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

He’s one of the reasons Hawaiian music became a global sensation! So it makes sense that his statue would be at a Hawaii cultural center.

Polynesian Villages + Activities

The Polynesian Cultural Center focuses on six main Polynesian cultures in the Pacific Islands: Hawaiian, Tahitian, Samoan, Tongan, Fijian, and Maori (New Zealand.)

Each culture is featured in an Island Village with traditional hands-on activities for kids and cultural demonstrations. These activities run from noon to 6 p.m. every day.

DAILY SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

When you arrive at the Polynesian Cultural Center, grab a little pocket program. This includes the daily schedule of events, presentation times, and optional activities.

Image of a kid holding up a program with Tahitian pictures on it at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Oahu.
Polynesian Cultural Center Program. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

We usually grab a couple so that our kids can help decide where we go and navigate around the property.

They also have an app you can download.

CULTURAL PRESENTATIONS

Each village offers cultural presentations throughout the day. It’s important to check your program so you don’t miss these.

Image of a crowd of tourists watching a Samoan man climb a coconut tree in the Samoan Village at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii.
Samoan Village at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Usually, people first stop at the Samoan Village since it’s closest to the entrance and has one of the first cultural presentations.

You’ll see how to make fire the Samoan way, taste traditional Samoan food, and watch people climb up a coconut tree. It’s very impressive, especially for kids!

Each village offers a very different presentation. You can learn how to throw fishing nets and dance hula at the Hawaiian village. The Maori village teaches people how to swing poi balls.

CANOE PAGEANT

Something very unique to the Polynesian Cultural Center is its canoe pageant. It’s one of the most entertaining family activities on Oahu.

Every day, the entire park is invited to the lagoon to watch a Polynesian show on boats. Representatives from each Island culture dance on their canoes as they make their way around the grounds.

It’s a great activity for kids in Oahu, especially if you aren’t sure your kids can sit through a luau. They updated this canoe pageant a few years ago, and it’s even better than ever!

Polynesian Cultural Center Luau Options

If you book a Hawaii Polynesian Cultural Center package, it will include a luau. The Polynesian Cultural Center actually has several different luaus.

Each has a different price point and offers different perks. Each luau takes place in a separate building. I’ll explain them below.

Note: There is NO alcohol anywhere at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Exclusive Super Ambassador Luau Package

This is the most expensive luau package. You’ll get a private guided tour of the villages, premium seating for the Ha: Breath of Life show, a reserved canoe ride, and a kukui nut lei. Plus, you’ll do the Alii Luau buffet with live entertainment.

Exclusive Alii Luau Package

This is the medium-priced luau package. You’ll get luau-level seating for the Ha: Breath of Life show and a flower lei. Plus, you’ll do the Alii Luau buffet with live entertainment. Check latest rates and availability.

Exclusive Gateway Buffet Package

This is the cheapest package and the one I recommend for families. You’ll get the Gateway Buffet dinner with live music and general seating for the Ha: Breath of Life Show. There isn’t any hula dancing, so it’s not technically a luau. Check latest rates and availability.

Ha: Breath of Life Show

One of the coolest things to do at night in Oahu is to experience the Ha: Breath of Life show. It’s a beautiful theatrical performance showing how Polynesians voyaged throughout the islands.

They use cool multimedia presentations throughout the show, which is totally engaging for kids of all ages.

This is NOT a luau, but it features lots of Polynesian dancing and is truly mesmerizing.

Why the Polynesian Cultural Center is a Must on Oahu with Kids

Do I think the Polynesian Cultural Center is one of the best family activities in Oahu? You bet! If you are looking for things to do in Oahu with kids where they won’t be bored, head to the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie.

Let me tell you why it’s one of the top Oahu activities for families.

IT’S BABY-FRIENDLY + TODDLER-FRIENDLY

It can be difficult to find activities on Oahu that accommodate strollers. Thankfully, the paths at the Polynesian Cultural Center and the Hukilau Marketplace are all paved, and stroller parking is available throughout the villages.

It’s also easy to find clean restrooms and various snack stations, which are a must when traveling to Oahu with toddlers and preschoolers!

When we were there with a toddler, he loved watching the cultural presentations, tasting the food samples, and participating in some hands-on activities.

Plus, kids under four years old are completely FREE!

POLYNESIAN FOOD SAMPLES

My kids are pretty obsessed with food, and they are always game to try a food sample. The Polynesian Cultural Center offers opportunities to taste poi, coconut bread, taro, and green bananas.

You can taste lots of Polynesian food at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Oahu. Image of a boy holding a pile of white shaven coconut.
Fresh Coconut at Polynesian Cultural Center. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

You can also try freshly shaven coconut, which is always a bit hit with my boys!

HANDS-ON CRAFTS

If your kids like crafts, they will have a blast with all the activities. The staff is really good about helping younger kids make them.

There are tons of hands on Oahu activities for kids at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Image of a woman weaving a lauhala fish for a boy.
Making a Lauhala Fish at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

One of our favorite crafts at the Polynesian Cultural Center is weaving a lauhala fish. It only takes a few minutes to make, and your kids will play with it the entire trip!

There’s also an opportunity to get temporary tattoos in the New Zealand village, another popular family activity.

You can also do paid activities like stringing a fresh flower lei.

OPPORTUNITIES TO PARTICIPATE

Many of the villages have areas dedicated to teaching guests how to do something the Polynesian way.

You can learn how to make fire in the Samoan Village at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii. Image of a dad and son using sticks to make a fire.
Making Fire at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

My kids love the Samoan village because they learned how to make FIRE! They have a log, short sticks, and coconut husk and you can move the stick really, really fast until it gets hot. Then, you add the coconut husk to start a fire.

So far, the kids have been unsuccessful, but they have a blast trying! It’s one of their favorite activities for kids on Oahu.

There’s also a place to hop into a Tongan canoe and paddle around the lagoon. Or learn how to throw a spear in the Tahitian village.

SNACKS + TREATS

Is there anything worse than when your kids get hungry and start whining on vacation? Thankfully, it’s easy to refuel at the Polynesian Cultural Center!

There are several snack shops at the park with easy grab-and-go food. There are American staples like hot dogs, or you can try a traditional New Zealand meat pie or Hawaiian Spam Musubi.

You can get a fancy pineapple drink at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii. Image of a boy in a stroller holding a fancy pineapple drink.
Pineapple Drink at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

And you can even get a smoothie in a whole pineapple, which always perks my kids up after a long day of walking around.

I suggest grabbing snacks or drinks right before the canoe pageant so you can get energized while watching the show.

Top Tips for Families for the Polynesian Cultural Center Experience

1. Plan on Spending the Entire Day Here

You should start exploring as soon as the villages open at 12:45 p.m. The program is such that you’ll need the entire time to do all the presentations.

I suggest hitting a North Shore food truck or the Hukilau Marketplace for lunch.

Since it will be a long day, I don’t recommend planning a morning activity. Instead, have a more leisurely morning or enjoy a tasty breakfast somewhere.

2. Bring Sunscreen and Bug Spray

While there are some shady places, you’ll spend most of your time out in the direct sunlight. So, make sure everyone wears sunscreen and then pack some to reapply throughout the day.

I also suggest bug spray if you tend to get bitten. There is a stream and some lagoons that sometimes attract bugs. But we haven’t had any issues.

3. Consider Returning the Next Day

Something that a lot of people don’t realize is that you can use your ticket to come back during your trip for FREE. So, if you feel like you didn’t get enough time to do all the villages, you can totally come back.

So, you might want to leave some wiggle room in your schedule if you think this might be a good option for your family.

Note: This is usually a 3-day pass when they are fully operational.

Oahu Polynesian Cultural Center Wrap-Up

As you can see, the Polynesian Cultural Center is one of the top activities in Oahu for kids. Many Polynesian Cultural Center reviews are online, and most will tell you that it’s a must-do Oahu attraction.

Also read: 16 Best Places to Stay in Oahu for Any Budget.

Get your tickets to the Gateway Buffet at the Polynesian Cultural Center HERE.

Looking for more things to do on Oahu with kids? Check out my guides for the Honolulu Zoo, Sea Life Park, Dole Plantation, and Pearl Harbor.

P.S. Join our Hawaii Travel with Kids Facebook group to get connected with other families planning a trip to Hawaii!