Programs showcase authentic island flavors

Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea launched a culinary program this fall in partnership with Kiawe Outdoor.
Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea launched a culinary program this fall in partnership with Kiawe Outdoor.

Travelers are increasingly seeking out experiences that bring them closer to the culture and place they are visiting through its food, and Hawaii tour providers stepped up this year with a host of innovative experiences that offer visitors unique culinary treats.

Surveys show travelers are looking for more distinct experiences in general. In the past year, interest in "classes and workshops" and "wellness" has grown the fastest, according to a TripAdvisor report, while "food and wine" activities are not far behind. Many of the new tours and programs on offer incorporate several of these areas, bringing together a nature- or wellness-related activity with a culinary experience.

Fire and Wine: Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea launched a culinary program this fall in partnership with Kiawe Outdoor, an outdoor cooking company led by chef and sommelier Yeshua Goodman. The event is set at the historic plantation estate Haiku House, where guests will learn about Hawaiian traditions of fishing, hunting and gathering before feasting on a fire-cooked meal paired with a selection of wines. Additionally, Four Seasons Resort Maui also offers "A Taste of Island Life," which starts with a helicopter ride over dormant volcano Haleakala. Guests then touch down at ONO Organic Farms for a private tour and exotic fruit tasting. The tour then heads to Hana, where participants can swim the lava caves at Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach or hike through a bamboo forest to a waterfall. Next, the helicopter whisks guests back to the resort for a dinner prepared by executive chef Craig Dryhurst incorporating the fruit harvested at the farm into dishes using other Maui products and wine pairings. 

Haleakala Sunset Dinner and Stargazing Experience: Also on Maui, tour provider Hoku Hawaii is now offering an excursion to Haleakala National Park for a sunset culinary adventure. Participants learn about the Valley Isle's history and ecology, and Hawaiian culture and practices including wayfinding. Guests then enjoy a dinner at Kula Lodge before heading into the park, where they can see the ahinahina, silversword, a rare endemic plant that blooms just once in its lifetime. From close to 10,000 feet above sea level, visitors then enjoy hot coffee and tea while they stargaze through a computerized, GPS-equipped telescope.

Taste of Kualoa: The 90-minute excursion is one of the most popular tours at the windward Oahu attraction Kualoa Ranch. Participants ride in an open-air trolley around the property learning about early Hawaiian agricultural methods, fishpond construction and aquaculture. Guests also get to try a variety of products, including tropical fruits, dried fish and macadamia nuts. Now, after a few years of success with that tour, Kualoa Ranch is experimenting with a more in-depth program for groups. The two-hour Kualoa Culinary Experience includes the Taste of Kualoa itinerary in addition to opportunities to chat with farmers and ranchers who work the land. The outing concludes with a farm-to-table, four-course meal highlighting the local products.

Hawaii Forest and Trail introduced two food-focused tours in 2019, one on Hawaii Island and one on Oahu. Participants visit innovative farms and get insights on how growers choose their crops and the secrets of successfully cultivating cacao, vanilla, coffee and other crops. The day-long excursion closes with a three-course dinner with a glass of wine at Pueo Osteria in Waikoloa Village. The Flavors of Hawaii tour includes stops at the Waimea Farmers Market, Kahi Ola Mau farm (home of the Honokaa Chocolate Co.), Mauna Kea Tea fields and Honopua Farm, and includes tastings, lunch and dinner.

On Oahu, the Farm to Forest tour explores the west side of the island, moving from the coast to the mountains to see how the changing microclimates allow for a range of production. The itinerary includes a lunch featuring local produce, hike on a new trail on the mountain ridge at Palehua uplands, and a stop at a vista with panoramic views of Pearl Harbor, Honolulu and Diamond Head. Hawaii Forest and Trail also offers private exclusive farm tours for groups of 12 or more. 

Sustainable Sushi at Sea: PacWhale Eco-Adventures, the tour arm of the nonprofit Pacific Whale Foundation, has partnered with Three's Catering on Maui for a sunset cruise highlighting sustainable sushi. Participants learn about sustainable seafood practices along with Hawaiian history and culture. Each course of the meal is served individually, offering the chef and onboard naturalists an opportunity to fully discuss its origin and how it was harvested.

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