Officials at the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu’s North Shore have announced January of next year as the opening date for a new Hukilau Marketplace, the final major project in a five-year, $100 million enhancement at the popular tourism attraction.
A range of new food options may be the biggest draw of the revamped, 119,000-square-foot marketplace, which will include a full-service restaurant called Pounder’s featuring daily live music and dance performances as well as a Polynesian Bakery, offering traditional favorites such as panipopo and the always popular malasada.
North Shore visitors will also be able to sample Tahitian-inspired “street eats,” such as plates of fresh fish, chicken and steak, served from food trucks at a new Roulotte Court facility at the Hukilau Marketplace, and the center is in negotiations to feature a shrimp truck, a North Shore Oahu staple, as well as a specialty burger outlet.
Retail, of course, will also be a major component of the new marketplace, and a ukulele shop is planned along with Polynesian handicrafts, work by local artists, high-end Hawaiian jewelry and an outdoor sports vendor providing bicycle and various ocean sport rentals and sales.
“The Hukilau Marketplace is a huge undertaking for the Polynesian Cultural Center and a first for us, as people will be able to come and experience a piece of Polynesia’s culture without having to pay admission,” Alfred Grace, the center’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “We’ve put a lot of research, planning and thought into offering foods, products and a quality of experience reminiscent of the sights and tastes of old Laie.”
The center opened in the small North Shore Oahu town of Laie in 1963, and the word hukilau refers to a traditional form of throw net fishing long practiced in the area. The region’s popularity grew in the 1940s and 1950s when visitors began to join residents for the regular fishing harvest and the ensuing impromptu luaus, featuring local music and food, that followed the catch.
The practice later inspired a popular 1948 song titled simply “The Hukilau Song,” a catchy tune experienced Hawaii visitors have likely heard a few times during their Aloha State vacations.
The Hukilau Marketplace redesign follows other major upgrades to the facility in recent years, headlined by a new Hawaiian Village experience featuring revamped architecture, exhibits, and programming all aimed at reflecting the Hawaiian ahupuaa, an ancient Hawaiian system of land division usually extending from the mountains to the ocean.
Other improvements include the multimillion-dollar Hawaiian Journey theater, designed to look like a volcano, and the new Samoa Village, which has always been one of the center’s most popular venues with its fire making and coconut husking demonstrations.
Patrons also now have access to a new Aotearoa Village, a closer look at New Zealand’s Maori heritage that now features intricate carvings in native Totara timber paying tribute to Hawaikiroa, an ancient Polynesian navigator.
Owned by Brigham Young University Hawaii, which is based in Laie, revenue from the center goes to daily operations and to support the education of the university’s student-employees, according to officials.