Hawaii Pride of America

Hawaii 2010: Day 3 – Dolphin Encounter, Polynesian Cultural Center (Oahu)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Instead of having breakfast at Duke’s again, we decided to get us some of those famous malasadas! We arrived at Leonard’s Bakery a little bit before 8 am. We each got a Portuguese sausage wrap and original malasada. I also tried a Haupia filled malasada and Chris tried a custard filled one. We ate outside the bakery on a bench. I really liked the Portuguese sausage wrap and original malasada but I’m not a fan of cream or custard so I didn’t like the Haupia filled one very much. It’d love to have another original malasada right now!! Yum! Chris liked his custard filled one though. We came at the right time because a Japanese tour bus pulled up and unloaded all its passengers right as we were leaving.

Leonard's Bakery

Leonard’s Bakery

Malasadas from Leonard's Bakery

Malasadas from Leonard’s Bakery

Our next stop was Sea Life Park, where we had the Dolphin Encounter booked! Our confirmation told us to be there at 9 am and we got there around 8:50 am. The park doesn’t open until 10:30 am and there were only a few people waiting at the entrance with us. I found out that other people’s confirmation said to be there at 9:15 am! We could have gotten at least 25 minutes more of sleep! Anyway, we walked down to the restrooms and it was weird to see all the shops and food counters closed. It was like walking around in an abandoned amusement park! When they finally let us in, we walked past a huge aquarium, sea turtles, and sea lions being fed. The sea lions are so noisy and funny! AR AR!

Sea Lions

Sea lions getting their breakfast

After checking in at the Dolphin Gift Shop and buying a coin to use the lockers, we put our stuff in a locker and then donned a life vest. We were taken out to the Dolphin Pool in groups. We entered the Dolphin Pool in a line and the water was FREEZING!!! For the Dolphin Encounter, you stand and stay on a platform so the water only goes up to your waist. It’s perfect for small kids and people who prefer to be in shallow water. We picked the Dolphin Encounter because my husband does not swim so it was something we could do together. The platform was a bit slippery and had a slimy feel to it, as something that has been underwater for a LONG time would probably feel like. Chris was worried that he might slip but he never did.

The trainer used a whistle to communicate with the dolphin and one came swimming to us. We were lucky enough to interact with Kekaimalu, 1 of only 2 wolphins in captivity! Her mother was a dolphin and her father was a whale! The other wolphin in captivity is her child. Kekaimalu was HUGE compared to the other dolphins and it was a shock to find out her dolphin mother had to birth her! She was adorable too. After every trick, she would come back to the trainer and open her mouth to say “Feed me now!” LOL! Each of us got to touch her and we took photos of her kissing us, us kissing her, and “dancing with” her (she would stand upright out of the water and we would touch her fins). In between, she did tricks like splashing us, sticking her tongue at us, and nodding. The trainer would also tell us about Kekaimalu and dolphins in general. It was a wonderful experience! Obviously, I’m not an expert but I never felt like the dolphins there were “sad”, as the “Oahu Revealed” book suggested. Their pool is very large as you can see in my photo and they seem pretty content to me. I would not hesitate to recommend this activity to anyone! It was a lot of fun and a wonderful experience!

Dolphin Encouter

Gorgeous backdrop for our Dolphin Encounter

Dolphin Encouter

Dolphin Encounter

Dolphin Encouter

Chris’ Dolphin Encounter

After the Dolphin Encounter, we went cleaned up and got changed. There are several changing rooms and 3 open showers. We spent about 30 minutes walking around the park to visit the sea lions, penguins, and feed the sea turtles! Unlike the Dolphin Pool, the exhibits for the penguins and sea turtles looked a bit small. They could definitely use more space. The park is pretty small, compared to Sea World or even a regular theme park. I personally wouldn’t recommend a visit unless you plan to do one of the dolphin programs. Feeding the sea turtles was fun though! They were so excited to get their veggies!

Feeding Sea Turtles

Chris pretending to eat the sea turtle food

Feeding Sea Turtles

Sea turtles

Feeding Sea Turtles

Sea turtle

Penguins

Penguins

This was the only morning on our entire trip that we did not apply bug spray before leaving the hotel/ship. We didn’t want to wear bug spray knowing we were going into the water where the dolphins swam. I was bitten 7 times and Chris was bitten 4 times by the time we returned to the Sea Life Park parking lot! We liberally applied bug spray in the parking lot before leaving. We were on the road again around 11:15 am.

For lunch, we stopped at Zippy’s in Kaneohe around noon. We spotted chickens in the parking lot so the place instantly got Chris’ seal of approval. When we walked into the restaurant, we walked right up to the fast food counter. We both ordered the Korean fried chicken and lilikoi (passion fruit) drinks. Chris really liked the Korean fried chicken but I found it to be a bit too saucy and salty. I liked the lilikoi drink though, despite my aversion to passion fruit. We didn’t realize that there was a sit-down section of the restaurant, where waiters actually serve you. It would have been nice to go there if we knew about it but we didn’t really have that much time anyway. We left at 12:45 pm.

Zippy 's

Zippy’s

Korean fried chicken at Zippy's

Korean fried chicken at Zippy’s

We arrived at Laie Point at 1:30 pm. It was definitely a nice stop! The sea arch was beautiful and the waves were really strong. We noticed someone built a rock pile on top of the sea arch too. CRAZY!

Laie Point

Laie Point

Laie Point

Big waves at Laie Point

We arrived at the Polynesian Cultural Center at 2 pm. We pre-booked the Ambassador Ali’i Lu’au package. After exchanging our vouchers for tickets, we were asked to wait in a waiting room for our guide. Instead of a guide, a staff member told us we were going to join a tour that just started. She gave us and another couple our shell leis and took us to our guide and our group, who were seated for the Canoe Pageant. The seating was really good and right up to the water. The bad thing is that the sun was beating down on that side of the river so it was hot when the clouds weren’t blocking the sun. Before the pageant started, a canoe went by that was selling ice cream and fruit. I think it cost $5 but I don’t remember exactly. They sell this ice cream everywhere throughout Polynesian Cultural Center and at every presentation. Our guide made a joke that we’ll be so sick of ice cream by the time we leave! The ice cream and fruit mixture was good though! I had fresh pineapple and canned peaches. This is the same dessert that is served during the intermission of “Ha: Breath of Life” and is included with the Ambassador packages.

The “Rainbows of Paradise” Canoe Pageant was great! The dancing and costumes were beautiful and really helped me appreciate the culture of all the islands presented: Hawaii, Tonga, Aotearoa, Samoa, Tahiti, and Fiji. It was also interesting to see how similar the cultures were but also see the differences. It was also shocking to see the Samoa dancers rock their canoe so much that their driver fell into the water!! Our guide said that the drivers know if you get the Samoa canoe, you’ll probably end up in the water. LOL! Poor guy!

Rainbows of Paradise Canoe Pageant

Rainbows of Paradise Canoe Pageant

Rainbows of Paradise Canoe Pageant

Samoa canoe driver in the water

After the Pageant, our guide took us the Samoa village to watch the presentation there. This presentation was probably my favorite part of the whole experience at Polynesian Cultural Center and made our trip to Polynesian Cultural Center worth it! It started with a young Samoan who cracked some jokes to warm up the crowd, followed by some live music. Then the “chief” came on to give the presentation. This guy was SOOOO hilarious!! We were literally crying from laughing so hard! He just had awesome jokes, his timing was perfect, and he had some great facial expressions! Other than being a comedian, he made fire using wood and coconut husk. He also showed us how they shelled a coconut, split it in half by hitting it once with a rock, carved the coconut meat out of the coconut, and made coconut milk!! Wow! After all that, another Samoa climbed this SUPER tall tree to show us how they would get the coconuts! It was such a wonderful presentation and definitely the best one we saw out of all of the villages!

Making fire in Samoa village

Making fire in Samoa

Tree climbing in Samoa village

Tree climbing in Samoa

After the Samoa presentation, our guide took us the Canoe Landing and we took a canoe ride through the villages. The canoe ride was lovely and the scenery was very nice. We landed in Tonga and our guide helped us great seating to the Tonga village’s presentation. At Tonga, we watched the Tongans demonstrated the nose flute, blowing conch shells, and drums. After the demonstration, they called up three volunteers to learn how to drum and it was funny watching tourists try to imitate drumming and yelling the native chats!

Canoe Ride

Canoe ride

Drumming demo in Tonga village

Drumming demo in Tonga

The last village we visited was Aotearoa Village, which represents the native people of New Zealand. At the Aotearoa Village, we tried our hand at twirling poi balls, which we had see the Aotearoa people do in the Canoe Pageant. It’s much harder than it looks!! After that, we tried the Maori stick game, which was used to develop hand-eye coordination for their warriors. We also visited an exhibit of portraits that showed the different facial tattoos worn by the Aotearoa people. Finally, we had an opportunity to get our own temporary ink tattoo!

Aotearoa Village

Aotearoa Village

Twirling poi balls in Aotearoa Village

Twirling poi balls in Aotearoa Village

Temporary tattoo from Aotearoa Village

Temporary tattoo from Aotearoa Village

Our guide then escorted us to our dinner locations. For the Ali’i Luau, there are 3 different luau locations but we were told they are all the same. It’s just to spread out the number of people. We were assigned to the Hale Ohana location and by itself, it was pretty huge! I can’t even imagine how many people they feed in one night at all 3 locations, plus the non-luau buffet and Super Ambassador dinner!

The line into the luau was a bit long but it moved quickly. We were greeted with a fresh orchid lei and took a photo with our greeters. We were then taken to our table. We had a table right in front of the stage, which was really nice! The show itself was fairly short and not all that impressive. It was hard to concentrate on the show when you have to go and get your food and people walking around all the time. There was some singing and some hula. Not much to miss if you saw the Canoe Pageant or will see “Ha: Breath of Life”.

The buffet included all the traditional Hawaiian dishes, like poi (taro paste), lomilomi (raw salmon salad), kalua pig (pork cooked in an underground oven), and poke (raw, marinated tuna). I really liked the poke, lomilomi, and chicken long rice (glass noodles with shredded chicken)! The rest of the food was a bit bland. I read the reviews of the luau so I didn’t expect much so I wasn’t really disappointed. Plus, it’s hard to make anything taste spectacular when you’re cooking for that many people! I ordered a virgin pina colada and it came in a hollowed-out pineapple! That was a lot of fun to drink! (A lot of people don’t like the fact that Polynesian Cultural Center doesn’t serve alcohol but we are not big drinkers so this didn’t bother us at all.)

Ali'i Luau

Ali’i Luau

Ali'i Luau

Hula dancing at Ali’i Luau

Ali'i Luau

Ali’i Luau food

After we finished dinner, we took the “Ha: Breath of Life” Behind the Scenes Tour. We got to see the actors rehearsing and props and costumes used in the show. We saw the ti-leaf skirts the actors wore when they sit on fire and we learned that ti leaves have so much moisture that it takes longer for them to catch on fire. It was a short tour but pretty neat.

Ha: Breath of Life Backstage Tour

“Ha: Breath of Life” actors rehearsing

Ha: Breath of Life Backstage Tour

“Ha: Breath of Life” Props

We took our seats in the theater. Premium seating is part of the Ambassador Luau package and I liked our seats a lot. We were right in the center of the stage about halfway up the seats. The Super Ambassadors have seats closer to the stage but I’m not crazy about sitting close to a stage. The theater was more like a stadium to me! It fits 2,675 people! It was definitely a large crowd!

“Ha: Breath of Life” is a man and his life as he travels to the different Polynesian islands. There is a long scene for each island that is represented at the Polynesian Cultural Center. I heard a lot of good things about this show but I personally thought most of it was boring and we almost fell asleep several times. It was a very long, 1.5-hour show with the highlight being 5 minutes of fire-dancing. The dancing was beautiful and very impressive but the scenes were waaaayyy too long for each island. It started to get old. The fire twirling was very cool but I don’t think it was worth sitting through the whole show for the few highlights. After the show was over, some of the actors were outside to take photos with. We did a little souvenir shopping and before heading back to the hotel.

Two nights later, we attended Old Lahaina Luau in Maui so naturally, we would compare it with the Polynesian Cultural Center. The experiences were very different since the Polynesian Cultural Center has the villages. We are glad we went to both but I would say overall, Polynesian Cultural Center was a bit disappointing to me. The food at Old Lahaina Luau was much better than the Polynesian Cultural Center. The Polynesian Cultural Center show was longer and had fire dancing but the Old Lahaina Luau show seemed to flow much better and the traditional dancing seemed much more interesting. The only reasons why I don’t regret going to Polynesian Cultural Center is because of the hilarious Samoa presentation and the 5 minutes of fire dancing but I question whether or not those things are really worth spending almost a whole day at Polynesian Cultural Center and the cost. If someone was choosing between Old Lahaina Luau and Polynesian Cultural Center, I would highly recommend Old Lahaina Luau over the Polynesian Cultural Center. If you really want REALLY good traditional Hawaiian food, go to Ono Hawaiian Foods in Honolulu! Their food blew both luaus out of the water!

When we returned to the hotel, we made another stop at the ABC Stores across the street. Chris bought a spam musubi there for a snack. It was 11 pm when we got back to the room. Time to shower up and sleep! Next day, Historic Honolulu and embarking Pride of America!!!

Spam Musubi from ABC Stores

Spam Musubi from ABC Stores

+ See more Oahu photos
+ Read more about Hawaii 2010

4 thoughts on “Hawaii 2010: Day 3 – Dolphin Encounter, Polynesian Cultural Center (Oahu)

  1. Just love your review. Glad the weather cooperated. My DH doesn’t swimm well, so this wolphin idea might be what we need. Pics of food are great, though food looks greasy.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. I love reading your reviews. I am researching Alaska and that blog is incredible. Now I’m reading your Hawaiian blogs. I think I’ve been reading for 6hours! Thanks so much for all of the detail (and I do agree with your review of PCC. I was not impressed with it a few years ago either–sounds pretty much the same).

Leave a Reply

Back To Top