If there’s one thing you think of when you think of Hawaii…it just might be pineapple.
Surprisingly, pineapple isn’t native to Hawaii. It wasn’t originally introduced by Dole, but when Dole opened his first pineapple plantation on Oahu and established the Hawaiian Pineapple Company in 1901, the commercial pineapple industry in Hawaii started booming. By the 1930s, Hawaii was the largest producer of pineapple in the world and the large demand for labor is one of the reasons why Hawaii has become such a melting pot of cultures. Workers from Portugal, China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and more migrated to Hawaii to work in the pineapple (and sugar cane fields) and in the height of the pineapple heyday, Dole was producing 75% of the world’s pineapple supply in Hawaii.
Eventually, cheaper labor and land lured the big pineapple companies away from Hawaii to Central America and Asia and today less than 10% of the world’s pineapple is actually grown in Hawaii.
But a century of marketing and folk lore run strong and so…people want pineapple when they come to Hawaii!
Dole still capitalizes off of this and on Oahu they have a mega tourist trap set up that mostly sells merchandise and “Dole Whips” with a little train you can ride and listen to a spiel about the history of pineapple in Hawaii and how it’s grown.
But I’ve got something better for you. How about a real, working pineapple farm that grows most of the pineapple that’s actually consumed in Hawaii??
The Maui Gold Pineapple Company (locally owned and operated) is a 1,350 acre pineapple farming operation located on the slopes of Haleakala at Hali’imaile. And you can tour it! This is not a cheesy, touristy experience. It’s an authentic farm tour.
Maui Pineapple Tour
I did the Maui Pineapple Tour for the first time on my last trip to Maui, and it was amazing. Here’s a quick run down on how it went:
I signed up for the first tour of the day (9:30 AM) and my niece and I arrived a little early to check in and sign our waivers (it took about 30 minutes to get to Hali’imaile from Kihei). There’s a facility with bathrooms at the start point, (make sure you go before you get on the bus because you’ll be out in the fields for the entire tour). Even though we arrived about 15 minutes early, we were the last to check in and get on the bus so once we loaded up, our tour took off a little early!
There were probably a dozen or so people on our tour, and the little bus was air conditioned with plenty of water so we were very comfortable all morning. You’re also on and off the bus at different points in the field, so you don’t have to carry your bag or backpack around with you in the fields. The pineapple fields are right across the street from the check in spot so our tour started right away.
The tour was scheduled to last 1.5 hours but we got some extra time since we left early.
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These were some highlights from our tour:
Four wheeling along dirt roads while our guide told us the history of pineapple in Hawaii as well as facts and info about the planting and growing process.
Watching them pick pineapple. What an experience! This was the highlight of the tour for me. It’s a working farm so you’re not guaranteed to see any specific processes happening, but our guide was a pro, tracked them down, and pulled up close so we could watch.
Stopping in a field to get a close up look at the pineapple, and having a taste testing. For our group of a dozen or so people, our guide probably cut up 6-8 whole pineapples. Just watching her slice it all up with a machete was quite a site! We all ate until we couldn’t eat pineapple anymore.
See BABY pineapples!
Making a special stop at what has to be the best view on the farm (could pretty much see the entire island including Haleakala, the West Maui Mountains, and the ocean) so everybody could plant a pineapple.
Seeing Nene birds, which despite being the state bird of Hawaii are pretty rare!
Touring the packing facility where each pineapple is processed.
Taking home our very own Maui Gold Pineapples!
We had such a great time on our tour and were constantly amazed at what we were seeing and learning. So much of the experience is learning from the guide as you see everything, so I won’t spoil it and tell you EVERYTHING you’re likely to learn, but I will tell you my favorite fact that I learned:
Hummingbirds are illegal in Hawaii! Since hummingbirds are such major pollinators, they can really change the characteristics of pineapple and experts have worked for years to get the Maui Gold variety just perfect so since it’s a island, they can just prohibit them from being brought in. If you ever eat a pineapple and it has little black dots, that means it’s been pollinated by a hummingbird!
Tips for Booking
There are several tour times offered each day, but I would recommend booking the first tour as it can get pretty hot out in the fields later in the day.
If possible, book your tour Monday-Thursday as they don’t usually pick pineapple on Fridays. We got lucky going on a Friday, and they had a special order to pick.
Who is the Tour Good For?
Pretty much everyone! My niece is seven and she really enjoyed it (she does have a pretty good attention span and loves to learn), however she was the only child on the tour. And I was the next youngest person! Our group was mostly middle age to older guests, but I think this is mostly because of the price. $65/adult and $55/child probably keeps many younger people from coming who are saving their activity dollars for something more adventurous. And although it’s marketed fairly well, it’s certainly not a major tourist attraction.
There isn’t really any walking involved (mostly just getting on and off the bus), but there were 20-30 minute stretches where we were standing out in the sun in the fields. Never long enough to make the seven year old whine ; )
Tour Add Ons
Something I love about this experience is that it’s pretty customizable. The basic 1.5 hour tour ($65/$55) is what I described above. In addition to this, you can add on:
Lunch at Hali’imaile General Store: Located right across the street, chef Bev Gannon’s upcountry restaurant (she has another in Wailea) is one of my favorite meals on Maui. Through the website, you can book lunch as an add on for $25. It comes with a prefix menu that includes a choice of entrees (four options) plus a dessert and a drink. After our tour, we opted to do lunch on our own and order off the regular menu. We’ve eaten at Hali’imaile quite a bit and have our favorites so we didn’t want to be too restricted and the price worked out to be the same or less. If you want the add on, you have to book 24 hours in advance. It’s also only available after the 9:30 tour.
Hali’imaile Distillery Tour: For an extra $10 you can add on a 45 minute tour of the neighboring distillery that uses Maui Gold pineapples to make its spirits. Kids all ages can go on the tour (12 and under are free), but have to be 21+ to go into the tasting room.
There’s also an option to add lunch AND the distillery tour.
Farm to Glass Pineapple Tasting Tour by Maui Craft Tours: Not an add on per so, but an entirely different tour. If you’re high key into “alcohol tourism” or “destination drinking,” this exclusive tour is worth checking out. It comes with a hefty price tag, but this all day tour includes visits to three local purveyors who use Maui Gold pineapple (MauiWine, Hali’imaile Distillery, and Maui Brewing Co) in their products as well as a luxurious lunch at Hali’imaile General Store plus cocktail hour at the Mill House at Maui Tropical Plantation.
As a wrap up, I will say that I’ve done a lot of amazing attractions and experiences on Maui and after my tour I definitely think Maui Pineapple Tour belongs on the “must do” Maui list.
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