This morning we got ready (with delicious banana bread from the luau for breakfast) and drove to Hali'imaile for the Maui Pineapple Tour. The Maui Gold Pineapple is grown on Maui, and the growers are the last pineapple plantation in Hawaii, and thus the United States (since pineapples aren't grown commercially in other states). While people often associate Dole with Hawaii, in fact Dole pineapples come from Dole's plantation in Costa Rica. The company that is currently growing Maui Gold mostly supplies the market in Hawaii (in fact, we've hardly seen any pineapples that aren't Maui Gold), but they do send twenty percent of their pineapples to the mainland, especially the West Coast.
The tour guide (one of the two best pineapple plantation tour guides in America, as he pointed out...they have two guides...) drove us over from the distillery (more on that later) to the pineapple packing house. These two pineapples were the first harvested pineapples we saw, although many more were to come.
Crates of pineapples. These are shipped by boat to the mainland or to other islands, or by truck around Maui.
Putting on our hairnets to tour the packing house, which was made harder by the fiercly-blowing trade winds.
Pineapples rolling down the line to be washed and inspected. It was amazing to see the process.
They sort the pineapples by size and by color. Fully golden pineapples are too ripe for transportation, so they go to the distillery and the winery to make wine, vodka, and gin. Small ones are separated from the crowns and softened in the sun to feed to livestock. The crowns are used to plant new pineapples! The fully green ones that are large enough go to the mainland, and the half-green half-gold ones stay in Hawaii (they are the ripest and best tasting, but are too ripe to make it to the mainland). The company only wastes a tiny percentage of pineapples: they don't harvest unless they already have a buyer for the batch they are harvesting.
The sorting chart that they use to determine where each pineapple ends up.
Every person on the tour received a box of carryon luggage-approved pineapples. They last a week, so we will have to eat ours before we leave. We'll buy more to take home with us.
The cold storage room where the pineapples are kept. The different labels show where they are bound. There is even some pineapple mash fermenting for use in the distillery across the street (the tour guide said a person with a straw could have "a good time" in the cold storage area.)
Daniel in the cold storage area.
The tour guide, Steve, drove us through the pineapple fields. The pineapple did not originate in Hawaii, but rather in Brazil. It's natural pollinator is the hummingbird, but there are no hummingbirds in Hawaii which allows the plants to develop seedless fruit. It takes eighteen months to two years for one pineapple to grow. They have fields at all levels of ripeness, to keep up supply for year-round demand. However, he did mention that there are upswings in demand around holidays, especially summer holidays like Fourth of July. Sometimes weather conditions result in the early or late ripening of some pineapples: it is typically not worth re-harvesting a field to look for these, although he said that they sometimes have volunteers glean for leftover pineapples for shelters and other care facilities. The fields are beautiful and unique-looking: they look like absolute chaos, but Steve insisted that they are in perfect rows when planted, and that it is the subsequent growth that leads to the chaos. He also said that the workers can plant thousands in a day and get paid a piece rate. Most of the workers are Filipino-American, and are rather elderly. However, he did say that with the piece rate they are some of the best-paid agricultural workers, so it is conceivable that they will be able to replace these workers when they retire.
As we drove through the fields Steve taught us this song, and had us sing it along with the CD he had. Catherine loved it.
Pineapple Princess (pineapple shirt, earrings, and necklace, and holding a pineapple.)
Steve showed us how pineapples are picked and cut a few to show us what the different ripeness levels taste like. He described the riper ones that are sold in the Hawaii market as tasting a little bit like coconut, and having a "piña colada" flavor. He kept opening pineapples and letting us taste a wide variety. Eventually he started back to the bus. We still wanted to taste pineapples, and he handed us the one he was holding.
...and enjoying them!
Among the pineapples.
The tour guide suggested a restaurant...the restaurant affiliated with the company! It was actually delicious, and a beautiful setting across from our next tour. The restaurant is in what was once the general store for the area. It is still called the general store, but is a restaurant.
We split a kalua pork enchilada pie with mole sauce. It was absolutely delicious.
Next, we visited Hali'imaile Distilling Company. Their most famous product is Pau Vodka, which is made from Maui Gold pineapples but doesn't have any pineapple flavor (it is not a flavored vodka--although they do sell those--but a pure vodka made from fermented pineapples. These barrels are full of their Paniolo Whiskey (a paniolo is a cowboy, thus the elaborate cowboy-style mustaches on the barrels).
The Quonset hut where the distilling takes place.
Some of the operations inside of the distillery.
The glass stills where they are distilling the fermented pineapple into pure alcohol to make the vodka. They water it down to 40% before bottling.
More of the distillery. The second picture shows the fermenting pineapple juice.
The tanks of Pau Vodka and Sammy's Beach Bar Rum (which is owned by Sammy Hagar and made from Maui sugarcane. The only problem is that the only company still making sugarcane on Maui just closed down their operations). After the tour we had a tasting. Because the distillery was not a bar they were only allowed to give us each three small taste. They had many options: oak-aged vodka, flavored vodka, vodka mixed with cognac, gin, whiskey, various rums, etc. We each tried a variety. After the tour, we drove up to the town of Makawao, which is famous for its cowboy history. Catherine's dad wondered how far we were from the road to the top of Haleakala. As it happened, we were quite near, and so we started up the mountain.
Some views as we drove up the mountain.
The drive up the mountain is somewhat nerve-wracking for the driver. The passengers can see how the mountain slopes down into the clouds, but from the driver's perspective it looks like a sheer drop from the side of the cliff. Also, as we got higher and higher the air became noticeably thinner. We stopped at this pull-out to look at the view and feel the cool air. It was almost cold, and extremely windy.
Some pictures of us at the pullout.
The top of Haleakala. This structure is at the summit and provides amazing views and shelter from the wind. It is a beautiful place to see the crater and over the water.
There is an observatory near the summit that is operated by the military in conjunction with the University of Hawaii. The top of Haleakala is one of the best places for astronomical observation in the world.
Can you believe we were all the way up there?
From the summit you can see the Island of Hawaii, the Big Island. If you measure from the bottom of the ocean, Haleakala itself is larger than Mt. Everest, and Mauna Kea on the Big Island is the largest mountain in the world.
The crater of the volcano. Haleakala means "house of the sun" and there are legends about the sun living or being imprisoned in this crater.
More views from the summit.
Anthony and Daniel on top of the mountain.
We then drove down. The top of the mountain seemed so far away. We headed back to the hotel and had dinner by the poolside, played cards with Katie and Anthony. It was a wonderful day.