Pineapple, the symbol of hospitality and the perfect garnish for a Mai Tai. In all the trips I have made to Maui I have yet to tour the Maui Gold Pineapple plantation in Makawao. It seems a shame as I’ve probably eaten over 100 lbs of Maui Gold pineapples over the course of the past three years. It is high time I get my pineapple tour on as it is one of my favourite fruits and I know nothing about how it is grown except that it doesn’t come from a tree. It doesn’t get any sweeter than Maui Gold pineapples and what better place to enjoy them than where they are grown.
From the Kaanapali Beach Resort area, it is an approx 45 min to 1-hour drive depending on traffic and time of day. The Maui Gold Pineapple farm is located in the town area of Makawao on the slopes of Haleakala. Once the home to the Paniolo (aka Hawaiian Cowboys) and sugar cane plantations. The group I am with has signed up for the Pineapple Tour + Distillery Tour. We are getting a first-hand look at how pineapples are grown and then we can taste one of the products made from the sweetest pineapples on earth.
The tour begins with boarding a shuttle bus and a welcome intro by our host and guide for the next hour and a half. Our guide is quite knowledgeable about the mighty pineapple and it is quite clear from the outset he believes Maui Gold pineapples to be the best in the world.
The property is massive and the first thing I notice is that pineapple plants are visible for as far as the eye can see. The first fields we drive through are new plantings. Crops are planted and harvested for two years and then the land is allowed to go fallow and then the cycle begins all over again. Crops are planted based on market needs and predictions.
This is what a young Maui Gold pineapple plant looks like up close.
When the weather and plant maturity are just right the fruit appears. In the first year, pineapples are easier to harvest as they are easily reached and visible for the pickers. By the second year, the plant foliage hides the fruit in the centre of the plant making harvesting more challenging. Both planting and harvesting are still done by hand. The sweetest pineapple on earth is back-breaking labour so savour every bite.
The best part of the tour is, of course, the chance to stop and eat ripe pineapples straight from the field. We try two levels of ripeness. The first is still a little green which means it is stable for shipping to foreign markets like Canada and the US. These are the pineapples we are able to buy in our grocery stores. Delicious and sweet.
The second pineapple we try is picked at the height of ripeness and is destined for the local Hawaiian market. OMG, it is so sweet an delicious. Check out our guide as he carves us each as much pineapple as we can eat in the field.
With a belly full of Maui Gold pineapple we head back to the plant where we see how the cleaning, sorting and packaging happens. This is where each of us gets our own Maui Gold pineapple (2 per couple) boxed and customs pre-cleared.
The next part of our adventure is steps away. We now head next door to Hali’imaile Distilling Company where they make vodka from Maui Gold pineapples.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I think I thought this was going to be a small “hobby” distillery. Not the case at all. In fact the Master Distiller, Mark Nigbur is something of a distilling phenom and has even created the unique glass stills they use to make all their products.
We take a quick tour of the facility but spend most of our time in the tasting room sampling product. I highly recommend appointing a designated driver at this point.
There is rum, vodka, gin and even whisky available for you to sample. My personal favourite was the Pau Maui Oaked Vodka and the Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum Red Head, which tastes of Macadamia Nut and Cheeries. If you’ve ever eaten or drank rum at Sammy Hagar’s Sammy’sBeach Bar & Grill you’ve tried the rum made here in Maui.
What an awesome adventure that included plenty a lesson in how pineapples are grown and a fantastic tasting at Hali’imaille Distilling Company. Why did it take me three years to get here? I don’t know, but I’m glad I can now cross this adventure off my Hawaiian bucket list. Aloha!