Hawaii

Less Touristy Things to Do on Oahu, Hawaii

Less Touristy Things to Do on Oahu, Hawaii

Hawaii is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world. As such, some travelers think Hawaii is too touristy and over-crowded. While both of these observations are in many ways true, there are less touristy things to do in Hawaii. I grew up on Oahu and have experienced this island as both a child growing up and an adult returning home as a tourist. In truth, Oahu has changed and developed so much over the past several years that I barely know where to visit anymore.

Hawaii's Hardest Hike? Koko Crater Trail

If you're looking for a hard hike on Oahu, look no further than Koko Crater Trail. This steep climb consists of 1,000+ steps along an abandoned railroad track that runs to the top of Koko Crater. It's a challenging hike that will challenge not only your leg strength but your will as well. Read on for tips on how to find and conquer this beast of a hike.

The Stats

  • Round trip distance: 1.8 miles
  • Number of steps: 1,048
  • Elevation gain: 820 feet
  • Type of hike: out and back
  • Difficulty level: difficult
  • Generally very crowded with athletes, hikers, and tourists
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii

About the Trail

Originally created during World War II at the same time as bunkers such as the Lanikai Pillbox, this railway was used to haul cargo and supplies to the mountaintop. Today, the abandoned railway is used as a hiking trail. It's considered a difficult hike, but you'll see all types of people attempting to get to the top. Some are athletes using the trail as their regular training route, while others range from experienced hikers to overly optimistic tourists. Not all will reach the top, but that's actually ok given the fact that you can get decent views from even part way up the trail.

The ascent is rather difficult and steep at times. It's made more challenging by the fact that most of the steps are much longer and taller than the usual steps that we are used to. But the reward is a stunning panorama with views of Hanauma Bay and Hawaii Kai. If you have any fear of heights, don't attempt this one, or come with an experienced friend who is willing to give you a helping hand. There are no ropes or handrails to help you up and down these stairs.

Where is Koko Crater Trail?

The trail is pretty easy to find and is visible in the distance. From Waikiki, drive south on H1 (Kalaianaoli Highway) and keep going until it turns into Highway 72. When you hit Hawaii Kai Shopping center, take a left on Lunalilo Home Road, then a right on Anapalau Street. Taka e left onto Koko Head District Park where you'll find parking lots and a trailhead.

More Oahu Hiking Guides

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koko crater trail
koko crater trail

Photo Gallery

Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii

Lanikai Pillboxes - Easy Oahu Hike

One of the most picturesque and rather easy hikes on Oahu is the Lanikai Pillbox Hike, also known as Kaiwa Ridge Trail. It's located on the windward side of Oahu, Hawaii and it offers stunning views of the beautiful Lanikai Beach, Kailua Beach, and the Mokulua Islands. If you're looking to do this hike, read on for directions to the trailhead and tips to make the most of your hike. Also, check out the hyperlapse video that shows you exactly what you're in for.

Can't see the video above? Click here.

What are the pillboxes?

This hike gets its name from the two military observation stations (pillboxes) from World War II that are located on this hiking trail path. Each pillbox offers a resting point for hikers as well as stunning panoramic views. Depending on your pace, you can reach the first pillbox in about 20 minutes or less. It's not unusual for most hikers to make it to the first and/or second pillbox and turn back from there. But if you're on the more adventurous side, you can go further down the path into the valley for more scenic views and generally smaller crowds. The whole hike itself usually takes about 1 hour to 90 minutes round trip.

Also worth noting is the best time of day to do this hike. Sunrise is best viewed from this side of the island, but sunset happens on the Waikiki side. Sunset can also be a trickier time of day since the mountains block the setting sun, causing the windward side of the island to get darker faster. Thus, sunrise is a good time of day for optimal photography lighting conditions, especially if you want to beat the mid-day heat. But sunset can also be great to enjoy after colors and a significantly less crowded hiking trail.

Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail

Getting to the Lanikai Pillbox Hike

The Lanikai Pillbox trailhead is located just off of Ka'elepupu Drive, directly across from the Mid-Pacific Country Club. It's a little nondescript that may or may not have the sign up (it wasn't there during our recent trip). But due to this hike's popularity, it can usually be marked by the handfuls of people heading to the trail. This hike is free and there technically are not set operating hours although it is best done in daylight.

Due to the location of this hike in a residential neighborhood, it's recommended that you drive or take a bus. It's about a 40-minute direct drive from Waikiki. Just be forewarned that there isn't a whole lot of parking in the area. Your best bet is to find parking near Lanikai Park and simply walk the few blocks over to the trailhead. Make sure to read traffic signs and park in designated parking zones as traffic police tend to patrol the area regularly.

Lanikai Pillbox Hike - Safety Tips

Although this hike is considered intermediate, plenty of beginners can handle the terrain if they come prepared. The hardest part is the 10-yard long steep hill you encounter at the very beginning. If you start off on the far right side of the trail, there's a rope that can help with your ascent or descent. But if you're an inexperienced hiker, we highly recommend bringing a walking stick such as these compact folding hiking poles that we bring with us on every hike.

Hiking sticks or poles will help you with your balance while going up and down steep terrain. Several other hikers on this trail saw our hiking poles and immediately commented on how they wished they had some too. Along the lines of gear, proper hiking shoes are recommended to protect your toes and give you a good grip. This hike has many rocks and dirt paths that can get slick and muddy. Be very careful if you do this hike right after a heavy rainfall.

Day Trip - What to Do in Lanikai After the Hike

If you're making your way out to Lanikai for the hike, spend the rest of your day in the area. On your way into Lanikai, you'll pass by the popular, ever-crowded Kailua Beach. Spend some time here if you're lucky to score a parking spot. Or if you park near Lanikai Park as suggested above, walk a few blocks towards the water and enjoy Lanikai Beach. Top your day off with a post-hike fresh juice or açai bowl at Lanikai Juice.

More Oahu Hiking Guides

- Best Oahu Hikes: http://bit.ly/best-oahu-hikes -

Underrated Oahu Hikes: http://bit.ly/underrated-oahu-hikes

- Lanikai Pillbox Hike: http://bit.ly/lanikai-pillboxes

- Koko Crater Trail Hike: http://bit.ly/koko-crater-trail

Lanikai Pillbox Hike Photos

Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail

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Hawaii Hiking Trail
Hawaii Hiking Trail

Best Hikes on Oahu, Hawaii

There is no shortage of stunning hiking trails on Oahu. From popular trails with more people than you can count to more serene destinations where it's just you and nature, there's something for everyone. This is a list of some of my favorite hiking trails on Oahu. I have personally completed these hikes and have found them all to be very enjoyable and photo-worthy.

Recommended Hiking Gear

As a rather risk-averse hiker who is wary of heights, the first two hikes were somewhat easy for me. The latter was truly difficult and I had a hard time making it to the top and back. If you too are not much of a hiker, know that there's absolutely no shame in turning back if at any point you feel uncomfortable. No hike is worth risking your health and safety. On that note, do make sure you are duly prepared with proper hiking equipment. This alone can make your hiking experience much safer and more enjoyable.

Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail - Very Easy

This is a pretty popular trail that can at times seem crowded if you judge on parking availability alone. But to be fair, the parking lot to this trail is on the small side, and it's actually ok to park your car on the side of the road just outside of the gates. Even if the parking lot seems full, don't be deterred. Makapu'u Point is quite large with many little side trails so it doesn't feel very crowded. The main trail is nicely paved, allowing for baby strollers and those in wheelchairs to access the top. But it is a somewhat steep climb. The view at the end is such a reward and worth the hike. Makapu'u tidepools can also be accessed from this trail, although that path isn't paved and requires a bit more agility.

Kaena Point Trail - Easy

The easiest hiking trail I've done on Oahu has to be Kaena Point Trail. It's roughly 5-miles long (roundtrip). The terrain is flat and there's little to no descent. It winds along the westernmost coast of Oahu leading to a nature reserve where you can see seabirds (mainly albatross) and large Hawaiian monk seals in the wild. Since there are two different trails, this hike is rarely crowded and is one of those "off the beaten path" trails.

Read more about the Kaena Point Trail.

Kaena Point Beach and Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Kaena Point Beach and Hike on Oahu, Hawaii

Lanikai Pillboxes - Moderate

A moderate Oahu hiking trail is the now popular Lanikai Pillbox hike. Located on the windward side, this hike is actually quite short, but it involves a quick, steep ascent. It's not terribly difficult, but those with a fear of heights and poor balance may have issues. The reward comes rather quick in the form of a stunning panoramic view of Lanikai and Kailua Beaches. This hike can be somewhat crowded, but traffic is restricted by the difficulty in finding parking in this area.

Read more about the Lanikai Pillboxes Trail.

Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail

Koko Crater Trail - Difficult

By far the hardest hike I've yet to do on Oahu is Koko Crater Trail. From what I've read, there are many other hikes that are much more difficult but I warn you again that I'm not much of a hiker. So for me, Koko Crater Trail exceeds my comfort zone by a lot.

This trail is short (under 2 miles), but it's very steep. It also involves climbing old railway tracks that now serve as makeshift stairs. Except these stairs are much longer and taller than the ones that modern humans are used to, so they're not terribly easy for those of us with shorter legs. But like Lanikai Pillboxes, the reward is in the panoramic view at the top. So in that sense, Koko Crater is worth doing at least once.

Read more about the Koko Crater Trail.

Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii

Over To You

What are your favorite hiking trails on Oahu? Let me know in the comments below!

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Best oahu hikes
Best oahu hikes

Underrated Hikes of Oahu - Go Off the Beaten Path

If you're traveling to Oahu with the goal of hiking in mind, you might end up disappointed. Many of the island's popular hiking trails are so crowded with tourists that they can be hard to enjoy. If you're seeking solitude and opportunities to really bond with Hawaii's unique nature, we recommend traveling off the beaten path. Explore some these underrated, lesser-known hiking trails that are more likely to be populated with locals, if anyone at all.

Popular Oahu Hikes

First, let's address some of those popular hiking trails that you might want to avoid if you want to dodge crowds:

Kaena Point Beach and Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Kaena Point Beach and Hike on Oahu, Hawaii

Lesser Known Oahu Hiking Trails

Kaena Point Trail

Located along the westernmost point of Oahu, this trail will take you to the Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve. This reserve is home to native plants and seabirds, namely albatross that come here to mate and hatch chicks. Hawaiian monk seals can also be seen here. It's a long-ish hike of about 5 miles roundtrip, but the terrain is very flat and relatively easy to walk on. Those seeking a hardcore hiking experience won't find this one a challenge in terms of terrain. There is no shade or protection from the sun, so sunscreen, hats, and plenty of water should be packed. The path winds along the coast offering beautiful ocean views, but high surf and winds can be treacherous, so mind any weather warnings. Pets are not allowed on this trail to ensure the safety of the seabirds at the nature reserve.

It's also important to note that Kaena Point Trail has two different starting points: the Waianae route and the Mokuleia route. The Waianae route can be accessed from Honolulu by taking the H1 freeway west until it turns into Farrington Highway (Route 93). Keep following the road until it terminates; park here and start your hike. From Mokuleia, drive on H-2 to Kaukonahua Road (Route 903) to Farrington Highway (Route 930). Following the road past Waialua and Camp Erdman; the trailhead begins where the paved road ends.

Makiki Valley Loop Trail

This hiking trail is probably lesser known because it doesn't offer any stunning views or particularly Instagram-worthy material. What it does offer is a chance to get your cardio on and also experience Hawaii nature in the raw. The Makiki Valley Loop starts at the Hawaii Nature Center, which also offers nature excursions and activities. But this loop can be done as a self-guided hike. The loop is comprised of three trails: Makiki Valley Trail, Kanealole Trail, and Maunalaha Trail. All in all, it's a 2.5-mile round trip that is fairly easy to navigate if you pay attention to trail markers. Pets are welcome on this trail.

Start at the Hawaii Nature Center and step onto the clearly marked Makiki Valley Loop Trail. From here, you have a choice. Hiking counterclockwise on the Maunalaha Trail gives you the challenge up front. This steep ascent is littered with lots of tree roots and rocks. It sounds challenging, but even inexperienced hikers can handle the terrain with some extra care and attention. Once you reach the top, there are benches that let you take a breather. From here, head down Kanealole Trail, which is significantly easier with nice sounds of chirping birds and a gently flowing stream.

Aiea Loop Trail

If you're looking for a simple, easy Oahu hike, Aiea Loop Trail is worth exploring. This 4.8-mile hike takes you along the west side of Halawa Valley, offering views of Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor, and the picturesque Ko'olau Mountains. It's also mostly shaded so you can stay relatively cool. Since the path is a loop, directions are easy once you get started, and you get unique views from every stop. This hike starts at the Keaiwa Heiau State Recreation Area, a 384-acre park with lots of parking and restrooms for a pit stop.

Kalauao Trail

Want to toughen up the Aiea Loop Trail? Look for an S-shaped curve at the trail junction and head down the Kalauao Trail. It's a 4-mile, mostly downhill trail that leads to many swimming holes and a waterfall. Just prepare for the strenuous uphill hike back.

Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail

West Oahu Pillbox Hike (Pu'u O Hulu Kai)

You've probably heard of the popular Lanikai Pillbox hike on Oahu's windward side. If you want a similar, less crowded hike, head to the west side of Oahu and seek out the Pink Pillbox Hike (Pu'u O Hulu Kai). This short 2-mile hike takes you up a ridge between the Nanakuli and Maili suburbs. The trail starts at Kaukama Road after the 9th light pole on the ride side of the road. There are a couple of different route options that lead to the top.

The shortest route is also the most challenging as it is a steep ascent. Only attempt this if you're an experienced hiker up for a challenge. The other route is an easier but longer zigzag path. When you get to the top, be sure to mind the rocky edges.

Wondering what the Lanikai Pillbox hike is like? Check out this first-person hyperlapse video below that takes you through the trail!

Hiking Safety Tips

All of these hikes mentioned above are free without cost or the need for a permit or license. Many also do not have an official opening or closing times, but it's always best to finish your hike before sunset. In many cases, drastic weather such as heavy rains or high surf can affect the hiking trail terrain. Be sure to check local websites for any official closures or warning signs.

More Oahu Hiking Guides

- Best Oahu Hikes: http://bit.ly/best-oahu-hikes

- Underrated Oahu Hikes: http://bit.ly/underrated-oahu-hikes

- Lanikai Pillbox Hike: http://bit.ly/lanikai-pillboxes

- Koko Crater Trail Hike: http://bit.ly/koko-crater-trail

Lesser-Known Oahu Hiking Trails Map

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underrated hawaii hiking
underrated hawaii hiking

What to See and Do in Maui, Hawaii

When the time came to choose a winter travel destination in 2014, Martin and I were stumped. Originally, we had planned to visit the Dominican Republic. However, a sudden mosquito virus outbreak around that time caused us to change plans. At the end of the day, we decided to spend our tropical holiday in Hawaii. We're no strangers to Hawaii. I grew up on Oahu and have visited not only my home island with Martin but also the Big Island in 2013. Of the Hawaiian islands, we really had only a few more to choose from when it came to discovering new areas. We decided to spend our time on Maui. This would be my fourth trip to Maui, and the very first of all for Martin.

Travel Mission: (Re)discover the Hawaiian island of Maui.

Maui Hawaii road trip map itinerary

Our Trip By the Numbers

  • 10 Days
  • 624 Miles driven
  • 69.5 Miles walked
  • 172,079 Steps Walked

Maui Hawaii travel photography

A Personal History with Maui

The second largest of the Hawaiian Islands, Maui has the third-highest population, falling behind Oahu and the Big Island. Growing up on Oahu, it was common for friends to spend weekends or summers over on Maui. We always knew who had recently gone to Maui as they would return with a box of Krispy Kreme donuts, as their only Hawaii location was in Maui. My own maternal grandmother had even been born and raised on a sugar cane plantation in the Maui town of Lahaina.

As a child, I recall making several weekend trips to Maui via family-sized Cessna airplanes flown by my dad, a former F-14 Navy jet pilot. I also visited Maui for high school cross country meets, and once with my grandmother to revisit her childhood home.

Returning to Maui in my late twenties without family definitely proved to be a different experience and a welcome change of pace. The goal of this trip was not to go slow and leisurely enjoy the island, but rather do everything we possibly could in 10 days' time.

Wailuku to Kihei

Our trip began with a red eye direct flight from Seattle to Kahului. We picked up our rental car close to 10:00 pm and jetted to a cheap hostel in Wailuku. Dinner that night was, to my delight, at a local Zippy's restaurant, the most popular local fast food chain in Hawaii. The next day, we woke up early and beelined directly to Kihei, where we would end up spending most of our time.

Staying in a simple yet conveniently located condo we'd found on Airbnb, Kihei was by far our favorite area of Maui. While rather touristy in many ways, we appreciated the calmer waters on this side of the island that allowed for stellar paddle boarding and sailing, as well as the expansive and clean-kept beach parks. We also took a couple of trips down to the famous Grand Wailea hotel.

Maui Hawaii travel photography

Whale Watching in Lahaina

After a couple of nights in Kihei, we ventured north to Lahaina, staying at Kahana Falls resort. The bulk of tourist activity in Lahaina in concentrated on the waterfront, meaning Martin and I took one quick jaunt down it before deciding it wasn't to our taste. We did, however, manage to hop aboard two marine boat tours in the area, including a sunrise whale watching cruise, and a half day snorkeling tour. Maui, I love you deeply, but the snorkeling just isn't up to par with Belize.

What was very impressive about the Lahaina side of the island was the extreme prevalence of breaching humpback whales that you could see from the shore. No matter how many times you've seen whales in the wild, it never gets old seeing these great creatures in their native habitats. The abundance of whales was at one point explained to us by a guide who said it was the result of long-time conservation efforts finally paying off.Maui Hawaii travel photography

Kula and Haleakala

Our time in Lahaina was very leisurely, despite cloudy, rainy weather. From there, we headed inland to the mountainous up-country town of Kula, where we stayed in a cute studio apartment we'd found on Airbnb. Most of Kula's residential areas are between 1,800-3,700 feet in elevation, meaning much cooler temperatures and stunning views. While small in terms of size and dining choices, Kula was the perfect base for ascending the formidable Haleakala.

A now dormant volcano, Haleakala is on the east side of Maui. It forms more than 75% of the entire island of Maui. We did the traditional routine of waking up before dawn and watching the sunrise. However, the tourist pack was quick to leave after sunrise, so we were among the few who did a hike down into the crater and back. If you want to know what Mars looks like, do this hike! It's incredibly desolate yet unique with a very photogenic terrain.

Maui Hawaii travel photography

The Road to Hana

A traditional tourist trip to vacation is not complete without attempting the road to Hana. A 64.4-mile stretch, Hana Highway is enjoyable to some and formidable to others. The road (paved, thankfully) is extremely winding and narrow through lush, wet tropical rainforest terrain. For a sense of driving difficulty, consider that the path includes passage over 59 bridges, 46 of which are only one lane wide. As a result, driving the 52-mile road can take upwards of 2 hours to complete. We were fortunate to not hit a ton of on-coming traffic and enjoyed driving this road's windy twists and turns. For us, the total drive time was in one hour, much less than expected.

One we got to Hana, we discovered it was the one town in probably the whole state of Hawaii without cell phone reception, which seems foreign in this day and age. Located on the eastern end of Maui, Hana is among the most isolated communities in Hawaii, but it is incredibly lush and green. We stayed at a dated but cute Hana Maui Bed and Breakfast we'd found via Google (alas, nothing affordable on Airbnb). Our free time was spent exploring local parks and attractions including Hana Lava Tube, Wai'anapanapa State Park, and Kōkī Beach Park.

Maui Hawaii travel photography

Paia

From Hana, we could either traverse the Hana highway in reverse to reach our next destination. Or we could drive in the opposite direction, down the dirt road to Kaupo and then back through Kula. The problem with this second option was a warning we'd heard from other travelers. This route, while faster in some ways, would require driving a stretch of poorly maintained, unpaved road. Due to the road's condition, it uncovered by our rental car agreement. Despite these warnings, we drove the road anyway without any problems, making it back to Kula; after stopping at Grandma's Maui Coffee Shop for coffee, we went to our final Maui destination: Paia.

A small, "hippie" town of sorts, Paia is known for its surfing and windsurfing spots, including those of Ko'okipa and Spreckelsville. Also located not far from Paia is the Jaws surf break, known for its bumpy, unpaved roads and enormous north shore surf in the winter.

In Paia, we stayed at a modern Airbnb house rental near the famous Mama's Fish House. Much of our time was spent lounging and boogie boarding on the nearby Baldwin Beach Park. We also made frequent trips to Mana Foods for fresh organic foods. It was the perfect chill ending to our 10-day Maui vacation.

Maui Hawaii travel photography

 Maui Travel Photo Gallery

Sustainability Profile: Hirabara Farms

Sustainability Profile: Hirabara Farms

Our week-long Big Island trip for the  Hawaii sustainability documentary continues with a stop at Hirabara Farms. This 3-acre parcel sits at 2,900 feet above sea level in Waimea. It is owned by farmers Kurt and Pam Hirabara, and together they produce 13 varieties of baby lettuce and about 2,400 pounds each week exclusively for island chefs.

Sustainability Profile: Wailea Agriculture

Those in search of the Garden of Eden need look no further than Wailea Agricultural Group (Wailea Ag). Located in Honomu on the Big Island's Hamakua Coast, Wailea Ag consists of 110 acres of what used to be sugar cane fields for as far as the eye could see. In 1994, partners Michael Crowell and Lesley Hill began working on the land with the idea of establishing a sustainable food forest of sorts. Today, the land is home to lush green land where tons of tropical flowers, plants, fruits, and spices grow in abundance. The cream of the crop is Hawaiian heart of palm, a nutritious and highly prized vegetable harvested from the inner core of palm trees. Wailea Ag supplies many fine dining restaurants and hotels with their abundant hearts of palm and they are currently the largest growers of fresh Hawaiian heart of palm in America averaging an annual harvest of over 15 tons (harvested by hand!).

*This is a multi-part installment as part of the Hawaii Sustainable Agriculture Project. Learn more about the project and the 12 participants here

Wailea-2.jpg

Wailea Agricultural Group

Wailea Agriculture began in 1994 as a 110-acre food forest. It is currently America’s largest grower of fresh Hawaiian hearts of palm. Owners Michael Crawford and Leslie Hill spent many years clearing the former sugar cane land in order to make room for their food forest. They practice a variety of sustainable farming techniques. One involves leaving trimmings and fallen leaves and fruits around the original plants to help fertilize them over time. They also use plant cuttings for composting, keep an on-site reservoir of water catchment, and allow local hunting of feral pigs on the property so that hunters can eat or sell the animals.

Wailea-20.jpg

Wailea Ag By the Numbers

  • 1994 - Year when Wailea Agriculture began.

  • 110 Acres -  encompassing Wailea Ag.

  • 15 Tons of heart of palm are harvested annually. 

  • 20+ Varieties of edible plants grown.

  • 35+ Years of collective farming experience. 

Wailea-3.jpg

Wailea Ag was among our first farm stops during the Big Island culinary tour, and while we were expecting to see tons of palm trees on their property, nothing could prepare us for the extensive tour that Michael took us on. He loaded us up in a motorized golf cart and proceeded to drive us around his 110 acres, stopping every few minutes to get out and show us some of the many other tropical fruits and plants they had growing on the property.

In no particular order (and undoubtedly forgetting many things), here is what we saw growing in full force at Wailea Ag: Fresh peach palm, lychee, rambutans, pulasans, longans, Meyer lemons, keffir limes, durian, dragon fruit, avocado, passion fruit, mangosteen, starfruit, jackfruit, soursop, açai, citron, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, bay leaves, and cinnamon, to name a few.

Wailea-13.jpg

Next time you visit Wailea Ag, it's almost guaranteed they'll have another fruit or spice to add to the list. That's pretty darn impressive, especially considering that all 110 acres of land started out as sugar cane fields. By the time we were done with the extensive tour, we also had a box to take home that was full of pretty much every fruit we could get our hands on...and of course a freshly harvest heart of palm!

How does Wailea Ag factor in sustainability? Lucky for them, their cash crop is largely sustainable by nature. Heart of palm is a renewable crop in that new shoots constantly replace the ones that have been harvested, meaning no harm is done to the main crop. There are of course many more sustainability measures in place, but you'll have to wait and see the final video when it's ready! In the meantime, get a mini video tour over at She Grows Food. Also, check out the full photo gallery of the visit here.

Wailea Agricultural Group, Inc. P.O. Box 69 Honomu, Hawaii 96728

www.waileaag.com (808) 963-6360

Hawaii Sustainable Agriculture Documentary

Hundreds of years ago, Hawaii’s natural resources from the land to the sea sustained a population of over one million ancient Hawaiians. An ancient system known as the ahu’pua’a provided resources for all by giving daily contribution tasks to everyone who lived in the communities. Centuries later, Hawaii’s natural resources no longer provide enough to sustain the vastly growing population of the islands; in fact, the islands only produce 10-15% of the foods consumed by the local population. Most consumable foods and goods are imported from the mainland United States as well as from international countries. As a result, most modern people do not spend any time physically cultivating their own food and may not even know where the food they eat even comes from.

Wow tomato farms Big Island Hawaii
Wow tomato farms Big Island Hawaii

In October 2013, two teachers and five students from Kapolei High School on Oahu spent five days on the Big Island of Hawaii to visit 13 local businesses promoting local farming and ranching. The goal was to produce a 20-minute multimedia documentary that explores how local farmers are helping Hawaii become an agriculturally sustainable state where more locally grown food is produced. During the five days on the Big Island, students and teachers enjoyed not only seeing where food was coming from but also experiencing it in local restaurants. We sampled pancakes and locally made coconut syrup, goat cheese salad, grass-fed all beef burgers, freshly caught island fish, Kona coffee, and fresh fruit salads.

Throughout the experience, it was that there are many challenges and roadblocks to agricultural sustainability in Hawaii, but there are also lots of people who rise to the challenge each day. Here are some of those people.

12 Sustainable Agricultural Programs in Hawaii

Sustainability Profile: Hawaii Island Goat Dairy

When you think of the Big Island of Hawaii, I bet that goat cheese is the last thing you'd expect to buy fresh from the islands. However, thanks to Dick Threlfall and his late wife Heather, a small farmstead of goats churns out over 12 kinds of goat milk cheeses including feta, mozzarella, gouda, Colby and much more. As part of a weeklong tour of Hawaii farms, our next stop was Hawaii Island Goat Dairy to learn about dairy goat farming.

*This is a multi-part installment as part of the Hawaii Sustainable Agriculture Project. Learn more about the project and the 12 participants here

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Hawaii Island Goat Dairy by the Numbers

  • 2001 - The year Hawaii Island Goat Dairy was established.
  • 10 - The farm encompasses 10-acres of land.
  • 60 female goats are milked daily.
  • 12 Types of goat cheese produced.
  • 20 male goats on the farm.

The goat farm herd consists of several dairy goat breeds including Saanens, Toggenburgs, and Nubians. Many goats are bred as half Saanen and half Nubian, or "snubian." Pasture lands on the farm include not only grass but also tropical trees such as bamboo, tea leaf, ginger leaf, and macadamia nut trees. The herd of goats graze here frequently.

Hawaii Island Goat Dairy only has four bucks on the premises. But for the sake of increasing production without increasing the adult goats they have to care for, the farm staff uses artificial insemination to produce baby goats. Liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the sperm of mating bucks to facilitate goat reproduction. After they're born, baby goats are raised indoors and fed by hand by staff and volunteers.

Dick Threfall (second from the right) and his family.

Dick Threfall (second from the right) and his family.

Goat Cheese Production

The goat dairy has a fully automated pipeline milking system on site. Made to exclusively cater to goats, the system can milk as many as 60 goats twice a day. The pipeline feeds the goat milk to the cheese room where it is pasteurized and made into two kinds of cheese: natural feta cheese and flavored cheeses. Some of the latter variety include goat cheese flavored with dill, garlic, macadamia basil pesto, or chipotle pepper. After the cheeses are produced, they are stored in a refrigerated cheese room where they are aged. Altogether, the farm produces 200-300 pounds of cheese a week. The products are sent to Hawaii’s top chefs and a few selected local supermarkets. Hawaii Island Goat Dairy cheese products are only sold in local Hawaii markets; no sales are available on the farm or online.

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Hawaii Island Goat Dairy and Sustainability

To do its part and involve the community, the goat dairy offers an on-site volunteer internship program that offers room and board in exchange for work on the dairy. Dick Treyfall also shares his thoughts on Hawaii becoming a more agriculturally sustainable state: “It’s a lot of work, but in the long run it’s worth it because there may come a time where we have to be sustainable. We’ll run out of food, but we have the ability to produce all of the food we ever need here. The sustainability move is tremendous now; it’s picking up and getting better all of the time. Happy healthy goats give good milk which makes great cheese.”

Sustainability Profile: Wow Farm

Tricia Hodson first inherited the plot of homestead land from her father back in 1989. She had a background in education and her husband Mike had spent 27 years working with the Hawaii Police Department. Neither of them knew anything about farming, but they had the vision of building a family business by growing and selling organic tomatoes. Initially, the Hodsons were growing tomatoes in greenhouses for personal consumption. Then they entered the local farmer’s market scene where their tomatoes earned their well-deserved “wow” name and fame. Their first greenhouse appeared on the property in 2006; today, their 10-acre property a holds over 40 greenhouses that produce between 5,000-10,000 pounds of organic tomatoes a week.

Why grow tomatoes? Mike says they are among the hardest crops to grow, and he wanted a challenge. A challenge did he receive, and it took lots of trial and error to come up with an effective way to cultivate an agricultural program that could be sustainable.

*This is a multi-part installment as part of the Hawaii Sustainable Agriculture Project. Learn more about the project and the 12 participants here

Mike and Tricia Hodson of Wow tomato farms on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Mike and Tricia Hodson of Wow tomato farms on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Wow Hodson Family Farms

Six years ago, Mike and Tricia Hodson were sitting on a 10-acre lot of Hawaii homestead agriculture land in Waimea with nothing more than a house and a dream board of ideas. Today, that land is now home to Wow Hodson Family Farms, one of the most successful organic tomato farms on Hawaii's Big Island. The story of how Mike and Tricia got to where they are today is an inspiring example of entrepreneurial and educational pursuits.

Address: 64-793 Ainahua Alanui Kamuela, Hawai'i, Hawaii 96743 (808) 887-0969 http://www.wowfarms.com/

By the Numbers

  • 10 Acres - Wow Hudson Family Farm consists of 10 acres of land. 

  • 40 - The number of greenhouses on the farmlands.

  • 2006 - The year the first greenhouse appeared on the farm. 

  • Thousands of pounds of tomatoes produced by the farm weekly. 

  • 14 Other families benefiting from the Hodson's farming education. [/tw-column]

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Today, Mike's method of growing tomatoes requires a minimal amount of output, and it reaps a ton of benefits. Among his inventive growing techniques includes the use of plastic flooring in his greenhouses that eliminates the need to weed his plants, an act which he says can take up 75% of a farmer's labor. The plastic flooring also makes it easy to swiftly sweep up the dead tomato leaves when they fall.

Mike's neat row of tomato plants in his greenhouse are also part of his efficiency plan. When it comes time to pollinate his plants, all he has to do is go to one end of the row and give his plants a few hard shakes. The tomatoes take care of the rest of the work, as they are self-pollinating plants.

What is the importance of sustainability in his farming practices? Well Mike is quick to point out that sustainability can have multiple meanings. It can mean financial freedom from the burden of debts, which he has practiced by paying for all of his farming equipment, supplies, and land without the need to borrow credit.

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Malama 'aina means to care for and nurture the land so it can give back all we need to sustain life for ourselves and our future generations.

An ahupua'a is an ancient concept of resource use and management based on families living in a division of land that connects the mountains to the reefs and the sea." - Puanani Rogers, Team Leader for the Ho`okipa Network

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Sustainability can also mean malama 'aina (take care of the land) by using organic farming techniques that will keep the land healthy, which is what Wow Farms does in their practices. Although they aren't certified organic (they don't see the need to pay for a stamp of certification), Wow Farms is a fully organic farm that chooses to sell itself as an "all natural" farm.

Most importantly, however, is the definition of sustainability that applies to keeping a community of people happy and fed with healthy, wholesome food. Wow Farm fulfills this mission by helping 14 other nearby homestead families learn to grow their own food using the Hudson's greenhouses and growing techniques. Mike points out that the entire state of Hawaii only produces about 7% of the food that we consume; if the ships and suppliers were to stop bringing in food from outside sources, the islands will starve after a week. An isolated island can't eternally rely on outside providers, especially with the population booming the way it is.

Wow Farm tomatoes varieties include heirlooms, red and orange beefsteaks, and Romas. The tomatoes are of such pristine quality that they are in high demand by the chefs at many high end Hawaii resorts including the Hilton Waikoloa, Four Seasons Hualālai, and Mauna Lani Bay Resort. Consumers can also find Wow Farm tomatoes in select grocery stores. Yes, they're priced higher than the average tomato, but they are organic, locally grown, and supremely tasty--not to mention, they have a very long shelf life.

Sustainability Profile: Rare Hawaiian Honey

Volcano Island Honey Company is a small business in Hawaii that produces one of the rarest types of honey in the world: organic kiawe honey. The honeybee nectar comes from the naturally GMO and pesticide free forest of kiawe trees on the dry side of the Big Island. The honey naturally crystalizes into a creamy white texture and is pure, raw, 100% certified organic honey that is bottled and jarred.

The company is owned by Dr. and Mrs. Michael Domeier; Dr. Domeier is an expert on Great White Sharks, having made many breakthroughs and discoveries that have been featured on television programs. He created a special honey called the Great White Honey and is donating 10% of those sales profits to shark research. Thus, Dr. Dumeyer’s work with the kiawe honey helps sustain another natural resource of Hawaii: the Great White Shark.

Rare Hawaiian kiawe honey
Rare Hawaiian kiawe honey

“What I like about Hawaii is that there aren’t huge agricultural businesses that are spraying their giant mono-crops. We came here from California where that happened all the time. So I think Hawaii is a great place to eat fresher and healthier.”

Location: 66-1250 Lalamilo Farm Road Waimea, Hawaii

(888) 663-6639 |  www.rarehawaiianhoney.com

*This is a multi-part installment as part of the Hawaii Sustainable Agriculture Project. Learn more about the project and the 12 participants here

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By The Numbers

  • 100% All honeys are 100% certified organic. 
  • 10% Percentage of sales of Great White Shark honey that go to research. 
  • 1,000 Acreage of kiawe forest where honeybees gather nectar.
  • 1828 Year the first kiawe tree was planted in Hawaii.
  • 6 - Kiawe trees have long thorns that can be up to 6 cm long. 

Sustainability Profile: Hamakua Springs Country Farms

Richard Ha and his family own a 600 acre farm on the Big Island in Hamakua Springs. Here, they along with 70 full-time employees practice biodiversity by producing a variety of bananas, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, watercress, avocado, and citrus. All of the fruits and vegetables are produced using sustainably viable practices. For example, instead of spraying banana plants with pesticides, predatory wasps are allowed to nest inside of the banana groves to cut down on the amount of caterpillars that try to eat the fruit. Grass is allowed to grow around the roots of the banana trees to create a sponge-like effect that helps the plant absorb more water and fertilizer. When banana fruits begin to ripen, they are wrapped in pesticide-free plastic to protect them against pests.

421 Lama Street Hilo, Hawaii (808) 981-0805 www.hamakuasprings.com

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By the Numbers

  • 600 Acres of Hamakua Springs Farmland.
  • 70 Full-time workers on the farm.
  • 150 Acres of land leased to other farmers.
  • 2004 - Year when Hamakua Springs expanded its crop offerings.
  • 2 Types of bananas are grown in Hamakua Springs Farms.

Even the way the farm stays powered is sustainable by way of a flume system that supplies water to a newly built on-site generator for electricity. Rain water is captured on a rooftop and is stored in a reservoir for cooling and washing produce as well as powering a hydroponic system. Hydroponic farming is preferred since it ensures protection against pests and fungal growth while also reducing reliance on labor, land, and heavy machinery. Using hydroelectricity and solar power, the farm strives to soon be completely off the grid.

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Hamakua Springs further encourages sustainability in leading by example and helping the rest of their community have access to farming. Currently they lease 150 acres to local farmers so that they too are able to grow their own crops for consumption and commerce. The farm is also open to new technology for farming including the possible use of drones to detect agricultural problems.

But at the end of the day, Richard Ha knows that the best form of sustainable farming comes in the awareness and activity from his customers. He encourages all Hawaii residents to buy local not only to support local farmers, but to ensure everyone the freshest, most natural products.

Produce from Hamakua Springs is available at most Hawaii-based supermarkets including Safeway, Costco, KTA Superstores, and Star Market; select produce is also exported internationally and to the mainland USA.

*This is a multi-part installment as part of the Hawaii Sustainable Agriculture Project. Learn more about the project and the 12 participants here

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