By Stephanie Hua
Mention Maui and visions of sandy beaches, surfers, palm trees, and umbrella drinks come to mind. Maui certainly has all those things, but dive past the postcard perfect shoreline, and you'll find that Maui's unique microclimates and wealth of fertile volcanic soil also make it prime farming land. Here are three spots to get an authentic taste of homegrown aloha.
Maui Gold Pineapple Farm
It's almost impossible to think of Hawaii without thinking of pineapples. Tropical, sweet, and juicy, pineapples taste of smiles and sunshine. Go right to the source with Maui Pineapple Tours. If you've ever wanted to frolic through golden pineapple fields (not recommended—pineapples are spiky), this is the place to do it since it is the only working pineapple farm in the U.S. you can tour. You'll visit the Hali'imaile Pineapple Plantation, home to the trademark Maui Gold pineapple, a variety prized for its sweet flavor and low acidity. Check out the packing and shipping factory, head out to the farm, and eat as much pineapple as you'd like, straight from the fields.
You will leave with sticky fingers, a Maui Gold for the road, and more knowledge about pineapples than you'll know what to do with (like how to select a good pineapple at home, the best way to cut and core it, even how to grow your own pineapple plant from the crown of the one you just ate).
Maui Coffee Farms
If you are a coffee lover, you no doubt have heard of Kona coffee, grown on the Big Island of Hawaii. Well, Maui is giving the Big Island a run for its cup o' Kona. Maui has more than 50 coffee farms and over 500 acres in production. To get a taste of both a small coffee estate and a commercial scale farm, take the "West Maui Coffee Tour" offered by Maui Country Farm Tours. You'll visit Piliani Kope Farm where owners Greg and Susy Stille will undoubtedly impress you with their passion for what they do. Tour their two acres of organic permaculture designed orchards, learn about the heirloom Kanaka Kope coffee being grown, roast a batch of house blend, and of course, enjoy their delicious brew.
It will be hard to tear yourself away from the gorgeous view (Did we mention that the farm is perched 600 feet above sea level with mountains and valleys on one side and ocean views on another?) but you won't want to miss the next stop at the Ka'anapali Coffee Farms where 500 acres of coffee are cultivated for MauiGrown Coffee. The sprawling estate is home to four varieties of Arabica coffees: Typica, Red Catuai, Yellow Caturra, and the famous Maui Mokka, which is not commercially grown anywhere else in the world. After seeing where the coffee starts, sample the finished products at the MauiGrown Coffee Company Store back in Lahaina.
Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm
If you are looking for serenity now, look no further. Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm is an Upcountry Maui gem. 13.5 acres of lavender, olive trees, blooming proteas and other flowers, Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm is an oasis of serenity set in the slopes of the Haleakala volcano. At an elevation of 4000 feet, it also provides a cool respite from the heat—remember that if you find yourself sunburned and sweltering just an hour or so away by the coast. As you drive up to the farm, the first thing you'll notice is the calming fragrance of lavender. Follow the zen as you wind up towards sweeping vistas of quiet beauty. Ali'i Kula Lavender's mantra is "Relax, Rejuvenate, Renew," and it seems that every detail here reinforces that mindset. Peaceful sanctuaries are scattered throughout the grounds, picturesque places to just sit and enjoy, maybe even catch a quick nap.
Join one of the daily walking tours where you'll learn all about lavender, its uses and health benefits, as you explore the farm. And don't forget to stop by the café and gift shop for homemade lavender scones and locally made products ranging from lavender body butter and candles to teas and jams. You'll feel like a new person after leaving this beautiful place. Or at the very least, you'll smell nice.
Stephanie Hua is a writer and photographer based in San Francisco. Her food blog, Lick My Spoon, chronicles her culinary adventures and love for all things delicious. Her favorite place to travel at the moment is Sicily, mainly for the cannoli and arancini.
Photo Credits: Courtesy Stephanie Hua