I admit, I’ve always had a love affair with pineapple. Growing up I had never had fresh pineapple (that’s what growing up in the Midwest will do to you), but I loved my canned Dole pineapple. I would open a can of crushed pineapple and freeze it in a Tupperware. Then, each morning I would hack away at it with a fork for breakfast. Totally weird—I know.
So, I was really excited when we were offered an opportunity to visit the Dole Pineapple Plantation in Honolulu! We arrived at the Dole Plantation in the late morning after a short 40 minute drive from Waikiki. We investigated our entertainment options—the Pineapple Garden Maze, Pineapple Express, or Plantation Garden.
We opted to begin with the Pineapple Garden Maze. The Dole Plantation achieved a Guinness World Record in 2008 for having the largest maze in the world. It occupies over 3 acres of property and has 2.46 miles of walking paths. The center features a giant pineapple! (photo compliments of Dole) Adult admission is $6 and children are $4 (ages 4-12).
With tickets in hand we grabbed a map and set off to find the 8 secret stations placed throughout the maze. The tickets each had 8 little boxes that we needed to fill out with a stencil from each station.
The use of stations is absolutely genius and turned what could have been a maze walk of drudgery into a treasure hunt for our kids! The kids ran to each station excitedly and inserted their card to trace the stencil onto their ticket.
Despite the heat, our kids had a blast! The entire maze took us nearly an hour (with me following the map pretty closely so we didn’t waste a lot of time), and we only took a few cheating shortcuts!
Next we decided to check out the Dole Plantation Gardens. Admission is $5 for adults, and $4.25 for kids (ages 4-12). We opted to skip the audio tour wand (which would take about 1 hour) and instead read the placards around the gardens (~30 minutes).
Honestly, we didn’t last very long in the gardens, although they were lovely and well done. The gardens were undergoing some construction, as they will soon be rerouting the Pineapple Express Train through the gardens (genius!). The kids didn’t have the patience for placards, and were more concerned about how soon we could take the train.
I did, however, manage to get some photos of the beautiful gum trees! I’m just blown away by their colors!
Outside of the paid garden entrance is an open area with rows of growing pineapples. This area is flanked by placards sharing the history of Dole and explaining how pineapples are planted and harvested. I found the info to be very intriguing, and thankfully you can read all about it on their informative Dole website, too!
Their website also tells you how to select a pineapple in the store, and I learned extra info at the plantation. Apparently pineapples do not ripen after they are picked, and you should pay attention to the size of the “eyes” on the side of the pineapple (they should be uniform in size from top to bottom…otherwise the pineapple was picked too early)! You also don’t want to select one that has a sweet fragrance, because that means the pineapple has already started fermenting. I have been shopping for pineapples for years based on wrong assumptions!
In addition, their website gives you pretty detail instructions on how to grow your own pineapple. Have you ever thought of trying to grow your own pineapples at home? I haven’t! In fact, I had wrongly assumed that pineapples must grow on trees. Call me naïve…but I was surprised to learn that this is what a pineapple plant looks like!
If you save your pineapple top (the spikey part) and plant it in your garden, in 18-24 months you will have a new pineapple to harvest. Yes—seriously! It takes nearly 2 years to harvest a pineapple!!
But as I was drooling over the pineapple of various foreign varieties in their gardens, the Pineapple Express pulled in, and it was time to load up for a train ride!
The train ride is short—approximately 20 minutes, and costs $8.50 for adults and $6.50 for kids (ages 4-12).
The train takes you past various fruit trees (bananas, jackfruit, breadfruit, papaya, etc) and then past rows and rows of pineapples. It is humbling to realize that it takes so long to grow and harvest a pineapple, now!
The kids enjoyed the train, and Jared and I enjoyed the audio tour over the intercom explaining a bit more about their history (some of which I had already read on the placards).
After our train ride, we were all hot and ready to treat ourselves after being out in the sun for several hours, so we hit up the air conditioned gift shop. Their gift shop is massive and has a great variety of products. I’m proud of their buyers—they’ve done a fantastic job (weird the things you notice depending on what employment field you are in, right?)!
Then we settled on a family dessert to share—a feast of pineapple ice cream with fresh chopped pineapple! DELICIOUS!
Even Jared, who claims to hate pineapple, loved it! I explained to him that canned pineapple tastes a world of a difference from fresh pineapple, and maybe, just maybe, he’ll be willing to try it again!
As we were about to leave, they announced over the intercom that they were going to have a pineapple cutting demonstration! Yippee—I almost missed it!
I made a bee line to the presentation with Maiya while the rest of the crew perused the gift shop.
I always make a huge mess when cutting up a pineapple, so I was all ears when she suggested cutting it in 1/4’s to begin! Then she whipped out her handy dandy Dole pineapple knife with a slight curve, to simply cut around the edges to remove the pineapple from the prickly outside. So much simpler than my method!
And that settled it. I picked up one of my first souvenirs in 10 months of traveling—a Dole Pineapple knife for $5!
Another thing that surprised me is she recommends rinsing the pineapple to remove the acids from it that may irritate your lips and skin. I have super sensitive skin…so that was good to know!
As we exited the gift shop, we saw some fresh pineapples being sold for nearly $6 each. Ouch. That sure is a big difference from the roadside pineapples I picked up often in Thailand for between .30 cents and $1.
Maybe I will have to consider growing my own pineapples?
Anyhow, we spent a busy 3 hours at the plantation, and as we left we asked the girls what their favorite part was. They responded, “ALL OF IT!” So, I think it was a winner! I’m not sure how entertained teens would be, but our young kids loved it! And you know how it is…when the kids are happy…everyone’s happy!
Thanks to the Dole Plantation for providing us entrance to their attractions. All opinions are, of course, our own!