The Island of Hawai‘i’s rich volcanic soil, climate diversity and ample sunshine make it the perfect place for vegetable, tropical fruit, and specialty crops, like cacao and coffee, to thrive. While staying on the Big Island, take time to visit, support and learn from its many skilled artisans, hardworking growers and groundbreaking tastemakers.
Honey 101 From the Bee Experts
Big Island Bees started as a small family-owned operation and has grown into one of the biggest honey producers in the state. Hand-poured in South Kona, its organic honey boasts flavor profiles rooted in the island’s tropical flower varieties. Visit the honey maker’s headquarters, which encompasses a museum, store and tasting room, and take a tour with a beekeeping expert to learn about its history and process.
Whendi Grad, the owner of Big Island Bees, said the company adjusted operations to safely welcome customers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and local government restrictions. To keep employees and visitors safe, her team has implemented several health and safety procedures at every service touchpoint. “Our store currently offers curbside pickup for phone and online honey orders, and our tour and museum operations have re-opened with reduced capacity. We also frequently clean all common surfaces, offer hand sanitizer throughout our store and museum, and require masks to be worn at all times,” Grad said.
“During the time that our island shut down, we were so grateful for the support of the community that continued to stop by to pick up honey at our farm and who brought their keiki down for a tour. We are now very excited to be welcoming back visitors as well and will do so in a caring environment that protects all of us,” she added.
Reservations are required for beekeeping tours and honey tastings, but the museum is open with free admission. For more information, including Big Island Bee’s latest COVID-19 policies and procedures, click here.
Experience Hawaiian Coffees Made by Local Connoisseurs
Coffee lovers rejoice on the Big Island, where trees grow both wild and farmed. At Big Island Coffee Roasters, producing the perfect cup of coffee is a practice – but mastering the art form wasn’t an easy feat.
The company took root in 2010, when its two founders, Kelleigh Stewart and Brandon von Damitz, stumbled upon an online advertisement listing a small coffee farm for sale in Puna, a district south of Hilo. The duo purchased the farm, with no experience growing coffee, and spent years learning how to cultivate one of modern Hawai‘i’s most prized specialty crops. After years of teaching themselves how to farm, roast, and process locally grown coffee, they perfected their first batches and earned Grand Champion in the Hawaii Coffee Association’s Statewide Cupping Competition.
Big Island Coffee Roasters is still based on the original Puna farm, and now roasts some of Hawai‘i’s finest regional varieties, including Kona, Kaʻū, Puna, and Maui. Their teams do it all, from tending to the trees and hand-picking the coffee cherries (which produce the beans), to milling the beans in small batches and roasting them to order.
“When COVID hit, most of our larger customers that serve roasted Hawaiian coffee shut down. It was difficult for everyone. But fortunately, Hawaiʻi coffee lovers found our online store and we've been able to recover and continue hiring,” Stewart said. “We're so grateful to those who have supported us by ordering online – artisan agriculture survives thanks to them.”
Interested in supporting Big Island Coffee Roasters? Currently, customers can purchase beans and learn how to make the perfect cup via its website, or visit one of many local cafes brewing and selling their coffees.
Invest Your Dollars in Local Farmers, Florists and Businesses
Downtown Hilo is home to the Hilo Farmers’ Market, a popular destination for both hungry kama‘āina and visitors. The market is open every day (hours may vary) and has copious fruits, vegetables, and flowers grown by local farmers. Ready-made meals and drinks are also available for grab-and-go, and the market is within walking distance of several shops and restaurants.
“Hilo Farmers’ Market has been in the heart of downtown Hilo for as long as I can remember,” said ‘Iwalani Kaho‘ohanohano, senior specialist of internal communications at Hawaiian Airlines who was raised in Hilo. “Growing up, I’d go there with my mom to pick up fresh vegetables for a dish she’d make for dinner, or flowers to make arrangements to take up the road to our family graves.”
Downtown Hilo, she believes, is a special business community. “It’s home to a mix of longtime and new shops that continue to make Hilo the friendly town it has always been. Each purchase is more than a transaction; it’s a show of support for the town’s entrepreneurs and the life, culture and stories they share.”
When walking the farmers market or downtown Hilo, remember that masks are required at all times. We also suggest that patrons bring cash, reusable bags, and hand sanitizer for their shopping.