Chocolate is one of Hawaii’s most delicious but unknown export products. It is a good souvenir to take home (chocolate covered macadamia nuts anyone!) and a very tasty snack that goes well together with a strong cup of delicious Kona Coffee.
Hawaii is the only state where chocolate can be made with locally produced ingredients thanks to its tropical climate. The cacao is grown and processed on the Big Island, resulting in true, locally produced, American, chocolate! Recently cacao has become a more and more popular crop among small farmers, and some of these organize chocolate tours on their orchards.
Cacao farm and orchard tours
If you would like to visit a chocolate orchard and learn more about making chocolate you can do so at a few places here on the Big Island! The following farms south of Kona (2) and on the Hamakua coast (5!) grow cacao and offer farm tours:
Tours in South Kona
Is known for their Kona Coffee farm tours, but they also grow cacao on their certified organic farm. You can join them for a chocolate candy making class, combined with a farm tour and tasting. Classes include unlimited chocolate tasting and a goodie bag. Reservations are mandatory at least three days in advance. See their website for details.
Original Hawaiian Chocolate Farm
Offers tours on Wednesdays and Fridays at 9:00 a.m. Admission fee for adults is $15, children under 12 pay nothing (but do get to taste). The tour includes a one-hour walking tour of the orchard and factory full of information about every step in the chocolate making process. Reservations are required so call before you visit: (808) 322-2626.
Tours near Hilo / the Hamakua coast
Honoka’a Chocolate Co. (Honoka’a)
Organizes farm tours + tastings Friday thru Sunday from 10am to noon and from 2 to 4pm that cost $40 / adult (children under 12 free). The tour includes a view of their cacao orchard with over 400 trees, 1,600 white pineapple plants, turmeric, vanilla orchids, and lots of other cool stuff. Next to their own chocolate the tasting includes select chocolates from around the world, allowing you to experience how a particular region’s climate, soils and terrain affect the taste of the chocolate. They also share the history and roots of our century-old farm, and the history of the district of Hamakua. More information on their Website.
Mauna Kea Cacao
(near Pepeekeo, 10 minutes north of Hilo): Offers 90-minute farm tours every Thursday at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm. During the tour you will: See a working cacao farm with 1,500 cacao trees; Learn how award-winning cacao is grown, harvested, fermented and dried; Open a cacao pod and taste fresh cacao; Taste Hawaii Island’s “Best Cacao” from the Big Island Chocolate Festival; and taste Mauna Kea Cacao’s home-made (untempered) chocolate and commercially produced Hawaii chocolate from other bean-to-bar chocolate makers. More information on their website.
Hilo Sharks Cacao farm
(in Papaikou, 10 minutes north of Hilo): offers personal walking tours of their farm where they plant cacao seedlings and from which they harvest and process cacao pods every month. Learn how they grow, harvest and process the cacao into chocolate, and enjoy free samples of our various chocolate products and 100% Hawaiian coffee. Reservations are necessary and are best made with a group as the fixed price for a tour is $180 (with an extra $10/person for more than 8 people). More information on their website.
Lavaloha / Mahilani estates cacao farm tour
(10 minutes west of Hilo) Lavaloha is a new (since 2012) cacao farm that grows, makes and sells their own chocolate. They organize tree-to-chocolate farm tours (60 to 90 minutes, $30). More information on their website.
Hawaiian Crown farm + factory tour
The Hawaiian Crown Plantation is with 30 years of operation one of the older cacao farms on the Big Island. Their 110 acre farm is home to 1,200+ cacao trees and is located just north of Hilo (2.5 miles) with spectacular views of Hilo Bay. At the farm tour you learn about cacao’s life cycle, harvest, fermentation, drying, and flavor creation. Tours end at their factory / shop in downtown Hilo where you can see how the cacao is made into delicious chocolate. Tours run every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 2:00pm to 3:00pm, more information on their website.
Hamakua chocolate farm tour
(8 minutes north of Hilo) The Hamakua Chocolate Farm is located in Papaikou- a small village just above Hilo on the tropical Hamakua coast.
During a 2.5 hour guided tour you get to see their farm, gardens and cacao processing facility, and enjoy a chocolate tasting experience. The tour includes tasting the fruit of the cacao pod, an explanation about cacao growing, harvesting, fermentation, and drying, and the entire chocolate making process from tree to finished chocolate bar.
Where can you buy Hawaiian Chocolate
There are several producers on the Big Island that make chocolate from locally produced cacao and sell it. You can find this chocolate at local farmers markets, in any of the “Island Naturals” food stores, in most other convenience shops and even in the local boutiques in the island resorts. You can also order it online and/or ship it home through the website of “Original Hawaiian Chocolate“.
Bonus: Vanilla Farm Tour and Tasting
Because chocolate and vanilla go so well together we’d like to point out that you can also take a tour of a local vanilla farm!
Vanilla production is fascinating. The beans are the fruits of an orchid that only blooms for one day only, during which the flower must very carefully be hand pollinated. There is much more to learn about vanilla farming, and the Hawaiian Vanilla Co. organizes farm tours that can also include a lunch during which you can taste foods and drinks that include their vanilla.
The Hawaiian Vanilla Co is located close to Honoka’a on the northern Hamakua coast. You can find more information about the tours on their website.