Flashy Dance

New Polynesian venue shares culture without kitsch

By: Dawna Robertson

When the Pleasant Hawaiian Hula Show sadly said its final aloha at the Waikiki Shell, a treasured island icon faded into the sunset. Originally known as the Kodak Hula Show, the 65-year-old tradition shined with song, dance and a colorful flair truly reflecting Hawaii’s spirit. Now, the Shell sparkles again with the new South Pacific Cultural Center (SPCC), the first permanent attraction to hit the venue since the hula show bowed out in 2002. The brainchild of Jane Iida, chairwoman and CEO, SPCC energizes Polynesian-style, with a cultural menu serving up dance, music, arts, crafts and a fiery luau extravaganza.

From my digs just outside Waikiki, getting to the Shell was literally a walk in the park Kapiolani Park to be exact. For those who’d rather opt out of a stroll, SPCC provides transportation as part of an evening luau package.

Upon arrival, I checked out the SPCC’s roster of daily events. While I had missed the start of the show, things were just beginning to heat up. A Tongan performance was set for 12:30 p.m., and another show would start at 2:30 p.m.

The local-style artisan village showcases the cultures of Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand. Depending on the day, demonstrations include hula, lei making, coconut husking, fire making, weaving, tiki carving and lomi lomi massage. I opted to join the crowd gathered to watch chiefs Soo, Eni and Olando share their heritage with pride and wit.

After a round of wood carving and coconut husking, the cultural journey was wrapping up. But not before a finale that found Eni scurrying up a 50-foot coconut tree in record time. Without a trace of vertigo, the lava lava clad lad soaked in the view and made his way down to our oohs, ahhs and applause.

Following the show, Chief Soo mingled. The Samoan born-and-raised cultural ambassador made it clear that audience interaction was an integral part of the experience and education was key. He also described how SPCC gives visitors a taste of what each culture creates. Then at night, luau lovers see it all fall into place.

“We bring all the cultures together,” he said. “It starts with Hawaiian conch-shell blowing and torchlighting. For Samoa, we make fire and do fire dancing.”

At the artisan village, vendors sell authentic crafts, and the SPCC plans to add more booths and a food concession by summer. Iida remarked that SPCC has great appeal since it’s a full-day function. Visitors can come and go as they please.

“It’s also easy for people who don’t want to tie up an entire day,” she said. “They can see a show, go to the beach, come back to shop, go freshen up in their hotel and return for the luau.”


South Pacific Cultural Center
Waikiki Shell Amphitheater, 2805 Monsarrat Ave.

Hours: Artisan Village, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. Admission is free.
Luau Buffet, 6 p.m.
Polynesian Show, 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

Prices: Standard Dinner Show, $65 ($80 with transportation), includes dinner, cocktail and gratuity.

Deluxe Dinner Show, $130, includes lei, photo, cocktail and limo service.
Cocktail Show, $36 ($48 with transportation).

Commission: 30 percent to travel agents under contract

For luau dates, reservations and contracts, call: