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
“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
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
Cocktail Show, $36 ($48 with transportation).
Commission: 30 percent to travel agents under contract
For luau dates, reservations and contracts, call: