Hawaii Island's social fabric and economic structure have seen tremendous changes the last ten years during transition from a plantation economy. As we enjoy the long Thanksgiving weekend, let's acknowledge each other's contributions, our beautiful island, and take a few minutes to smell the flowers.
A fresh plumeria lei. The stunning colors of a tropical bouquet. The delicate petals of an orchid. The flowers of Hawaii Island evoke memories of celebrations, of specific moments in time. Here the eyes can feast on fiery bursts of color from flowers that grow in abundance and compete only with the fire of the volcano itself in ability to dazzle.
Residents and visitors can tour an orchid farm, taste freshly grown tropical fruits and purchase exotic blooms from the growers. To experience blossoms first hand, a "Flowers of the Big Island" driving tour booklet is recommended. A map is included in the booklet to guide the way. With over one million agricultural acres, the drive can be as long or short as time allows.
Gear up your day by visiting the Parker School Farmers Market and the Homestead Farmers Market, both in Waimea. In the area are dozens of small farms yielding tomatoes, varieties of lettuces, ruby red strawberries and more. The generally cool mornings are particularly suited to the abundance of vegetables offered at the open-air Farmers Markets.
Along the verdant green Hamakua Coastline, here are three options among many possibilities for stops along the way. They are Hawaii Paradise Farms, World Botanical Gardens (the largest botanical garden in the state, boasting 5,000 species), and Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden (a unique tropical nature preserve and sanctuary). As you enter Hilo, you’ll find a stroll through Hilo's Farmers Market a highlight of the day with fresh farm products ranging from ginger and papaya to locally grown anthurium and orchids. Not far outside of town is Orchids of Hawaii who will pack and ship your order for you. As your driving tour exits Hilo town toward Volcano, the Kea’au Village Market, open seven days each week, showcases products of many farmers, artisans and crafts people in the area. Nearby is Hawaii Orchids where a stop could net a rainbow of colorful blooming orchids for the perfect gift.
Next stop, Volcano Isle Tropicals, founded 25 years ago. This lush farm includes over an acre of anthurium plus numerous other tropicals and offers onsite retail and tours of their flower and coffee-growing entities.
Another Farmers Market with a cacophony of product is Volcano Farmers Market every Sunday in Volcano Village. From freshly baked pies to homemade guava jams and poha berry jellies to buckets overflowing with brilliant red anthurium and delicate orchid blossoms, this market is a pleasant stop mid-way around the island.
Big Island Flower Company, in Ocean View capitalizes on fertile volcanic soil to grow the unusual protea. There are dozens of varieties of this vibrant, feathery flower that originated in Africa. The protea is well suited to the Big Island’s soil and climate. Big Island Flower Company offers shipping and onsite retail.
Your island tour should include the Amy BH Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden. This 12 acre site near Captain Cook is landscaped to reflect the four vegetation zones used by Hawaiians; Coastal, Lowland Dry Forest, Food and Fiber Crops, and Upland Forest. The collection includes over 250 types of plants, many which are part of the repository of native Hawaiian and Polynesian-introduced plants maintained at the site.
From plumeria to orchids, anthurium to protea, uses for the flowers and foliage of the islands are as endless as the varieties themselves. Exotic arrangements with colors ranging from rich crimson reds to sunset orange stand tall in main lobbies of luxury resort hotels. A vase of fresh anthurium with its hues of red, green and pink holds its own amidst the elegance of fine dining rooms. And of course the lei for every celebration! To see where each blossom begins on Hawaii Island farms is to understand the power of their call and why, once experienced, they become a part of the memory forever.