Our goal is to save the more touristy type of adventures for when friends and family visit.  And while my mom and stepmom were here, we wanted to attend a luau.  I’m sort of a research nut, so I drove myself crazy deciphering the reviews, prices, and descriptions.  But ultimately, we chose the Polynesian Cultural Center because in addition to the luau, we could experience the villages and nighttime show (Ha Breath of Life).  I don’t think we were disappointed!
It was a high surf week on the North Shore, so getting up to the PCC was actually an adventure all on its own.  We experienced a long line of traffic filled with people who were out seeing the swell.  It was tempting to stop and try to grab some good pictures of the waves, but we were already running behind and we wanted to experience as much of the villages as we could.   So although the PCC opens at noon, we didn’t arrive until sometime after 1pm.  The good news is we’ll have plenty to see if we ever decide to return!

Parking cost $8, but we were able to get a good spot close to the entrance.  And as always, we were greeted by friendly and helpful faces.

We actually purchased our tickets 10 days prior because they had a special going on where in addition to the new Samoan luau package, we received 15% off.  Our entire party of seven got in for under $400.  That included the villages, luau dinner and evening show.  I was pretty excited about that price!
So when we arrived, we just had to go to Will Call.

Straight in from the entrance, there was a huge wall of information.  Luckily, we got some pictures because I didn’t get a chance to stop and read it all.

We were starving so we headed right to grab a quick lunch.  Price-wise, I was actually pleasantly surprised.  The food wasn’t amazing, but it could have been worse.

Loved the little tables.

And the birds watched and waited patiently for and scraps.

After lunch, we stopped in the gift shop.  They had a good selection, but as with any gift shop, the prices varied dramatically.  James and I left empty handed, but my mom and Roz grabbed some souvenir jewelry.

I also learned that the kids want to go in on a ukelele together.  The prices in the shop were a little too rich for us, but I’m excited that they’re interested.  I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled elsewhere.

We arrived in the main village area just in time to catch the islands doing their once-daily canoe pageant.  We actually missed Hawaii during the first go-round, but caught them as they paraded around for the finale.

Then we headed over to the Samoan village to watch our first show.  I was so surprised by how entertaining it was!  The entertainers were authentic and so very funny.  This guy below got us warmed up for the main performance.

After he left the stage, vendors walked around selling some sort of Samoan ice cream.  Roz grabbed one for everyone to share.  Of course my kids thought it was just for them, and you can see by Austin’s pouty face that he didn’t feel like he got enough.  We’re always working on graciousness.

I never caught this guy’s name, but we ended up seeing him multiple times throughout our day.  He was hilarious!  Here is he squeezing out coconut milk.

And then we were treated to a coconut-tree-climbing.  I can’t climb a tree with branches, so the fact that this guy did it so lightning fast and without dying is amazing.

After the little presentation, we headed over to the fire-starting area.  I think James was able to make a little smoke.  Not sure about anyone else.

I even got in on the action.  (Huge thanks to my mom & Roz for making sure I was actually in multiple pictures!)

Then my mom & stepmom got in there and tried as well.

Then the kids asked if we could take home these huge coconuts.  Um.  No.

So part of the day’s fun was that the kids got little passports that could be stamped inside of each village.  Once they received four stamps, they could get a little surprise.  So here they are getting their first stamp.

And as we were leaving Samoa, we grabbed a little picture of the kids proudly displaying their newly-stamped passports.

Then we headed to Aotearoa.  The show was already going on, but we were on a time crunch.  We knew that just to see four of the villages, we (unfortunately) couldn’t spend much time in each.  Anyway, when we arrived, we saw that there was this little demonstration going on so the kids (and Nana – my mom) joined in.  They never quite got the hang of it, but tell me Aidan’s smile isn’t fantastic?

Roz ducked in and caught a bit of the show while the rest of us moseyed around.

No idea what this place was, but it was pretty!

We didn’t spend a ton of time in this village, but the kids got their passports stamped by a tour guide. We had a bit of a melt down over it because the stamp was placed incorrectly and Audra was just sure it wouldn’t count.

I have to say that I didn’t particularly love how the villages were handled.  There were quite a few things to see, but if you didn’t time each presentation correctly, there was no one to explain anything to you.  They were all in the show.  I wonder if next time we could plan our visit according to the little shows.  That way we could make the most of each visit.

From Aotearoa, we headed to Fiji.  We were able to get in on this show, and I’m so glad. We learned a lot (that I mostly didn’t retain), and were very entertained.  And we even got to participate with these large stick things.

James was clearly miserable. (Kidding. Not sure what that face was about.)

I loved this guy.  He told us about his childhood (in Fiji) and just had the best disposition.

We were also treated to a few dancers.

And then the dancers came out to pose with the guests.  No, they were not available for shipping back to the mainland. 😉

My mom and Roz headed off to explore the village while we went off in search of the passport stamper.  One of the things I do remember from the presentation was that all of the “buildings” in the PCC village still exist in Fiji – except for this one.  The temple.  When the Christians arrived in Fiji (1800s), they destroyed all of the temples in favor of churches.  Very sad.

On a lighter note, one of the Fijians alerted us to this awesome grass turtle.  Awesome.

After Fiji, we made our way to the Hawaiian village.  My mom & Roz ducked in to watch the show about hula dancing, and the rest of us skipped it to check out the rest of the area.

After getting the kids’ stamps, we saw that we could try our hand at the ukelele.  That seemed perfect since the kids had just expressed interest in buying one.  I didn’t participate (someone had to take the pictures!), but they had a fun time.

I even grabbed a little video of the fun.

Then we walked over to try some ancient Hawaiian games.  They were surprisingly very fun!

And we were all pretty good at rolling the discs!

And Audra and I sat down to play something similar to checkers.  And I swear it was totally by chance – we tied!  Weird.

After the show, my mom & Roz scoped out this cute little rock waterfall.

I saw them and went running (while corralling the kids) because it looked like a perfect place for a group photo.

After that, we started making our way out of the village and stopped to see these expert basket weavers.

But then it was time to make our way to the luau.  We missed out on two villages (Tonga & Tahiti) and we didn’t see everything in the villages we did visit, but there just wasn’t enough time.  PCC offers a discounted extra-day ticket so you can come back, but we figure we’ll get there again at some point with visitors.

And then we got side-tracked (shocker!) by this fabulous waterfall.  So we had to stop for photos.

Love. This. Picture!  Real smiles and EVERYTHING!

But we did finally make it to our luau.

It’s so difficult to know what to expect before you book these things, so I had no idea what the luau might look like.  Then we we arrived and there was this huge long line, we were concerned that we may not get to sit together.  But it became quickly clear that they have this stuff down to a science.

Once seated, they came by to give us each a lei.  Apparently that normally happens when you first enter, but there was a little snag (pun intended) with the bundle of leis.

And thankfully, we were all able to sit together!  James was (of course) behind the camera.

While we waited to be called up to the buffet, we were entertained.  They brought out this roasted pig – although it wasn’t served to us so not sure what they do with it?  The guy on the left was part of the Samoan show earlier in the day.  And it turns out that the host was the same presenter from earlier as well – the one who squeezed out the coconut.

We were called up to the buffet, and I was so excited that the food looked delicious.  I’m not one to be that adventurous when it comes to food (working on it!), but there was only one thing on my plate that I didn’t eat. (The white stuff at 2 o’clock.)  And that roll tasted totally normal, but I learned from a friend that it’s a taro roll.  However, the purple comes from food coloring.  The pulled pork was delicious.  I also had dessert.  Yum.

While we were eating, the entertainers were constantly changing.

And this kid was 13 years old!  It was awesome to watch.

Audra even got to get up and participate in a little hula dancing.  The video was too dark to share.
On our way in, they took this photo of us.  Love it!  (It was available for purchase at the end of dinner.)
The whole luau was enjoyable.  It didn’t feel rushed, the entertainment was fun, and the food was good.  I’d like to go back at some point and experience the other one as well.  We attended the Samoan Luau, but I’d like to see the Hawaiian one as well.
We had some time to kill before the evening show, so we went off to redeem the kid’s passports.  Turned out that they were just cheapy little toys (erasers, plastic animals, etc).  But the kids didn’t mind.  It was all about the process for them.

And then we headed in for the Ha Breath of Life show.  Because we purchased the luau package, we had “preferred” seating.  But honestly, I can’t imagine any of the seats would be undesirable.  And my rule-following self had a little giggle when the ushers made some of the guests return to their purchased seats.  They had moved after seeing empty spots in the closer/middle area.  Nope.  There was none of that allowed.  They also are very serious about their no-photography rule.  Anytime someone brought out their phones or cameras, there was an usher there lickety-split.

But I still grabbed a few pre-show images.


And I know, I know.  It was totally not allowed, but as the actors were coming out at the very end, I had to grab this shot.  It sort of captures the magic of the evening.  The show was really really good.

As we were perusing the gift shop tent, this guy came out.  I hated to be the 95th person to ask for a picture, but he was a huge part of our day.  From the Samoan village to the luau to finishing off the evening show with an amazing fire dancing performance, we saw him a LOT.  And he was awesome. He totally walked out of the place barefoot, and as we were all headed to our vehicles, he chatted with my mom about the Colts and the playoffs in general.  So cool.

So it turned out to be a great day – not that we were expecting anything different!  I wish we had gotten there a bit sooner (but at least the drive was enjoyable!), and I wish the villages had been organized a bit differently, but it’s a great place to visit.  And it’s definitely built for a multi-day tour.  We went into it knowing we wouldn’t be able to see all of the villages, and I think that’s the best way to approach the day.  That way you can enjoy the things you do see.  I absolutely recommend checking out this place!  I’m sure we’ll end up at another luau at some point, and it will be fun to see the differences.  But for our first experience, this was a total win!

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