The last time I visited the Polynesian Cultural Center was in 2009, so when an opportunity arose to drive up to Laie and tour the center once more, I readily agreed.
This time, our team was invited to check out the new Hukilau Marketplace by Sharlene, a friend at PCC.
Eriko, Maira, and I were able to attend this time, and—as per Sharlene’s instructions—we came ready to eat!
PCC has grown significantly since my last visit, and in ways I never really expected.
There’s a ton of food
The Hukilau Marketplace exists as a mini-mall for anyone who’s on the North Shore and just wants to hang out in Laie for an afternoon (before heading to an evening luau, presumably).
And they’ve got food.
The biggest feature in this section would be Pounders Restaurant, which serves Hawaiian-fusion dishes made entirely with local ingredients.
Of note is their neapolitan pizza—with toppings such as Kahuku shrimp, poke, and mango—baked in a kiawe wood fired oven. Kids can even order a fully-customizable personal pizza!
Pounders is only a single option when it comes to food, though.
The restaurant is also home to Aunty Emily’s Polynesian Bakery, which serves a variety of baked goods including Haupia bars, guava muffins, and their famous taro rolls.
If Aunty’s doesn’t satisfy your sweet tooth, rest assured that you’ve got options.
Other sweets can be found served at Delice Crepes, a crepe stand that serves French-Polynesian style crepes which are incredibly light and soft.
We had the Tahiti, which was an amazing dessert crepe topped with strawberries and shredded coconut (my favorite!).
There’s also Tutu’s Sweet Shop, featuring a variety of homemade fudge as well as Dole Whip pineapple sorbet, macadamia nuts, cookies, and other snacks.
The Marketplace also features Island Scoops, a small kiosk that serves local flavors of ice cream, and a shave ice stand with all the usual varieties.
As far as “real food” goes, the Marketplace also has a hot dog stand like no other.
Hale Pop’s serves gourmet, foot-long hot dogs.
These things are huge—Costco dogs got nothing on them—and they’re packed with flavor due to the creative toppings Pop’s uses.
Another place that will fill you up is Tita’s Grill, a food truck from Kahuku that is now parked permanently at Hukilau Marketplace.
We got to sample the garlic shrimp, one of the main dishes that made the food truck so popular, and it was exactly what you’d expect from a shrimp truck in Kahuku: amazing.
The food truck now includes more seafood offerings from Sam Choy, including poke bowls.
If you’re attending the evening luau at PCC and don’t want to ruin your appetite, you can still beat the heat with the awesome drinks served at the Marketplace.
Fia Fia Farms serves smoothies and ‘otai. ‘Otai, if you’re unfamiliar, is a Polynesian drink traditionally made of grated fresh fruit mixed with coconut milk and water.
The result is something between juice and a smoothie.
Fia Fia Farms makes their ‘otai with fresh fruits that are locally sourced. There are actually bunches of bananas that customers can pick themselves for their drinks.
If you’re looking for something fizzy, there’s also a “food” truck that exclusively makes soda: So’Da Bomb.
The sodas begin with regular soft drinks like root beer, lemonade, and ginger ale, but are served mixed with additional fruit juices, including tropical offerings like blue curacao and blood orange.
You aren’t going to go hungry at the Hukilau Marketplace, and their offerings provide some serious competition to the various food trucks in nearby Kahuku.
You can shop to your heart’s content
It’s not just a few Polynesian-themed gift shops that are at the Hukilau Marketplace.
You can buy anything from clothing to home accents, jewelry, surf equipment, and even authentic Polynesian wood carvings and handicrafts.
These aren’t, however, just a random assortment of tourist-y shops.
The Marketplace is populated only with stores that are significant in the local community or properly reflect the Polynesian Cultural Center’s Pacific traditions and heritage.
The clothing store, Nona’s Tropical Threads, for example, is named after Nona Warner, a Hawaiian woman from Laie who worked for years as a seamstress at Polynesian Cultural Center, creating thousands of costumes and uniforms for the Center and its employees.
Goo’s Plantation Store, on the other hand, is something of a successor to the original store in Laie, which was operated by Charles Goo from 1955 to 1980 until his retirement, offering various island goods and food for the plantation workers and Laie community.
One specialty store is found further into PCC: Ukulele Experience, a building dedicated entirely to the famous instrument.
The “experience” includes a store that features a variety of ukulele types, a ukulele-shaped exhibit where visitors are walked through the process of ukulele building, and a hall of fame where famous and historically-significant ukuleles are kept on display.
If that’s not enough, it’s literally outside of Polynesian Cultural Center
If you’ve yet to be convinced to make the drive up to Laie, the Polynesian Cultural Center should seal the deal.
The Center, which is a Polynesian-themed living museum, is in my opinion a must-do for anyone who’s visiting Hawaii.
First of all, it’s a great way to learn about the different cultures of Polynesia, a place that gets little global recognition, in a variety of engaging activities that’s fun for all ages.
PCC features a variety of “villages,” each with their own attractions centered around a specific Polynesian culture. Each village provides shows and events throughout the day, allowing visitors to walk through the park and experience each one on their own time.
In the middle of the day, there’s a “canoe pageant” held, where canoes representing each of the villages float through the center lagoon and showcase their traditional dance and garb.
Every evening PCC holds luaus, which are an attraction unto themselves.
Each luau involves a dinner buffet featuring a variety of Hawaiian and local foods as well as live shows of traditional song and dance.
The night ends with the famous evening show Ha–Breath of Life.
Ha, a multicultural performance that incorporates song and dance from various Polynesian traditions, tells the story of a boy growing up in a village and learning the traditions and skills needed to survive and protect the ones he loves.
You should definitely visit PCC
If the Center and shows aren’t quite your style, Hukilau Marketplace is a worthy stop for anyone going up to the North Shore of Oahu.
And everyone should visit the North Shore, at least once.
The Marketplace doesn’t cost anything to visit, after all, and there’s plenty to do up there that you won’t find yourself bored.
You can stop here for a few hours on your way to other North Shore attractions and activities, but be careful: you could easily get sidetracked into spending the whole day at Hukilau Marketplace!
If you want the full PCC experience, check out the admission options and packages offered by HawaiiActivities.
You can purchase the day pass, luau ticket, or admission to Ha–Breath of Life, or choose from package options to save.
The Polynesian Cultural Center has always been a must-visit to me, and with the addition of the Hukilau Marketplace it’s worth spending your entire day there.
Have you been to PCC before? What do you think about the new Hukilau Marketplace? Your opinion is always welcome in the comments!