There once was a traveler named Rikka and all she dreamed about was being in a wonderland filled with pineapples.
She wished for pineapple-shaped plush toys, pineapple-landscaped fields, and pineapple-infused and -flavored everything! Then one day on her trip to Hawaii her dream came true.
I found all I had ever hoped for and more at the Dole Plantation on Oahu. Fulfilling yet another long-time fantasy, the Dole Plantation also has the world's largest maze on its property! And so, I devoted this entire post to my citrus-packed maze exploration at the Dole Plantation in Hawaii.
Why I Love Pineapples
I have never before been asked the question "What would you choose to eat for the rest of your life, if you could eat nothing else at all?" But if someone did ask me that question, I would answer: Fruit Salad. A colorful medley of fruit, especially tropical fruit, is my favorite food in the world.
And one of my favorite fruits in the mix? Pineapple.
I eat an entire pineapple at least twice a month. I'm not really sure when or why this practice began for me but it has something to do with blood-clot prevention (which runs in my family), Vitamin C to ward off colds, and that little urban myth (?) that says pineapple improves the taste of...certain bodily fluids. *smirk*
Remember, I'm from New York. Pineapples in our local grocery stores are often shipped from far away and, therefore, are rarely as ripe as they should be when eaten. Nevertheless, I eat them. And I can usually be found reaching for pineapple (and other tropical fruits) as soon as I land in various regions of the world where they are more abundant and locally grown (e.g., Florida, Thailand, Bali).
However, Hawaii outmatches all of the places I have been when it comes to pineapple. Originating in South America, it was the Spanish who brought the pineapple to Hawaii as early as the 1500s. While I have a deep disdain for colonialism and the occupation, enslavement, and displacement of native and indigenous peoples of the world, I do not resent the Spanish for their introduction of the pineapple to Hawaii.
It's just so DELICIOUS.
The Largest Pineapple Plantation In the World
The Dole Plantation has 20,000 acres (80 sq km) devoted to growing pineapple. After Queen Liliʻuokalani was overthrown in 1893, James Dole arrived with a Harvard degree and $1200 to start a business. He experimented with different crops on the land he bought in central Oahu, eventually settling on growing pineapples.
Today, the plantation thrives and also serves as a popular tourist destination.
For $10.50, tourists can ride a little train (one is named the "pineapple express") for 2 miles around the plantation. The trains are kind of adorable. They remind me of t little plastic train I used to pull around by a string as a child!
There's also a garden tour for $7.00 that features all kinds of tropical plants including cacao, coffee, and various native flowers such as pikake and plumeria.
And The Largest Maze In The World
Aside from pineapples, another big obsession I have is with mazes. Again, I'm not sure where this obsession came from or why. I just love the whole game of picking a path and not knowing where it will lead me. In that way, maze exploration is like one big metaphor for travel! Perhaps that's why I love mazes?!
Anyway, I arrived just after the plantation's 9am opening so I would beat the crowds and the heat. It worked! I had the entire maze to myself—all 2.5 miles of path across 3 acres. Indeed, this maze is the largest in the world as declared in the 2008 Guinness Book of World Records.
I picked up a ticket for $8.00 at the start of the maze. The ticket came with a map and a little card for a scavenger hunt.
I would have to trace and shade in a little charm at each booth I found in the maze. Each booth provides information about a different Hawaiian island.
I managed to find every booth, but I totally failed at shading everything in. Here's what the result is actually supposed to look like.
The maze's pathways encircle a botanical garden in the shape of—you guessed it—a pineapple! This made it a bit easier to orient myself when getting a little turned around in the maze.
The paths were generally pretty straight forward, but wrong turns are inevitable. Luckily, there were often huge gaps in the "walls" where the vegetation was a bit thin. So yes, I cheated a few times by squeezing through the branches! Shhhh!
Gift Shop Fun
The maze took maybe 45 minutes to walk through. I was getting hot by the end of it, so it was a perfect time to head inside and explore the gift shop and cafe!
I immediately went over to the counter and ordered a $5.50 cup of Dole pineapple whip. Worth. Every. Penny. This is pineapple blended ice cream topped with fresh chunks of pineapple. It's super smooth and luscious and a must eat.
The gift shop steadily grew with busloads of salivating guests as I browsed with my whip in hand.
Initially, I did not mind the crowds. I felt a camaraderie with my fellow pineapple enthusiasts as I browsed through pineapple stuffed toys, t-shirts, kitchenware, lotions, and some of the more ridiculous souvenirs.
Pineapple Cutting and Eating
I was actually biding my time, waiting for one of the plantation workers to give one of their hourly pineapple-cutting demonstrations. At 11am, she began showing a small crowd of us how to properly cut a pineapple.
She chopped the ends, then cut it into 6 tall slices before cutting away the rough skin in one fell swoop with a special, curved knife. The presentation certainly came out nice, but I have since stuck to my own way of cutting a pineapple.
I did take away a couple of useful tips from this demonstration:
- She suggested dipping the pineapple slices into light salt water before serving them. This rinses off the enzyme that causes your lips and tongue to burn. I've found rinsing them in plain water works, too.
- The core is especially nutritious and is best used to make pineapple ice cream. I usually eat it on its own, but I would love to make ice cream out of it one day!
Before serving, she dipped each piece into a reddish powder called Li Hing Mui. Li Hing Mui Powder is uniquely found and used in Hawaii as an added sweetener on many things that are already sweet, like candy and fruit. The sweetness nicely offset the acidity of the pineapple. I liked it, but I think pineapple is sweet enough on its own!
So this 2 for 1 pineapple / maze experience was next level. It was as if I died and went to Pineapple heaven. I definitely do not look at Dole pineapples in my local grocery store in New York the same way anymore. And I am so happy I finally got to experience not just any maze but the largest in the world!
Bucket list items checked!