Yes, and it depends. As with any discount card, you have to take into account what type of vacation you want to have and how much time you have. If you choose to just sit at the beach and relax in the sun. Don’t get the Go Oahu Card. It’s not for that type of vacation. Relaxing in the sun on the beach is free, still. That’s about the best discount you can get.
However, if you know that you want to experience some of the culture of Hawaii, a Go Oahu Card can help you do that. For example, we knew that we wanted to do a luau. They run north of $100 per person, and the best-rated Luau is at the Polynesian Cultural Center, which is about $120. We also knew that we wanted to visit Pearl Harbor. Its place in history makes it an important spot to visit for anyone who wants to think about warfare and understand human nature better. The activities there run about $40, but the Arizona Memorial and its related movie is free. The two combined activities add up to $160, which meant we would need to find an activity or two that would add up to about $40.
Not knowing that Pearl Harbor was a full day tour, I was still concerned that we wouldn’t be able to do enough activities to make the Go Oahu Card worthwhile. A lot of the activities take place in the morning because it gets too hot in the afternoon to do anything. We decided to do the 8 am Diamond Head Hike ($18) and the afternoon tour with Makani Catamaran (about $100). We didn’t have a car, so I wasn’t sure that we could make the catamaran, but we signed up for it anyway. There was plenty of time, so we got our money’s worth.
The theme of the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) is family and the ties that bind. Every fan of “Lilo and Stitch” can tell you that “ohana” means “family.” Those who aren’t fans of the Disney film will still know “ohana” means “family” by the end of the day.
If you take a bus chartered through the PCC, your adoption into the family will start with your bus guide the moment you leave Waikiki.The BYU-Hawaii student, who is paying his or her tuition in part by working at the PCC, will introduce you to the concept of “cousin,” which means anyone of Polynesian descent, and for the length of the stay at PCC, anyone who is visiting the center. Our guide was funny with his dry sense of humor, and he related interesting facts about Polynesian cultures and the PCC before we arrived. He also took our food orders for Pounders and made sure we got our tickets into the PCC.
At the Huki Canoe Show, we were again reminded of the meaning of “ohana.” In the Polynesian cultures, “the waters do not divide us;they unite us.” Marriage between different seafaring cultures keeps the gene pool fresh. While the Polynesians of long ago may not have known the science,they did realize that people marrying between different islands helped to prevent war.
The Hawaiian Journey film reinforced the concept of family. The story that frames the beauty of the island is told from the perspective a Hawaiian boy who learns about who he is from his grandma. As the film ends, his granddaughter will learn about her heritage from him.
“Ha: The Breath of Life” follows the same structure with a father and mother giving birth to a boy and ending with the son and his wife having a daughter. The family is at the center of the story line. We live for our families. We fight for our families, and we die for our families because of love. If you didn’t believe the family was important before your day at the Polynesian Cultural Center, you should have no doubt about its centrality to life after your visit.
For more on the Polynesian Cultural Center, check out my review.
The Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) is affiliated with Brigham Young University – Hawaii. It was established to help educate people about Polynesian cultures while providing a way for students from Polynesia to pay for their tuition through work. By employing students from the different islands in the Polynesian triangle, the PCC establishes itself as an authentic representation of the history and cultures of the islands.
If you want to get the most out of your experience, get a package that includes a guide. You’ll get more activities done and be kept on schedule. If you choose to self-guide, you’ll need to be assertive and ready to ask questions.
At 2:30 pm, the Huki Canoe Show takes place. According to the guide on the bus that brought us to the PCC, there won’t be anyone in the villages because they are all performing in the show. Get yourself a seat and enjoy the pageantry and color as the show goes through a general view of Polynesian culture and explores the history of the Hukilau in particular.
There is a large segment about how different islands adapted popular music to their own cultures. Big Band and Country Western music are just a couple examples. Audience participation is a must, so be ready to shout with your “family.”
Rain heavily influenced what we were able to do with our day. Even with ponchos and trying to stay under cover, we were soaked within 30 minutes. Most of the places we ended up had no people because they had been chased away by the water from the sky.
The poi station allowed us to try fresh-made poi, which was surprisingly good. It’s basically tarot root with water. When it is stored, it ferments, and the fermentation is one reason why people don’t like it. Another reason is that they eat the poi by itself; poi is meant to be consumed with other parts of a meal.
The Hawaiian Game pavilion showed us how to play a tradition Hawaiian game that was a lot like catching a ball in a cup. An added layer of difficulty was that the ball had to hit the underside of the loop before it returned to the cup. I achieved the objective once and quit while I was ahead!
In Tonga, we wove a toy fish out of coconut leaves. It included a rod that could cast the fish out to the end of it. It was fun and ingenious.
Our main reason for going was the buffet luau. It was difficult to watch the dancers and show while eating, and even having just one couple in front of us made it difficult to see the entire stage and everything that was going on. The performances were energetic, and the 10-year-old fire dancer was AMAZING! At the buffet, I really enjoyed the purple tarot roll. The chocolate cake was moist and the Haupia, coconut pudding, was tasty.
The evening ended with “HA: The Breath of Life.” While it does have narrative and pacing problems, the issues are ancillary because the strength of the show is in its presentation of multiple Polynesian cultures and their dances. The main character grows from a child to a man, and each stage of his life is presented on a different island.
Fire, lighting and expert choreography are the stars of the show, and the main performer is great. He knows all the dances and even does the fire dancing himself. It is the fire dancers who steal the show, though the New Zealand dancers are a close second. Be careful though, you might find yourself with tears in your eyes during the performance.