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Polynesian Cultural Center

The Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) is a living museum located in Laie, on the northern part of the island.  Dedicated on October 12, 1963, the PCC is located on 42 acres of land owned by nearby Brigham Young University–Hawai’i, where most of the 700 employees are enrolled as students. Although it is largely a commercial venture, profits from the PCC are applied to various scholarship programs run by BYU–Hawai’i.

Many performers at the center are students attending BYU–Hawai’i on scholarship from their native lands, working up to 20 hours per week during school terms and full time during breaks in order to graduate debt-free. The money which visitors pay for admission, as well as profits from food and gift sales, supports the scholarship programs which have educated thousands of students over the years. Visitors are invited to take bus tours of the university to “see where your money is going,” and to see the Laie Hawai’i Temple visitor center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the church that owns BYU–Hawai’i and the PCC.

The center has its roots in the hukilau and luau gatherings on the beach in the 1940s and 1950s to earn money to rebuild a local chapel belonging to the LDS Church, which had been destroyed in a fire. “The Hukilau Song,” made famous by Alfred Apaka, was written following the composer and song’s original singer, Jack Owens, The Cruising Crooner’s visit to Lāʻie’s hukilau.

The PCC is considered to be one of the most widely visited tourist destinations in Hawai’i. In recent years, it’s become Hawai’i's number one paid attraction. Visitors are able to observe cultural activities by the peoples who inhabit the islands of the Central and South Pacific Ocean. The Polynesian Cultural Center is the venue for the annual World Fire Knife Dance Competition, in which contestants display their skill with blazing swords.

PCC staff will proudly flash the famous shaka sign to visitors who offer it to them. This sign, made by extending thumb and little finger, was a unique greeting in Lāʻie, a representation of Hamana Kalili, a local leader who had lost three fingers from his right hand in an industrial accident. While this sign is now known worldwide as a Hawaiian tradition, PCC considers itself the rightful heir of the tradition, as Kalili provided the nets used for that first public hukilau, which was direct ancestor to the Polynesian Cultural Center.

The PCC is best known for its multicultural Polynesian show, Hā–Breath of Life, which is the largest performance of its kind in the world. The show features the many different songs and dances of Polynesia: Hula, tamure, otea, titi torea, haka, poi, meke, tauʻolunga, and Taualuga. This is the latest show of its kind at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Past shows include “This is Polynesia”, “Mana: The Spirit of Our People.”, and Horizons: Where the Sea Meets the Sky.

The park has its own IMAX theater as well as a lagoon where visitors can take canoe rides from one end of the park to the other accompanied by a native tour-guide.

The Lagoon is also home to the PCC’s colorful canoe pageant, “Rainbows of Paradise” a “parade” of canoes that showcases the signature dances of each of the island groups represented at the park. Rainbows of Paradise was preceded by two similar shows in the past: “This is Polynesia,” a showcase of the many different cultures and “Ancient Legends of Polynesia” a musical drama of the many myths and legends of ancient Polynesia.

Each of the major Polynesian island groups has its own area of the park centered on a re-created traditional village. Hourly performances and cultural learning experiences take place in these villages, and visitors are allowed free rein throughout the park. Each of the following has its own village:  Hawai’i, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Tahiti, Marquesas, Aotearoa (New Zealand.)

In addition to the villages, the PCC has a special exhibit dedicated to Rapa Nui (Easter Island or Isla de Pascua) and a tribute to the 1850s mission once run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Visitors may participate in a luʻau or Luau, such as the Aliʻi Luʻau (“Royal Feast”), which offers traditional Polynesian fare, including pork cooked in an imu (an underground oven). They are also invited to observe the cooked pig being removed from the imu prior to the meal. Due to the abundance of activities at the PCC, the “Free within Three” program grants visitors readmission for three days after their initial visit, as it is impossible to fully enjoy all of the park in a single visit.

Guided tours are also given to people who purchase the Ambassador package. Most of the tour guides are students who are able to speak two languages to assist guests coming from different parts of the world.

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