Hawai’i is such a unique place in the world, for many reasons. One of my favorite features of the islands, however, is the multitude of tours you can take of local farms! You’ll find tours of farms that grow crops like coffee, chocolate, macadamia nuts, and… Vanilla!
One of my few travel regrets is having poor timing on our first trip to the Island of Hawai’i and missing this tour at the Hawai’ian Vanilla Company. That’s why I was so determined to make it happen on our most recent trip there! Here is everything you need to know to plan your own vanilla farm tour so you don’t miss out!
This family-owned vanilla business started back in 1998, around their family dinner table. What’s even more impressive is that they started this farm as the first commercial vanilla growers in the United States! Located on the Island of Hawai’i’s north shore, the owners offer a tour and lunch–all vanilla-themed, of course!
Booking Your Tour
This 1-hour vineyard tour is offered Monday-Saturday at 1:00pm. The cost is $35 per person, regardless of age. The tour includes a welcome beverage (choose from vanilla lemonade or vanilla iced tea!), the Vanilla 101 presentation, dessert sample, and a guided tour of the farm. Book your tour here!
This tour lasts two hours, and it is offered Monday-Saturday at 12:30pm. For visitors 13 and over, the cost is $75; children ages 4-12 are $50, and non-eating children 3 and under visit FREE. The tour includes lunch, the Vanilla 101 presentation, and a guided tour of the farm. For details about the menu and to book, click here!
More here: The Ultimate Island of Hawai’i Bucket List
Would you believe vanilla can be a savory flavoring? You’ll have to taste it to believe it! You’ll have your choice of vanilla-flavored beverage, and you will be blown away by every flavor in every food item.
We started with a garam masala-seasoned shrimp appetizer, then enjoyed a bourbon vanilla chicken sandwich with side salad and roasted potatoes. Everything was made in-house using many ingredients you can find in the gift shop. The chutneys were the surprising star of the meal!
Highlights of the Tour
Now for what you came to see and do… The tour. Spoiler alert: Vanilla growing is far more involved than you might think!
Visiting the Greenhouse
This is where the magic happens! Or at least where it starts. If you didn’t know, vanilla is in the orchid family, and it can only be grown in places 20 degrees above or below the equator, which is within the Tropic of Cancer. Popular vanilla growing locations are French Polynesia, Madagascar, and Mexico. The Hawai’ian Vanilla Company is the first vanilla grower in the United States.
Fun fact: The United States grows the smallest portion of the vanilla grown worldwide, but we consume 90% of the world’s vanilla! That is not a typo!
Learning about the Vanilla Growing Process
You’ll walk just down the road (and down a hill) to visit the vanilla greenhouse. Don’t touch anything, though. Not only are the vanilla vines kind of sensitive and finicky, it’s possible you’re allergic to the plant itself! You’ll be able to see the plants in the growing process, and you’ll be amazed to hear about how long the vanilla curing process really takes. (Nine months with cleanings every day!)
Fun fact: Each vanilla flower will only be pollinated once, and it must be done by hand. Oh, and it all has to be completed in a four-hour window!
Chatting with the Family
This is truly a family-owned and -operated business. Started by Jim Reddekopp in 1998, he did a lot of research and even more trial-and-error to create Grade A vanilla, the highest quality beans there are. We had a great time hearing stories of Jim’s escapades and experiments from his kids, who now run the farm, restaurant, and gift shop, as well as give the tours!
Finishing with Ice Cream and Coffee
Everyone gets to sample the vanilla coffee and ice cream after the tour! It’s literally the sweetest way to end your tour. The ice cream was truly rich and delicious, and the coffee was just right with a heaping spoonful of their vanilla sugar! Be sure to pick up some of the coffee beans and other vanilla products to take home with you while you browse the gift shop, too.
Also helpful: Tours to Book Before Your Trip to Hawai’i
What to Bring
Always be prepared, travelers! Your tour will be on a real, operating farm, and that means dirt and not-so-smooth terrain! Here are a few things to bring with you so you can enjoy your visit.
Comfortable Walking Shoes
You’ll be walking over some uneven ground, so be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes. Leave the high-heels and flip flops for another day!
Something people often don’t think they’ll need in Hawai’i is a light jacket. And then they’re disappointed! The Big Island is home to the highest elevation in Hawai’i, and islands often get scattered and random showers. Come prepared, as this is a largely outdoor activity!
Speaking of being an outdoor activity, bug repellent is always a good idea outside in Hawai’i! I love these wipes because they’re travel-friendly, even in a carry-on.
Reusable Shopping Bag
Hawai’i is very eco-friendly and sustainability-conscious, and that includes reusable bags. In fact, there is a charge for bags, a legal minimum of 15 cents, but up to $2! So you’ll be glad you brought one or more for your trip, and it’ll come in handy at the gift shop here as well!
Read next: 5 Things You Forgot to Pack for Hawai’i
The Gift Shop
Want to take home a taste of the real thing? The Hawai’ian Vanilla Company Gift Shop is open Monday-Saturday from 10:00am-3:00pm. You know I love shopping local in my travels and supporting small businesses around the world. I want to encourage you to do the same!
Just want a taste? Their shop also sells ready-made coffee, tea, ice cream, brownies a la mode, bread putting a la mode, and more!
More here: 5 Tips for Shopping Local When You Travel
Want more? Check out all the best Hawai’i tips and recommendations on my dedicated Hawai’ian Islands Page!
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