In November 2021, I went to Hawaii for the first time since the pandemic started, and I also went to the Polynesian Cultural Center for the first time in about two and a half years.
According to the information I gathered in advance, I had the impression that the scale was shrinking due to the influence of the pandemic, such as limiting the number of visitors and suspending the package with the tour guide.
So, I was a little worried, but when I actually went there, it seemed that the Polynesian Cultural Center was well adapted to the pandemic, or rather it was even more evolved than before.
This time, I will tell you how the Polynesian Cultural Center changed during the pandemic, so please use it as a reference for your next trip to Hawaii.
- What was NOT there
- More sophisticated Luau
- Better Food
- Evolving Night Show
- Supplementing Tour Guides
1. What was NOT there
Anyways, before we get in to the main topic, let me just mention below what was NOT there as of November 2021.
- HUKI the Canoe Show
- Packages with Tour Guides
- Hawaiian Journey Theater
- Some of the snack bars
“HUKI” the Canoe Show
Unfortunately, the canoe pageant “HUKI” that was held everyday at 14:30 is on hold at the moment.
Instead, I think it’s good to go around Hukilau Marketplace or have lunch at the “Pounder’s Restaurant” that I will talk about later.
Packages with Tour Guide
Currently, the 4 packages below are offered, and the only package with a tour guide is the “Exclusive Super Ambassador Luau Package“.
- Exclusive Super Ambassador Luau Package
- Exclusive Ali’i Luau Package
- Islands of Polynesia & HA: Breath of Life Package
- Exclusive Gateway Buffet Package
Packages other than the “Exclusive Super Ambassador Luau Package” do not come with a tour guide, so you will have to navigate and explore inside the park yourself.
Now, let’s move on to the main topics.
2. More Sophisticated Luau
The first thing that surprised me was the change in Ali’i Luau. The theme of the whole luau has been renewed, and the food has become more diverse and delicious.
Previously, performances were performed in a variety of music and dances from the islands of Polynesia, but the new version, named “Onipa’a”, is a tribute to Queen Liliuokalani throughout.
In other words, it is composed entirely of Hawaiian music and hula.
On the other hand, the dances and fire knife dances of other Polynesian islands show a larger scale than the luau at the night show “HA: Breath of Life”.
When we were guided to our seats, there was a pamphlet introducing the contents of the luau.
As a composer, Liliuokalani has left many songs, and the songs she wrote will be performed.
Of course, one of her masterpieces, “Aloha ‘Oe” too.
In addition to playing the music of Liliuokalani, there is also a ceremony to welcome Liliuokalani to the venue, and the walls that surround us were full of pictures of Liliuokalani and her family, so the theme of the entire luau is clear.
By the way, “Onipa’a”, which means “Steadfastness” in English, was her motto.
It’s just a personal impression, but as a luau, the new version is more sophisticated, and with the luau’s performance becoming Hawaiian music and hula, I think that the night show can be enjoyed with a fresher feeling than before.
3. Better Food
Regarding cooking, the chef who was originally at the Pounder’s Restaurant at Hukilau Marketplace has just been assigned as the head of the food services in the entire PCC. As a result, the food at Ali’i Luau and Gateway Restaurant has become even better.
I actually had the meal at Ali’i Luau.
Personally, the tuna poke and the Pipi Kaula have clearly improved, and there were more dishes than before.
There is a new carving station where the chef cuts fish and meat on the spot.
Also, pina colada in a pineapple bowl was distributed to everyone for free.
This is also a very good deal as this particular drink was previously sold at $10, separately from the regular menu.
The straw stuck in it is made of bamboo and you can take them home with you too.
The food at the Pounder’s Restaurant at the Hukilau Marketplace, which is adjacent to the PCC, has also been improved.
It seems that the change has been made after the appointment of a new master chef.
This is Graham Elliot, the new master chef.
As many of you may know, he is the owner of the two-star restaurant Graham Elliot Bistro.
And so far, he’s been a judge on popular cooking shows such as FOX TV’s Master Chef and Emmy’s winner Top Chef.
Here are some of the dishes you can enjoy at the Pounders Restaurant.
The mahi mahi on the salad was seasoned like Japanese food, and the combination of the crispy outside of the fish and the thick sauce was quite amazing.
Ahi Poke Nachos with spicy mayonnaise already sounds good, right? It was special with the taro chips and the pineapple on it. That’s a lot of “Hawaii” in a single dish.
Hawaiian mango pizza is a gem that combines plenty of cheese and salty bacon with the refreshing sweetness of mango.
This char siu pork chop is covered with mango salsa, and below is a purple sweet potato mashed potato. Bok choy also feels like Chinese food.
Not only was it delicious to eat, but it also looked beautiful, and there were many “unique” dishes that used plenty of Hawaiian and Polynesian ingredients.
The occasional East Asian flavor also makes me feel like Hawaii, which has accepted many Asian immigrants.
Many people use it for lunch before going to PCC, so please check it out.
4. Evolving Night Show
Next, there was a slight change in the night show “HA Breath of Life”.
Female Fire Knife Dancers
First of all, the fire knife dance, which can be said to be the most exciting part of the night show, was accompanied by some female dancers.
They were taught by their father and cousin brothers who are fire knife dancers. This is also “Polynesian culture”, isn’t it?
Easier to Follow the Show
Another minor change is that the country name and subtitle are now displayed on the monitors on both sides of the stage when each performance of the show begins.
They play the growth of the main character Mana through music and dance from various countries, but it is easier to follow the story because it is displayed as follows.
The story itself is universal and simple, but it’s a change that makes it even easier to understand.
5. Supplementing Tour Guides
As I mentioned at the beginning, the only package with a tour guide is the “Exclusive Super Ambassador Luau Package“, so unless you purchase this particular package, you have to make plans and navigate the park yourself.
However, the villagers in the park talked to us and showed us the time of shows and activities and what we can enjoy in real time.
You can also use the official app to see the start times of presentations and activities in each village.
They are trying to make up for the part that the tour guide was responsible for in other ways as much as possible, so that they can enjoy it as much as possible without the tour guide.
So, how was it?
The impact of the pandemic, which began in 2020, was also significant for the PCC, forcing it to close for about 10 months from March 2020 to January 2021.
As I introduced at the beginning, there are still some things that seem to be dormant, but the other parts are wonderful, and I didn’t care about the ones that were dormant.
I was very impressed by the strength of his PCC, which continues to evolve beyond the sea.
Experience the Polynesian Cultural Center on your next trip to Hawaii, where you can get in touch with Polynesia and learn more about Hawaii.