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This undiscovered beach town in Hawaii is the ideal getaway. Here’s a weekend itinerary for each day.

The North Shore of Oahu is known for a few things: a slower, more laid-back lifestyle than busy Honolulu, stunning beaches, and powerful waves that attract the biggest names in surfing. Every day, tourists flock to Pupukea and Haleiwa beaches to experience what the North Shore has to offer.

Those who want to go even further, all the way to the island’s northernmost tip, will be rewarded. Laie is a small beach town that puts culture and community front and centre, about an hour and a half drive from noisy Waikiki – a road trip by local standards.

“Laie is so far away,” Delsa Moe, Vice President of Cultural Presentations at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, said. “You look after your neighbour. When a neighbor’s yard floods, the entire community descends on it.”

With little development, the town’s natural beauty shines through, with a rugged coastline and turquoise ocean just feet from the Kamehameha Highway. Local families pitch tents along the beach and fish and play in the water until the sun goes down. The misty Koolau Mountains can be seen in the background on the other side of the road.

Laie is a community that welcomes visitors, especially those interested in learning about Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures, and that invitation is still extended today.

Consider staying in Laie for a few days during your next trip to Oahu to experience the small town’s big aloha spirit. Here’s a weekend itinerary for exploring everything Laie has to offer, from food to culture.

Aloha’s History

“Laie is a melting pot,” says Kekela ‘Aunty Kela’ Miller, a local kumu hula (hula teacher) whose family has roots in Laie dating back to the late 1700s, when Kamehameha I ruled the islands – they are one of the town’s oldest families.

Centuries ago, Laie was a puuhonua, or place of refuge, where it was illegal to harm fugitives, according to Miller. It was thought to be a desolate, remote location at the time.

Mormon missionaries purchased 6,000 acres of land in the mid-1800s to build a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Temple and, like other missionaries, sought to spread their religion to Native Hawaiians. Laie is still a Mormon town (which also means it’s a “dry” town, though wine and liquor are sold nearby). Laie is also home to Brigham Young University-Hawaii and its Polynesian Cultural Center, the state’s highest-paid attraction.

“We all knew that once the Temple was built, it was not just for Laie or Hawaii, but for the entire Pacific Rim,” Miller explained. “People from Samoa, for example, moved here and brought their own ideas with them. Everyone learned about and respected each other’s cultures.” She adds that while the relationship between Hawaiians and the Church hasn’t been “perfect,” residents are proud of the strong community they’ve built over time.

In the morning, depart Honolulu for the scenic drive to the North Shore. Expect to lose service at various points along the way. When you arrive in Laie, check into The Courtyard by Marriott Oahu North Shore, your weekend home base. It’s just a few steps away from the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC).

Pounders Restaurant serves local fare made with farm-fresh ingredients for lunch. For the table, order the ahi poke nachos, a classic appetiser with an island twist. Because the portions are generous, save room for dessert, such as a slice of mango or guava cheesecake.

After refuelling, proceed to the Polynesian Cultural Center, colloquially known as Polynesian Disneyland because it’s easy to spend an entire day or even two exploring its 42 open-air acres.

PCC is made up of six immersive villages that represent six different island cultures: Hawaii, Fiji, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga. The majority of PCC personnel working in the villages are from the island nations themselves.

“They’re not acting; they’re just being themselves,” Moe explained. Throughout the day, the villages host various workshops, such as how Samoans quickly climb up tall coconut trees to gather the fruit, and presentations, such as watching the Maori warrior dance, known in Aotearoa as the haka. Canoe tours and tram rides are also available.

The villages close down at 6 p.m., and it’s showtime. Visit the Alii Luau Onipaa, a tribute to Hawaii’s last ruling monarch, Queen Liliuokalani. The performances recount her life, including her eight-month imprisonment in Iolani Palace as the Hawaiian Kingdom was overthrown by western interests. The show is the island’s only full Hawaiian luau (most others are pan-Pacific in that they showcase other cultures, such as Tahitian dancing.)

“This is a story that is very relevant and on our people’s minds here in Hawaii; why not present it in a way that will hopefully help our visitors understand?” Moe stated. Guests can sample Hawaiian fare such as kalua pig, poi, poke, and more during the show.

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