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Yelp Elite Event: Polynesian Cultural Center

This past Saturday, February 20, 2016, Yelp invited Oahu’s Elite Yelpers on a Polynesian Cultural Center “Road Trip”, an all day and night excursion that would turn out to be an EPIC Yelp Elite Event!

It began at 12:30pm at the Kapiolani Community College (KCC) main parking lot, where everyone converged to catch two plush Roberts Hawaii motor coaches that ferried us all the way to the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie on the North Shore of Oahu. Thankfully traffic heading that way was for the most part flowing normally. We were worried the large surf that’s been rolling in this past week further down at Sunset Beach and Haleiwa was going to cause major back-ups on Kam Highway, but it wasn’t the case.

Upon arrival, we were given our PCC tickets for admission into the main gate and Ha: Breath of Life show, comp’d by PCC for all Elite Yelpers and their +1 guests. Nice!

Emi Hart, Yelp Honolulu’s Community Director also gave us a scavenger hunt work sheet, check listing a bunch of eateries and other attractions offering all the Elite Yelpers complimentary samples. Sweet!

While I would have liked to try all the food in the scavenger hunt, honestly, I did not have ANY appetite whatsoever when I first got there and throughout the afternoon, mainly because I think I was more excited in SEEING everything PCC had to offer than eating my way through it. On top of that, I really wanted to save my appetite for dinner at Pounders Restaurant. Had I eaten even half of what was on that list, I guarantee I’d hardly take a bite of my dinner.

Now other fellow Elite Yelpers who left Yelp reviews of this event mentioned they haven’t been here for a long while, however for me? This was the VERY FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE I’ve ever stepped a foot within the Polynesian Cultural Center grounds, and I was born and raised here on Oahu.

And it’s not because I never had opportunities to visit here in the past, because I have. Many times. However avoided PCC due to what I’ll explain next.

I honestly assumed PCC was going to be a mostly cheesy tourist trap on Jurassic Park scale. Was I right in that assumption? Yes in the obvious ways, such as some of the stores in the marketplace and totally rehearsed and “sanitized’ demonstrations, however in essence, NO, I was wrong.

All the workers there — who many are students at BYU — are the GENUINE REAL DEAL, and you can tell they truly have a passion for the culture they represent while working there and performing and greeting visitors.

The main grounds where the waterway is of course landscaped to the T, reminding you this is indeed a 100% fabricated visitor attraction, and not the “real deal”. However unless you have the resources to visit each of the Pacific islands PCC represents on your own, this is by far THE BEST PLACE you’re going to get all that under “one roof” within one entire day of your time committed to exploring it.

And exploration and commitment is certainly the name of the game at PCC, as you need to put on your “curiosity hat”, and go through each exhibit and sit through each performance and demonstration to truly get EVERYTHING PCC has to offer. And there really is A LOT. It’s a VERY EDUCATIONAL & IMMERSIVE experience.

Not only educational and immersive, but PCC is of course very ENTERTAINING, with some of the demonstrations being as good as a stand-up comedy routine on the Comedy Channel, mixed with some Polynesian culture added to the mix, making it SUPER FUN ‘n COOL.

The dinner served at Pounders Restaurant was overall FANTASTIC, and was the perfect energy boost to get us all through the 2 hour HA: Breath of Life show that would round out our very long and EPIC Yelp Elite Event day and night (a long one!) at this very special PCC YEE.

I thought after eating dinner that I’d pass out “Kanak’ Attack” style in the middle of the performance at Ha, but NOPE. I was ON MY FEET the entire show, mesmerized and entranced by every segment of Ha. It starts slowly, yet builds in suspense and new styles of dance and performances that span the entire Polynesian region through every segment.  Ha touches every emotion, from anger (even at times violent), humor and suspense, to forgiveness and love. It will take you for a ride that will surprise you, and only get’s better as the show progresses. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

As soon a the Ha: Breath of Life show ended (and using the lua if needed) everyone headed back to the buses for the long 1 hour and 20 minute night time ride back to KCC, returning there at 10:40pm.

Huge, huge mahalos to Emi and her assistant Shelley for bringing all us Elite Yelpers along for the ride to Laie. I really appreciate all you do! And also of course HUGE mahalos to the Polynesian Cultural Center for the Aloha in letting us local Yelpers come and see what you’re all about. It would be safe to say, all us YELPERS ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT!!!!

Following are photos I’ve captured (unless otherwise noted) from this Polynesian Cultural Center Yelp Elite Event. Enjoy. ;-)

Elite Yelpers departed on two Roberts Hawaii motor coaches from KCC near Diamond Head at 12:30pm

Pomai, all excited for the day ahead at PCC… his very first time visiting there!

Elite Yelpers Jarrett and Anna upon arrival at PCC

Two fellow Elite Yelpers with Pomai upon arrival at PCC

Yelp Elite group photo at the entrance to PCC’s Hukilau Marketplace (I’m not in there because I was the one behind the camera for this shot; Emi has one with me in it)

PCC greeter Pane with Pomai at the main entrance (super friendly guy, as is EVERYONE working there!)

Elite Yelpers Auntie Nadine, Shelley and Jules about to “ack” like tourists at PCC

Poi Boy Dogs were offering free samples of Panekeke (the Samoan version of Andagi) as part of Yelp’s scavenger hunt

Elite Yelpers Taryn and Zara about to enjoy Poi Boy Hot Dogs @ PCC’s Hukilau

“Aunties BBQ” Poi Boy Dog

“Volcano” Poi Boy Dog

Panekeke (Samoan version of Okinawan Andagi) from Poi Boy Dogs @ Hukilau Marketplace. Image source: Jules Y. @ Yelp

Emi H. and Pomai S. “acking” like tourists @ PCC YEE (Polynesian Cultural Center Yelp Elite Event), at the Hukilau Marketplace ~ 2.20.16

Emi Hart’s lovely, very “kolohe” (rascal) mom, Jay with NFL New Orleans Saint Linebacker Hao’oli Kikaha @ PCC’s Hukilau Marketplace

Emi’s mom Jay with Shellley T., a Yelp intern who assisted Emi with this event @ PCC’s Hukilau Marketplace

Island Breeze Shave Ice Truck @ PCC’s Hukilau Marketplace

Island Breeze Banana & Strawberry Shave Ice with Haupia Sauce

Elite Yelpers Brigit and Lesley chillin’ at PCC’s Hukilau Marketplace with complimentary Shave Ice from Island Breeze

Elite Yelper Matt B. with his lovely wife Rachel at Delice Crepes Hawaii  @ PCC’s Hukilau Marketplace

The offerings (complimentary for Yelp Elites!) from Delice Crepes Hawaii  @ PCC’s Hukilau Marketplace

A Hawaiian spear fisherman near the main gate to the Polynesian Cultural Center island villages

This giant Polynesian Cultural Center village guide shows how it focuses on 6 main regions: Samoa, Aotearoa (Maori/New Zealand), Fiji, Hawaii, Tahiti and Tonga

King Kamehameha the I (or II, I don’t know; as there was another one!)

PCC’s Aotearoa (Maori) Village curator

PCC’s Aotearoa (Maori) Village curator with Pomai

Aotearoa Tititorea singe stick throw game

Poi Toa, or Poi throwing is an Aotearoa Maori exercise and game

Iosepa twin-hulled Hawaiian voyaging canoe (massive like the Hokule’a)

Iosepa twin-hulled Hawaiian voyaging canoe (massive like the Hokule’a)

Presentation on ancient Hawaiian maritime navigation techniques and routes at the hale (house) of the Iosepa twin-hulled Hawaiian Voyaging Canoe

Leisurely canoe rides are included with every village entrance pass

Canoe ride passing by the Rapanui exhibit to the left

(Yet another) King Kamehameha (notice I’m unknowingly stepping on The King’s toes… OUCH!!! YIKES!)

Tongan dancers

Tunoa Samoan Kitchen demonstration, where they sacrifice live roosters…. nah, j/k, they show how peel and prepare coconut and taro

We’ve all seen Samoan rock walls fronting and/or surrounding folks homes, right? Well, introducing the latest in “green” construction materials technology: the Samoan Coconut Fence! Braddah, isha’ goo’ one! LOL!!!

fijian warriors

Jedi Master Yoda tags along for a stroll through the Polynesian Cultural Center, something’s he’s been doing on his annual vacation to Hawaii for the last 900 years lol

Rapanui (Easter Island) exhibit entrance

Rapanui (Easter Island) exhibit

Rapanui (Easter Island) exhibit

Wetland Taro patch (Kalo)… I envision lots of Palusami, Laulau and Squid Luau with them Kalo leaves!

Solid Koa tapa artis sculpture in the foyer of the PCC Museum

Solid Koa Poi Pounder sculpture in the foyer of the PCC museum

Pounders Restaurant (front entrance, facing makai; Pounders is open to the public, PCC admission not required, so if you’re driving around the island, this is a great option to stop for lunch or dinner!)

Pounders Restaurant couldn’t fit our entire Yelp group outside to dine together, so some of us were split up into private booths inside the restaurant, where I joined Matt B. and his lovely wife Rachel for dinner… super cool couple! That’s Emi Hart also joining us for this photo op. 

Pounders Restaurant @ PCC’s Hukilau Cafe (open to the public) Smoked Marlin Dip with Taro Chips

Pounders Restaurant @ PCC’s Hukilau Cafe (open to the public) Organic Nalo Greens Salad

Pounders Restaurant Surf & Turf dinner entree with mash potatoes and steamed veggies

Pounders Restaurant Surf & Turf dinner entree with mash potatoes and steamed veggies

Pounders Restaurant Surf & Turf’s steak was grilled to RARE/MEDIUM RARE PERFECTION, wonderfully tasty ‘n tender, while it was topped with a sort of Mint-Chili Pepper “pesto” that was pretty dang SPICY hot

If “Surf and Turf” didn’t sound like your bag, the second of two dinner entree options at Pounders Restaurant was Kalbi (shown above), which from what I’ve heard from those who chose it that night, was AWESOME. Braised until fork tender, with a deep and authentic Korean Kalbi flavor. Photo source: Traci T. @ Yelp

Pacific Theater at the entrance of PCC, home of the HA: Breath of Life show. Note, photography and video is strictly forbidden during the performance… if “Abdula Fata’ai” catches you, look out, you HAD IT! lol 

Ha: Breath of Life Mana Lani dance. Photo courtesy of Ha: Breath of Life media kit

There’s many more photos coming, so please check back again later... Fa’afetai tele, talofa and CHEEEEEE-HOOOOOOOO!!!!!! lol


13 thoughts on “Yelp Elite Event: Polynesian Cultural Center

  • February 23, 2016 at 4:04 am

    Pomai, a few years ago my cousins and friends went to Polynesian Cultural

    Center by Da Bus .  Instead of taking tour bus for they wanted to see local

    way to get there.  It took a nice route and they saw mom and pop business

    along the way.  The bus was A/C so not bad of ride there. They enjoyed

    the show and mostly food there for it so well made.

    • February 23, 2016 at 7:22 am

      Pomai – see the email I sent to you!   Funny cause I was going to call you to see if

      you had been here recently.   Sarah wants to go and I do not want to drive home at

      night!   GREAT Post – I have been here and this is sooooo accurate,  GREAT post!

    • February 23, 2016 at 7:32 am


      I use The Bus on occasion to and/or from work, jumping on the #19 and 20 route, which goes from Waikiki, through downtown Honolulu to the Arizona Memorial. That said, the “demographic” on those bus routes are typically mostly tourists, mixed with a few folks who work downtown. So in a sense, it feels “kinda” like you’re on a tour bus! Sometimes even smelling like coconut sun tan lotion. lol

      I remember during my intermediate school years when I used The Bus a lot, we’d sometimes on the weekend jump on the “Circle Island” route just to take a cruise around the North Shore. Not bad for what was then 25 cents for bus fare. At $2.50 now for adults, that’s still a pretty good deal, all things considered.

  • February 23, 2016 at 7:22 am

    Many people think Polynesian Cultural Center is just for tourists to enjoyed.

    I saw it when I was little with school field trip there and free to all public

    school that time.  Had lot of fun there and saw many polynesian culturals

    so different yet still close to each .   Have a Chinese friend from Fiji so

    sweet a person and life style still more relax there.

    • February 23, 2016 at 7:40 am


      My elementary school never did take us to PCC for an excursion. The nearest I can think of that we did was Camp Erdman way past Laie, out at the end of Waialua. I remember being VERY afraid of the legendary “Limu Lady” coming out of the sea to haunt us in our cabins. lol

      As you know, Fiji just got hit with a very powerful cyclone (hurricane) that caused a lot of damage and so far 17 dead.

      The folks at  PCC’s Fijian village, like all the others, were so nice.


  • February 23, 2016 at 11:36 am


    I am surprised this is the first time you’ve ever visited PCC! I have been visiting PCC since 1978 and have seen many many changes over the years as it keeps getting better and more interactive. Pounder restaurant and Hukilau Marketplace are new. There use to be an all-you-can-eat-buffet of beef and crab legs, two different launch plus a small restaurant inside at main entrance. Sounds like you arrived after the parade of canoes pagent which is always a lot of fun. The Yelp check list had a lot of items for you in the villages to do but it also had you visiting the new marketplace for food. That is what Yelp is all about so it makes sense however in order to get the full PCC experience you have to arrive before 12 noon when they first open, walk through all eight villages, see the I-Max movie, parade of canoe pagent, do the canoe ride through villages, attend the luau, shop the marketplace and see Hawaii nighttime show and had lunch somewhere when you first arrived. I take all my mainland visitors to PCC for the day and they all enjoy it. I get an annual membership card so parking is free along with entry to PCC. There are a lot of events to attend throughout the year.


    • February 23, 2016 at 11:41 am

      Should be “two different luaus” and “see Ha nighttime show”

      • February 23, 2016 at 11:48 am

        Hi Ken,

        What is the cost for the annual membership card?

        Also is the drive back to HNL at night an easy one.   About 2 years ago, I went with some friends and it rained coming back.   It was so hard to even see the road.  Is that better now?



        • February 23, 2016 at 6:25 pm

          Aloha @ Donna T
          As for the ride back to HNL depends on how you go back because driving time is about the same H3 or H2. The difference I think is the rain you might hit and police radar traps. Windward Side there is always rain showers but on North Shore and Central Oahu you will find less rain showers but there are sometimes police radar traps for tourists and military.
          I live in God’s country the Leeward Side which we get very little rain mostly all sunny days and leave our windows open most all year except when it gets winter nighttime cold so I am always driving back via North Shore and central Oahu even when I have mainland guests staying in Waikiki Beach.
          I normally wait till the Kama’aina Annual Pass goes on sale which it is now on sale. Here is the info you requested and also you can join the Ohana Club for FREE which has additional specials: http://www.polynesia.com/Ohana-Club-Info.html#.Vs0qiXb2bL8
          The Kama’aina Annual Pass provides participating Hawai’i residents with many benefits when visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center, including:
          •Unlimited gate admission to the Center for one year from date of purchase.
          •Access to all activities in the Center’s seven island villages and Easter Island exhibit, and the Rainbows of Paradise canoe pageant on the Center’s freshwater lagoon.
          •Free seating, based on space-availability, to the Hā: Breath of Life show.
          •Annual Pass holders also receive a 20% discount for up to 4 non-Kama’aina guests, when visiting with the PCC with their guests.
          •Free admission to selected special events.
          •A free subscription to the PCC e-newsletter which will keep you informed of upcoming special events and offers.
          •Discounts at our gift shops.
          •Special discounted rates on lunch and dinner.
          Adult: Normally: $57.95 On Sale:  $28.96      Child: Normally: $47.75 On Sale: $23.86
          TO PURCHASE AN ANNUAL PASS, please call (808) 293-3333
           Important Notice:
          Hawaii Residents Only. Proof of Hawai’i residency is required.
          To receive information about the Annual Pass program, please contact the Center directly via e-mail at internetrez@polynesia.com, or call 808-293-3333.  Please note that you will be required to provide proof of residency when picking up the pass.
          Pass must be presented at the box office along with a valid Hawaii State identification.  Pass is valid for pass holder only and is non-transferrable.  Lost or stolen cards will not be replaced.  Active membership is valid for  twelve (12) months. 

          • March 1, 2016 at 1:13 am

            Hi Ken,

            Much much thanks for the detailed information on the routes and The Annual Pass Including the extra info on purchasing etc.   Ii is all really appreciated as it has been so long since i went there on my own that i needed to know all of that!.

            Thanks esp too on the tips re driving via N Shore/Central (police radar…!!) as we are going there tomorrow to hopefully see the surf.  My granddaughter was sick for a few days so put off PCC till another trip

            You have been a great resource and wealth of info.  MAHALO.


    • February 23, 2016 at 1:17 pm


      I agree, we should have departed KCC at 10:30am, so we get there at noon. Being we left at 12:30pm and didn’t get there until 1:45pm, I really felt crunched for time exploring that HUGE venue, and make the 5:30pm dinner time at Pounders Restaurant.

      That extra 2 hours would given enough spare time to complete the entire Yelp scavenger hunt checklist, with enough extra time to REALLY explore the various island villages and their full demonstrations.

      My guess is either Emi couldn’t book buses to go out there any earlier than noon, or she just didn’t want to wake us Yelpers up that “early” on a Saturday morning… and don’t talk to me about waking up early, blah, blah, blah, Mr. Retiree. LOL

      Because this was my first time at PCC, I was more anxious to get inside the village and check everything out vs. go through the Scavenger Hunt check list. Which even then, I didn’t really see and/or experience EVERYTHING in the village. Add to that, there was a HEAVY downpour around 2:30pm that lasted about 10 minutes or so, further eating into visit time.

      All in all, I had a BLAST, and would highly recommend anyone — including locals — who hasn’t been to the PCC yet or in a while, to go check it out. Trust me, it is time (and money if you pay) WELL spent! 5 Palusami Musubi!

      • February 23, 2016 at 7:18 pm

        You are basically on the Windward Coast and it always has a short shower every time I’ve been at PCC so I keep an umbrella and 4 ea. rain jackets in the car. That means you really need to go back and spend a full day there especially in the villages talking with the students about their homeland, traditions and cuisine. You’ll be totally amazed and learn so much about Polynesia you didn’t know! Actually you should get a Kama’aina Annual Pass while they are on sale as it pays for itself in parking and entrance fees then you can roam throughout the year as you wish. The ability to offer up to 4 of your non-Kama’aina visitor/guests a 20% discount on daily ticket at any level is a great deal! I normally go straight for the Ambassador ticket for mainland visitors because it includes a guided tour by a personal guide, select seating at parade of canoes pageant, in villages, shows, luxury most authentic luau on Oahu, Ha show with ice cream intermission dessert, printed show guide and video DVD.
        As for waking up on a Saturday morning, I always do the same thing because I did my time in the office and on the road, wake up at 6 am and roll over to go back to sleep!! I only get out of bed if I have something scheduled other than that I might sleep to 9 am before I get up and decide if I cook breakfast or go out for breakfast which means shower, shave and etc., etc.,. You’ll never understand how hard you have to work being retired in Honolulu, HI with all that goes on each day to fill up your time plus all the restaurants to visit and all the beautiful ladies to meet. It’s rough out there and somebody has to do it so I volunteered to save you!!! So far all the ladies love my new designer kitchen and they go wild over my $6,300 Toto hands free do everything for you toilet.

  • February 24, 2016 at 10:52 am


    Hi Ken,

    What is the cost for the annual membership card?

    Also is the drive back to HNL at night an easy one.   About 2 years ago, I went with some friends and it rained coming back.   It was so hard to even see the road.  Is that better now?




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