Matinee shows & daytime activities

Since October 1963, the Polynesian Cultural Center has offered visitors a rich array of experiences that regularly include meeting islanders in their respective villages, each also providing a unique schedule of daily activities.

In addition, over the years the Center has offered a wide variety of special daytime shows, activities, and events. A few were daily,and others were annual. Many are now part of our history, but some continue until now, and all are dear to their respective alumni. The following list describes some of these that were more visitor-oriented:

the Polynesian feast

the Center’s first major food service, started on July 4, 1964, in the Samoan chief’s house. Guests sat on mats on the floor and enjoyed authentic Polynesian food prepared by the villagers. (By early 1966 the Center opened its dining venue and served the Hibiscus Buffet there.)

the canoe pageant

The canoe pageant began in the summer of 1966, and was eventually given the name Pageant of the Long Canoes. (The pageant has undergone many changes since then. The most recent iteration, Huki, has not been restarted since the COVID-19 pandemic shut-down.)

the island fashion show

By August 1987, PCC maintenance workers created a small canoe landing at each village, where the respective villagers would stand to serenade the final canoe of each afternoon. 

annual cultural celebrations

Within the first few years, each village begins holding an “annual cultural celebration” that included special entertainment and exhibits and often included special invited guests. (This activity continues, but has become more employee and community focused.)

the 1970s

  • In the early 1970s the Center, along with BYU–Hawaii, began entering joint floats, the PCC/BYU–Hawaii Brass Band, and marching units in the September Aloha Week Parade in Waikiki. (More floats were created over coming years, perhaps “pinnacling” with a spectacular award-winning 50th-anniversaryfloat in Salt Lake City, Utah’s Days of ’47 parade on July 24, 2013.
  • At the recommendation of Norm Nielsen, a former BYU Program Bureau performer and manager who was sent to Laie to help at Church College of Hawaii and the Polynesian Cultural Center in the early 1970s, the Center began its free optional Laie Tour on October 5, 1972, that goes through Laie to the Temple Visitors’ Bureau and the front of Brigham Young University. (The tour still operates and is very popular.)
  • A new opening matinee, Music makers of Polynesia, started in July 1977. (We’ve lost track of when this discontinued, but some old-timers think it became the Fiafia Festival, which was held in the Hale Aloha. The concepts have more recently been incorporated into the Huki canoe pageant.)

the 1980s

  • In the early 1980s, when the Center opened at 10 a.m., the Villages welcomed early-arriving guests with a short Morning Sunrise program that included a few songs, greetings from each respective group, and a flag-raising ceremony — usually held in either the Samoan or Maori Village (because of their spacious malae and proximity to the entrance).
  • Also in the 1980s, Center villagers sang traditional farewell songs to guests on the final canoe tour rides of the afternoon . . . AND the PCC/BYU–Hawaii Brass Band marched through the Villages in the Sunset Parade, stopping in each one to play at least one number. They also encouraged guests to join the parade, while available villagers waved the flags of their respective island nations. The parade passed by the main entrance plaze, and ended up at the gazebo near the Pacific Theater where they played a half-hour concert.

the 1990s

  • In November 1990, the Center sneak-previewed its first large-format film — think IMAX™-size, Polynesian Odyssey, in what is now called the Hawaiian Journey Theater. (The theater, which officially opened on January 18, 1991, has since been updated and currently features another of the Center’s own films, Hawaiian Journey.  [NOTE: IMAX™ is a registered trademark, and while the “brand” is incorrectly used to describe all large-format films, early on the Center decided not to include its two “large” films in their program.)
  • In probably its largest and longest-running special event, the Center began a series of special events with the first Samoan World Fireknife Championship, from a concept by Pulefano Galea’i. (The annual competition is still going more than 30 years later, and now also includes the Saturday morning “We Are Samoa” high school cultural arts festival.
  • The Center invited a special group of Fijian firewalkers to perform in Laie in November 1993. (This was a one-shot event.)
  • In February 1994, the Tjapukai Australian aborigenes dance group from Kuranda (near Cairns, Queensland) performed in a special appearance at the Center. (They were another one-shot marketing experiment event.)
  • From July 30 to August 11, 1994, the Center featured a visiting group from Tahiti and a dance competition in its Black Pearl Festival (which continued for several more years, and was then phased out). The Tahitian event was renamed Te Mahana Hiro’a, and for a number of years was formatted as a Tahitian dance competition (held over the years in the Hale Kuai and Pacific Theater venues. More recently, the competition was moved to the Tahitian Village as a night-time activity (since discontinued).

the 2000s

  • On February 14, 2003, as part of its 40th anniversary, the Center moved the Ali’i Luau into the recently renovated Hale Aloha, culminating the dream Uncle David Hannemann had long held of turning the venue into a dinner-theater.
  • The Center launched a series of live concerts, the first on June 25, 2011 featuring the young pop group, Allstar Weekend. (Other concerts continue to be scheduled intermittently.)
  • The Center, in partnership with the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame, opened an exhibit in the Welcome Center near the entrance on January 24, 2015. (The PFHoF usually holds an annual induction event at the Center in January of each year. Football fans get to mingle with those honored.)
  • The Center’s new Hukilau Marketplace — featuring souvenirs, food options, and entertainment — held a “soft-opening” at the entrance on February 20, 2015. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, then Second Counselor in the First Presidency, officially dedicated the Marketplace on August 29, 2015. (It remains a very popular place.)