You’ll find the Dole Plantation on the drive from Honolulu to Hawaii’s North Shore, about 40 minutes north of Waikiki on the Kamehameha Highway. If you’re staying in Honolulu and want to get “out of the city” for awhile, especially with children, a fun day trip would be to the Dole Plantation, one of the island’s most popular tourist destinations with more than a million visitors a year.
A Brief History of the Pineapple in Hawaii
The pineapple was given its English name because of its resemblance to a pine cone. Christopher Columbus was the first who brought this plant, native of South America, to Europe. For centuries pineapple imported to America’s seaside towns was a treat; a fresh pineapple displayed on the porch meant that the sailor was home.
No one knows when the first pineapples reached Hawaii, but there are records showing they were grown on the islands in the early 1800s, during King Kamehameha’s reign.
The Dole empire was founded more than 100 years ago by the James Dole. Twenty-two year old at the time, Mr Dole moved to Honolulu from the mainland and bought 64 acres of land in the central part of the island. After experimenting with several crops, he decided he’d grow pineapples. He founded the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, a precursor to the Dole Co, and a pineapple empire was created. Pineapple was advertised on the mainland and with it there was a growing demand for the fruit. A significant percentage of several Hawaiian islands, including Oahu, was devoted to pineapple cultivation and two canneries were built on the islands (long since closed). The complex you visit at the Dole Plantation had humble origins as a simple fruit stand in 1950 in the middle what were then vast pineapple fields.
Today’s Dole Plantation has several attractions worth exploring. It has the Pineapple Garden Maze, said to be the world’s largest maze at 3 acres. It has two and a half miles of paths and thousands of plants among which you can wander and get lost.
There is a 20 minute, two mile train ride, the Pineapple Express, aimed at families (and which provided our first puzzle clues). The diesel train was built in England by Severn Lamb. Narration along your journey explains the crops and scenery you are enjoying and some of the history of the plantation, and it was very informative. Currently only relatively small acreage is devoted to pineapple growth (only fruit consumed on the islands is currently grown here — none of the pineapple you see in the fields is canned or exported).
You can take a walk through a tropical garden including lots of hibiscus, bromeliads and other tropical plants, like banana and papaya. Extensive use of informative signage helps you understand and appreciate the gardens.
Of course, there’s a gift shop in the plantation-style store where you can buy souvenirs and fresh pineapples to take back to your room or to the mainland. A restaurant features an assortment of snacks and island cuisine — I’d really recommend trying the DoleWhip®, a refreshing and delicious snack on a hot day….
All in all, a fun time in a beautiful location!
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