The apicobasal polarity of epithelial cells is critical for organ morphogenesis and function, and loss of polarity can promote tumorigenesis. Most epithelial cells form when precursor cells receive a polarization cue, develop distinct apical and basolateral domains and assemble junctions near their apical surface. The scaffolding protein PAR-3 regulates epithelial cell polarity, but its cellular role in the transition from precursor cell to polarized epithelial cell has not been determined in vivo. Here, we use a targeted protein-degradation strategy to remove PAR-3 from C. elegans embryos and examine its cellular role as intestinal precursor cells become polarized epithelial cells. At initial stages of polarization, PAR-3 accumulates in cortical foci that contain E-cadherin, other adherens junction proteins, and the polarity proteins PAR-6 and PKC-3. Using live imaging, we show that PAR-3 foci move apically and cluster, and that PAR-3 is required to assemble E-cadherin into foci and for foci to accumulate at the apical surface. We propose that PAR-3 facilitates polarization by promoting the initial clustering of junction and polarity proteins that then travel and accumulate apically. Unexpectedly, superficial epidermal cells form apical junctions in the absence of PAR-3, and we show that PAR-6 has a PAR-3-independent role in these cells to promote apical junction maturation. These findings indicate that PAR-3 and PAR-6 function sequentially to position and mature apical junctions, and that the requirement for PAR-3 can vary in different types of epithelial cells.