1. Discover 3 cultural experiences on Oʻahu to enrich your visit

When planning a trip to a new country or region, it is important to include experiences that allow you to learn about the region’s culture while you are visiting. Although Oʻahu is part of the United States, the culture of this island is extremely different from the other states.  

To make the most out of your trip and bring the Hawaiian spirit home with you, visiting these 3 sites while on vacation will aid you in understanding the vast Hawaiian culture. These sites are not only informational, but they also have many hands-on activities that allow you to participate in local culture for yourself.  

 

Learn the History of Hula and enjoy a Lūʻau  at the Polynesian Cultural Center 

An image of a couple learning hula from the Hawaii village staff at the Polynesian Cultural Center

Learning how to dance hula is one of Hawaiʻi Village activities at the Polynesian Cultural Center

The Polynesian Cultural Center, located on the North Shore of the island Oʻahu, is your best choice for a day filled with unique cultural experiences on Oʻahu. At the Center, you will have the opportunity to tour the six Polynesian islands (https://www.polynesia.com/villages) and learn about the traditions and history of various island nations found across Polynesia. 

Within each island, traditional presentations will be offered that allow you to experience the customs of each island firsthand. Afterward, games and activities are provided so that you can bring a little part of Polynesia home with you.  

After spending an exciting day in the sun, we know you will be hungry. So, we invite you to come join us at the Aliʻi Lūʻau to relax and taste the local food for yourself. A buffet will be offered as we allow you to relax and experience our lively Hawaiian entertainment. We want you to end the night full of Aloha and food.  

To learn more or book tickets please visit our main website https://www.polynesia.com/ 

Tip: If you are visiting in the winter bring an umbrella because the North Shore is rainy (but still warm) during this time of year.  

 

Enjoy the Children’s Center while learning about feathered kahili at the Bishop Museum 

image of Hawaii Hall at the Bishop Museum. One of the great cultural experiences to participate in on Oʻahu.

Hawaii Hall at the Bishop Museum (image courtesy of www.staradvertiser.com)

A little closer to the City of Honolulu is the Bishop Museum, which prides itself on including an all-natural history of the Hawaiian Islands. This site includes four buildings that give you an exclusive insight into the background of Hawaiʻi. The main building is 3 stories tall and presents the largest collections of Polynesian cultural artifacts and natural history specimens. From authentic feathered kahili to a giant sperm whale exhibit, the Bishop Museum can teach you a large portion of Hawaiʻi ’s narrative.  

Whether you brought the kids with you on the trip or not, there is still more to enjoy at this beautiful location. Not only is the Children’s Center on-site, but there is also a planetarium and a large garden that aims to educate visitors about local vegetation in each region of Hawaiʻi. At the planetarium, you can see how voyagers used stars to navigate across the Pacific Ocean and make their way to different islands in Polynesia. The Children’s Center provides hands-on activities that illustrate different aspects of our world and how they all aid in making our earth a wonderful place to live. 

For a truly cultural experience, the Bishop Museum is a must-visit. It only takes one afternoon but will give you a lifetime of knowledge and memories. Visit https://www.bishopmuseum.org/ to purchase tickets and donate to help educate others about Polynesian culture.  

Tip: Parking at the Bishop Museum is $5. However, the purple line trolley comes right to the museum. Please visit https://www.bishopmuseum.org/directions/ for directions or to figure out if the trolley comes to your hotel. 

 

Experience a unique part of Oʻahu ’s culture at Byodo-In Temple 

Image of the Byodo-In Temple, cultural experiences to engage in on O'ahu.

The Byodo-In Temple in O’ahu is a smaller-scale replica of the over 950-year-old Byodo-in Temple, a United Nations World Heritage Site in Uji, Japan (image courtesy of www.staradviser.com)

Located in the Valley of the Temples on the east side of Oʻahu is the Byodo-In Temple, which is a nondenominational Buddhist temple built in commemoration of the first Japanese immigrants to Oʻahu. The architecture of the temple is similar to the buildings seen in Japan and looks gorgeous next to the beautiful Hawaiian mountains. If you aren’t a Buddhist, don’t worry; this temple accepts all visitors as a chance to share their experience with others and allows everyone to enjoy the beauty of the location. 

On-site, there are a few activities that allow you to connect with nature and to learn about the purpose of the temple. You can take a tour of the temple to understand the Buddhist religion, or even reserve an area for your ashes to be placed after you pass on. If you aren’t interested in that, you can feed the fish and the birds, or just walk around and enjoy nature as you see fit. The Byodo-In Temple is a great area to relax for a couple of hours before you begin your next adventure. To learn more about admission, directions, or events, visit https://byodo-in.com/.    

Tip: Bring your camera because the photo opportunities are unparalleled! 

If you want more help planning your next trip to Oʻahu, or if you just want to fantasize about the wonderful things you could do if you visited, please visit our site at https://www.polynesia.com/blog/category/travel 

Aloha and we hope to see you here soon! 

 



About the Author: 

Abigail Curnutt, BYU-Hawaii student blogger Abigail Curnutt is a student at Brigham Young University in Hawaiʻi has been studying Hospitality and Tourism. She recently graduated in June of 2022. While studying here she has completed her internships with the Title IX department on campus as well as The Marriott Hotel located in North Shore Oʻahu . Living on Oʻahu  has granted Abigail the opportunity to explore the island and learn about native culture for herself as a way to understand the unique history of the land.