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Polynesian Cultural Center

Polynesian Cultural Center

My DH Roger and me

My DH Roger and me

Our Marine son suggested we spend one of our days on Oahu over the holidays visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center.  We purchased tickets for the day with his military discount, which included a luau in the evening, and a live presentation, “Ha Breath of Life”, plus the opportunity to return for another day’s visit at no additional charge within three days of our original visit.   What an amazing place!  We didn’t realize that the Polynesian Cultural Center was created to provide work study opportunities for the students of the nearby Brigham Young University Hawaii, while allowing them to share their island heritage with the visitors. 

Great demonstrations, dances, songs and more for each different island group, including Fiji, Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti, and Aotearoa (New Zealand).  Each of these have a separate island village inside the Polynesian Cultural Center.  As we watched, listened, and participated, we got a taste of the differences between each cultural.  One of the things we learned was the Hawaiian hula is a slow smooth beautiful dance that tells a story, but American movies combined that with the fast hip-shaking dance from Tahiti, because that made the dances fit the rock ‘n roll movies better. 

Our kids, Rachel, 17 and Eric, 28

Our kids, Rachel, 17 and Eric, 28

We soon realized that a short day beginning at 3 in the afternoon wasn’t going to satisfy us, so we wrapped up our day to head to our luau already planning to return the next day.  So, here’s our tips to make the most of your day at the Polynesian Cultural Center: 

  • Arrive a little before Noon.  The villages begin their shows and demonstrations at Noon, so the early you arrive, the more you can get done. 
  • Pick up your guide at the Information desk just beyond the Ticket booth.  That guide will give you times for each activity, so you can kind of plan your day. 
  • Don’t miss the “Rainbows of Paradise” Canoe Pageant.  Each island group performs from a canoe that passes by you in the lagoon.  Arrive about 15 minutes or so before the scheduled time to get the best seated view.  This was fun!  (One of the young men guiding a canoe was on his first day at work, and the exuberant island dancers intentionally rocked the canoe so hard with their dance, that he ended up soaking wet in the lagoon.  Apparently first day of work initiation.) 
  • Figure out where your luau is before it’s time to go to your luau.  We had tickets for a luau, and we’d passed a sign for a luau, so that’s where we headed, waited in line, just to be told at the door that there are six different luaus in the center and ours was at a different location.  And, consider upgrading to Ambassador ticket for a little more luxury all day, but especially for your dinner luau. 

Our entire family enjoyed the Polynesian Cultural Center, and we recommend that you and your family visit there as well!  Here’s some of our favorite photos from the day: 

Speaking Hawaiian

DSCN0968Hawaiian Word Pronunciation

We were butchering Hawaiian street and highway names, until the Marine Gunny Seargeant over our son’s company gave us a quick lesson in saying Hawaiian words.  When her family was transferred to the Marine Corp Base at Kaneohe Bay, they had taken a tour of the island, where the Hawaiian tour guide gave them a quick lesson that they now passed on to us. 

First, most Hawaiian words are best pronounced by breaking the words down to pronounce every two letters together.  Second, some Hawaiian words have only vowels or at least many vowels.  In most of those words, all the vowel sounds are pronounced. 

Let’s start with some highway names that we were pronouncing so incorrectly, that the Gunny Seargeant gave us this lesson.  Doesn’t this highway name beg to be pronounced, Like Like?  Using rule number one, pronounce every two letters together, this highway name actually sounds like, Licky Licky.  Easy enough, right?  So, let’s try another one. 

Another highway we saw a lot of was named after a former king in Hawaii, Kamehameha.  I personally tried pronouncing this highway so many different ways prior to our Hawaiian speaking lesson, that I’d finally started just calling this the “Ha Ha” highway.  It wasn’t so hard to pronounce after our lesson, and it sounds like “Ka – may – ah – may – ah”. 

Aiea, one of the few city names in the world written only with vowels, is pronounced by locals as “eye – eh- ah”, but that doesn’t exactly follow rule number two.  But, these lessons helped us learn how to speak Hawaiian names much better than following the English language rules we’re taught in American public schools.  Anyone else have suggestions for pronouncing Hawaiian names?

Oahu Windshield Time

H1 H2 H3 … DSCN0967

So many who had traveled to Hawaiii before us offered one common piece of advice – rent a car.   We rented a car, and some days it felt like we spent more time in the car than on land during our Hawaii visit.  Oahu is such an easy island to travel around though, because all we had to do was connect to one of the three interstates, H1, H2 or H3, to get almost anywhere we wanted to go. 

Waikiki, Aloha Bowl, Pearl Harbor, North Shore, Polynesian Cultural Center, Diamond Head, the Marine Corps Base Hawaii, and more, took us from one of the end of the island to the next to the next.  Interestingly enough, everywhere we went, a Roberts Tour bus seemed to be parked right next to us.  And, it was a long drive from one place to the next.  I wish we’d spent more time on the beach! 

So, if you’re headed to Oahu, plan your days carefully to avoid lots of windshield time.  And, you might want to consider a tour bus instead of a car rental.  Just a thought!

Diamond Head Oahu

Diamond Head, A Tough Hike for Me

As we were spending the holidays with our Marine son in Oahu, we mentioned that we might like to visit Diamond Head.  He said he had DiamondHeadnever been there yet, so we headed out one morning for the visit.  We arrived about 9:30 am, and the parking area for Diamond Head was already filled, and folks were parking from a distance and walking in.  We waited patiently for a parking space in line behind others, and we pulled into a space within 15 minutes.  I was so glad we hadn’t parked out and walked in after the climb.  More about that later! 

The brochure we picked up at the base of the climb told us that the Hawaiian name for Diamond Head is Le’ahi.  Le’ahi is believed to have been formed 300,000 years ago during a single, brief eruption.  The crater covers 350 acres.  It created such a perfect panoramic view, that Diamond Head became important to Oahu’s defense against fires and foreign invadors. 

StepsAt the beginning of the trail we were told it was just eight tenths of a mile, and I smarted off that I could do that easily.  Little did I know what lay ahead, or I wouldn’t have been so glib.  I knew it was going to be steep in places, but we saw family escorting frail older people and small children, as well as one mother pushing her son in a wheelchair, so I figured, how bad can it be? 

We’d only walked a short distance, when the concrete path, which had been laid to help stop trail erosion, ended, and the rugged dirt trail began.  I knew the mother with the son in the wheelchair would be turning back as the dirt trail became very rough almost immediately.  Around a corner, we found a park ranger stationed, who was warning that the path became only more difficult from there and making sure we had hats, sun protection, and water for our hike.  We felt well prepared … another mistake, and we continued on. 

I’m the only wimp in our family.  Our Marine son was well prepared for such a hike, our teenage daughter did great even though she was

A View from the Top

A View from the Top

 wishing for more water than we’d brought, and my husband has never met a challenge he couldn’t conquer.  And, they all know me too well, so they were pushing, encouraging, and threatening all along the way to keep Mom moving forward.  Every so often one of them would call a Mom break, saying that would help me make it to the top. 

After pushing upward for what seemed like forever, we arrived at a lighted tunnel, where we took another break and drank the last of our water.  Big mistake!  When we literally reached the natural light at the end of this really long tunnel, I was facing 99 steep steps straight up, so I stopped … for a while.  Rachel headed straight up the stairs, encouraging me to come on the end was really near.  Roger and Eric both told me I could do it, so I got my breath back and headed up the stairs.  And, no, I didn’t count them as I went … but about halfway up those stairs – the boys said it was only about a quarter of the way, I stopped, saying I was so sorry, I couldn’t go any further, to just leave me and go on.  Yes, I’m a wimp! 

Did I mention that there was a constant stream of people moving the same direction, so I was now holding everyone behind us up.  Roger gave me a shove, saying, you can’t stop now, and somehow I started moving again.  At the top of those stairs, I stopped for a break until I could breathe normally again.  I’m so out of shape!  But all I had left was the spiral staircase, and we all emerged at the top of Diamond Head! 

Eric, Rachel and Me

Eric, Rachel and Me

The walk back down was so much easier, and we were laughing and enjoying the trek down, excited that we’d all made it to the top together!  The view at the top was worth the hike.  So, here’s my advice.  Get in shape before you go, or take it really slow.  We took three bottles of water for the four of us, and we could have used at least double that amount.  Wear good shoes!  I don’t think I could have made it at all if I hadn’t had on my good athletic shoes. 

More than that, I wanted to share my experience, just to let folks know this is not an easy hike.  As I mentioned earlier, we saw lots of folks trying to take older folks up who could barely walk, small children who were crying to be carried after only a short distance, and, of course, at least one wheelchair.  And, then there were folks like me … who have sadly allowed their bodies to become out of shape.  I’m too young to be this out of shape, so … to the gym for me.  I’m glad I conquered … survived … Diamond Head!

Great Oahu Family Eats

Fun Family Dining in OahuWaikikiIntlMarketplace

We’re just back from our first trip to Hawaii.  Our son is a Marine stationed at Kaneohe Bay, so my husband, daughter, and I flew to Honolulu to spend Christmas with together as a family on Oahu.  Loved visiting Hawaii, but having our family together for the holidays in Oahu was priceless!  This trip was all about enjoying our family time, so we didn’t visit any of the fabulous restaurants or lounges that we’d normally check out in a new location.  But, I still have some fabulous meals that I can recommend in Oahu: 

  • Puka Dog:  Our Marine son, Eric, told us before we ever came that we’d have to try a Puka Dog when we visited, saying it was a great hot dog.  I’ve got to tell you … hot dogs are never on my list of special meals.  About the only time I eat hot dogs is when we’re watching baseball.  I agree with Eric … don’t miss dining on a Puka Dog.  We were even hoping to go back a second time during our visit, but we never made it.  The Puka Dog stand can be found at the rear to the International Market Place Waikiki.  Lots of options, but don’t worry – the staff will help you create the CheeseburgerInParadiseperfect Pooka Dog for you.  Your first choice is do you want a polish sausage or a veggie dog.  We all picked the polish sausage, but each of our Pooka Dogs were unique after that.  The next choice is the heat in the Garlic Lemon Secret Sauce, which ranged from Mild to Hot Hot.  Eric and I opted for Mild, Rachel chose a mid-range spicy, while Roger chose the Hot Hot Habanero sauce.  Each of us chose a different relish.  I opted for the pineapple relish – when in Hawaii, pineapple seemed like the right thing to choose.  There was one more choice after that, but the Puka Dog staffer paused only a moment before making a perfect recommendation for each of us.  We watched as our personal Puka Dogs were prepared.  They start with a small loaf of bread, which is pierced on a vertical hot metal spike, creating a toasty warm “puka” hole.  The seasonings, relishes, and sauces are piped into the “puka” hole, and the dog is added at the last, with one last drop of the sauce on the top pof the dog.  We loved the Puka Dog so much, we wondered if there was anyway to open a Puka Dog stand back home. 
  • Cheeseburger in Paradise Waikiki:  Roger and I tend to avoid chain restaurants like this as we travel, and hamburgers are not among my favorite foods, but Eric recommended this restaurant as well.  We’d just completed a hike to the top of Diamondhead and back down, and we were hungry, and those hamburgers hit the spot.  We each ordered a different hamburger, but shared one basket of fries.  I ordered the Cheeseburger Island Style, which was a big burger grilled in teriyaki sauce with a grilled pineapple on top.  I normally do not eat a whole hamburger, but I ate it all.  This open air restaurant with a view of Waikiki beach across the street was the perfect place to refuel and recharge for a little beach time after our Diamondhead adventure!  You’ll find it between DSCN0803the Sheratan Moana Surfrider and the Outrigger Waikiki, and it’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 
  • Big Wave Shrimp Bus:  This was the last of Eric’s recommendations and another big hit with the family.  There’s lots of buses parked along the road in North Shore serving fresh hot shrimp, but you’ll find the Big Wave Shrimp bus at the beginning of Haleiwa on the North Shore, next to One Love Surf Shop and Haleiwa Fishing Supply.  We again had choices of how we’d like our shrimp served.  This time Eric and I both chose the Garlic Shrimp, while Rachel and Roger opted for the Spicy Shrimp.  Roger loved the Spicy Shrimp, but it was a little too spicy for Rachel, and she was soon dipping her fork in my Garlic Shrimp, which was marvelous.  We ate at picnic tables under the canopy of a beautiful tree near this colorful bus, and this was the perfect end to our North Shore beach day.  We wrapped up the meal with one of Matsumoto’s famous shaved ice from the nearby Matsumoto General Store.  If you get “Da Works”, you’ll have a scoop of vanilla ice cream, topped with a heaping globe of shaved ice, flavored with up to three different flavors, with a sweet snow cap!  I thought this was way too sweet, but everyone else loved it, so it’s still one of my top family recommendations. 

If you have any other Oahu family recommendations, please leave your comments below.  It will help many others!  And, you can see more of our Hawaii pics at this link.  Enjoy!