Oahu with Toddlers: East Shore and the Polynesian Cultural Center

On this particular day (a decade ago now) on the beautiful Hawaiian Island of Oahu, our family decided to spend the afternoon at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, on the Northeast side of the island. So, we made a day of it, making sure to spend the morning exploring some of the East Shore beaches on the way.

The Rough Coast of the East Shore

The drive was beautiful. If you are wondering where the islands came from, the black rocks and sand should leave no doubt in your mind.

If you are looking for an incredibly scenic drive with stunning mountains, beautiful beaches, and quiet costal towns, this should definitely be part of your itinerary.

Beach on the East Shore

After visiting some of the more crowded beaches around Waikiki and Ala Moana, and the more remote, but still somewhat crowded beach at Ko’olina, we were happy to have the privacy of the less crowded beaches on this part of the island.

The kids found some driftwood, and we could easily imagine them as pre-civilization babies.

They had a ton of fun!

Eventually, the kids had had enough, and we were getting hungry, so we got the boys cleaned up and continued driving until we found a town with lunch options.

The Polynesian Cultural Center

Given that we had received a buy one get one free coupon for the Polynesian Cultural Center, we decided to give it a whirl. Since our boys tended to need a lot of sleep, we didn’t think an evening dinner Luau was the right thing for them, so we simply purchased the less expensive general admission that allows entrance to the grounds from 12-6. Additionally, Kids under 4 were free, so we felt that if the experience didn’t work out, we wouldn’t be too sad. Fortunately, we all had a lot of fun, although if the kids were able to stay up late, the luau probably would have been a lot more exciting.

This center has separate areas that highlight various Polynesian people groups that include Hawaii, Figi, Tahiti, Tonga, Samoa, and Aotearoa. Each of these sections usually have 4 or more presentation times, so when you arrive you should plan a schedule that allows you to see as many of these as possible.

Our takeaway from the general admission was that it felt a bit like the Disney version of the Polynesian cultures. Our toddler-aged kids only had patience to sit through a couple of the shows, but since we only paid for 1 ticket, we were satisfied with the experience. The shows were a little cheesy, but the boys particularly loved the drums.

That said, if your kids are a little older and you are paying full price for an experience like this, Hawaii has tons of luaus, so find one that has decent reviews on Trip Advisor and try it out! We did take the kids to a real luau a few years later, when they were old enough to appreciate it more. All of us had a fabulous time and that experience confirmed that it probably wouldn’t have been the right thing for toddler aged kids with early bedtimes.

Once we had seen enough – well before the 6pm closing time, we loaded the boys into a car for a nap and drove back to our apartment. We couldn’t stop to take pictures along the way, but it was beautiful!

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