Floating at the waves and trekking via the jungle are must-do sports on Kauai. But to better commune with the westernmost of the properly-populated Hawaiian Islands, I also desired to flavor the nearby bounty.
Fortunately, there are exceptional ways to get pleasure from what makes Kauai specific without breaking the bank at gourmand restaurants. There can be nowhere else on Earth you can go to an espresso farm, a microbrewery and a cacao farm in such near proximity, surrounded with the aid of lush mountains and sandy bays.
With a bit more time, you could watch sensitive taro chips scorching in oil and buy fragrant lychees via the bag.
A friend and I managed all of the above in between naps at the seashore, and our farm-to-table adventures added us to human beings and locations we would have in any other case overlooked.
We have agricultural land, agricultural history, and agricultural values,” said chocolate farmer Will Lydgate, whose relatives have lived on Kauai because of the 1800s. “We love promoting what we develop to traffic. The lifestyles of the land are perpetuated in righteousness. That’s our country motto.”
Coffee by the ocean
Whether at domestic or on vacation, I attain for coffee when I wake up. I was born and raised in Seattle, in the end.
But I had never encountered a real coffee tree till we made a trek to Kauai Coffee Company’s picturesque plantation through the ocean. Situated close to Hanapepe at the island’s south shore, the land changed into for one hundred years a sprawling sugar estate owned by means of the wealthy Alexander and Stanley Baldwin families.
Their corporation started out developing espresso rather than cane at the land in the Nineteen Eighties, as sugar plantations throughout the Hawaiian Islands have been closed down.
“Beet sugar started to replace cane sugar,” said Darla Domingo, who manages the plantation welcome center, in which you can sample a spread of Kauai Coffee brews and be part of on foot tours to peer the purple and yellow cherries that encase the precious beans.
“When I moved here in 1990, there were still 5 sugar plantations,” Domingo stated. “Now there are none.”
The property is huge, with 4 million bushes masking 3, a hundred acres tended to by using extra than 100 union people.
Multinational company Massimo Zanetti runs the coffee operation, so the atmosphere is the extra company than homey, and the brews themselves are less than incredible. But there was some thing magical approximately on foot down rows of coffee trees, their waxy green leaves shimmering, inside view of the ocean
Because the trees want mild solar and rain, they’re commonly cultivated on shady mountainsides, like the slopes of volcanoes on Hawaii’s Big Island.
But on Kauai, a sea breeze does the trick, we learned, straining to detect some trace of salty spray as we sipped.
The grasp chipmaker
For an extra rustic revel in, try Hanapepe, a sunbaked little river city with historic storefronts.
Stomachs grumbling, we parked outdoor the ramshackle building with peeling paint in which Dale Nagamine has made taro chips for 36 years.
The taro root plant is a staple in local Hawaiian cuisine, and Nagamine’s chips are sliced letter-thin, dusted with garlic salt, deep-fried and baked.
(You would possibly have heard approximately poi, the taro-paste dish critical in local Hawaiian lifestyle. I offered a few to try at a Foodland grocery store.)
The signal beside the door study Taro Ko Chips Factory, but the timeworn kitchen turned into barely big enough for Nagamine and a friend, who had been watching soccer when we arrived.
“My dad and mom commenced the commercial enterprise,” Nagamine said. “Then I took over.”
Rather than use a website or Instagram account to pressure enterprise, the laconic grasp chipmaker counts on tradition and phrase-of-mouth.
Flecked with crimson, his crunchy snacks are understated but addictive.
“I grow the taro inside the valley over there. I make the chips and sell them here,” he shrugged. “That’s approximately it.”
Another laid-again choice is the Kauai Beer Company brewpub in Lihue, the southeast-shore city in which the island’s airport is likewise positioned.
The suds are top-notch, the grub is tasty and the vibe set by means of easygoing owner Jim Greuber is pleasant, attracting a mixture of tourists and locals.
When we popped in for lunch, the other clients protected mainland families and construction people.
“We have birthday parties, readings, commercial enterprise conferences,” stated Greuber, who changed into raised in Pennsylvania and started out brewing beer in his storage back in 1978. “Everyone is welcome right here.”
The hops and barley are imported, however, Greuber and his son, Justin, write the recipes themselves and brew the beer on-site — approximately 650 pints in step with the day.
Their mainstay is Lihue Lager, while their delight and pleasure, Black Limousine, combines a mild taste and dark shade.
“The water here on Kauai is conducive to lighter beers,” said Greuber, who moved to the island in 1996 after a career in Silicon Valley.
Mainland transplants, the brewer admitted, are crowding the island.
“This is this kind of unique location … but don’t inform anybody that,” he joked.
Following cacao beans, “department to bar”
Dessert lovers have to head for the hills above Kauai’s east shore, wherein Lydgate raises cacao for chocolate and gives 3-hour “department-to-bar tours.”
His small-scale operation near Kapaa, referred to as Steelgrass Farm when we took the excursion, has because been renamed Lydgate Farms.
Entrepreneurs have recently been all started cultivating coffee in California, however, Hawaii stays the simplest U.S. Nation in which cacao can be reliably grown — and there has been an actual thrill in watching our manual slice open a bright yellow cacao pod to expose the beans inner.
We discovered how chocolate got here to be and how the sweet stuff gets made.
Lydgate Farms beans are grown, fermented, dried and roasted on the island, then shipped to a chocolatier on Oahu for manufacture.
Earlier, the group excursion protected different flowers grown on Kauai, which includes vanilla and black sapote, a persimmon-like fruit with pulp like chocolate pudding.
“Treat it like nature’s jello shot,” recommended our manual, a surfer from California, as she brought rambutan fruits — lychee-like balls with translucent flesh and spiny pink skins.
The morning ended with a chocolate flavor check, together with 10 varieties from Lydgate Farms and around the world (later on, I sold a bar of the property’s milk chocolate with sea salt).