Pineapple is no longer the lifeline of Hawaii’s agricultural industry that it once was, but you can still get the whole Pineapple Experience with a visit to the Dole Plantation, just an hour or so north of Honolulu.
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The Dole Plantation is about as touristy as it gets, but it is also a lot of fun. We took a ride on the The Pineapple Express, which carries visitors through a through a working plantation of pineapple and other crops, featuring fields in all stages of growth, from planting to harvest.
We also managed to make our way through "The World's Largest Maze" - it took us just under an hour, which I learned is about average. The maze stretches over three acres and includes nearly two and one-half miles of paths crafted from 14,000 colorful Hawaiian plants. (I'm pretty sure that the Corn Maize on Portland's Sauvie's island is bigger, but who am I to dispute the folks at Guinness World Records?)
Our stroll through Dole Plantation’s eight different educational gardens gave us a glimpse at a wide variety of beautiful and useful tropical plants. The Bromeliad Garden was particularly striking.
Q: What is a pineapple?
a. The hanging fruit of the pineapple tree.
b. The underground root of a spiky-leafed plant.
c. The fruit of a terrestrial bromeliad flower stalk.
This is tough for me to admit, but until I went to the Dole Plantation, I had no idea how pineapples grew. I was humbly reminded of the time, while taking a class on curriculum development in college, I learned about how some inner-city children needed to be taught that carrots came from the ground and milk came from cows. I was incredulous: who doesn’t know that?
I’m sure small children in Hawaii would think the same thing of me and my ignorance about pineapple cultivation.
Tip: Sections of the Dole Plantation offer very little int he way of shade, and the exposure can be brutal on hot days. Be sure you are prepared for the sun!
On the grounds, we found a large pond that held some serious looking koi. Local artisans were on hand as well.
Our last stop started with a brisk walk through the Dole Plantation Store, which has more pineapple-related stuff for sale than I ever imagined could possibly existed. We headed straight for the Plantation Grille - for cup of their a world-famous Dole Whip! So, so, so good, especially on a hot day!
Check out my recipe for 4-ingredient Pineapple Ice Cream (a smooth, homemade soft serve created in the spirit of Dole Whip).
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