I thought I’d bring up some small Hawaii businesses I’ve run across on my two trips to the big island. The first two you can only enjoy from the island, but the rest you can enjoy almost anywhere.
First, two tour companies.
- Lava Ocean Adventures does ocean tours to the volcano (and other points out of Hilo). It was an awesome experience last year. (This year, lava wasn’t flowing when I was there, so I skipped it.)
- Vavoom Volcano Tours does the obvious volcano tours, but also can customize day tours. Lori’s great.
- Volcano Winery is Hawaii’s only full-grape wine producer. There are a couple of other companies on Maui that make pineapple wine, etc., but this company grows grapes. They do offer two blended wines, though. They are less than a mile from the entrance to Volcanoes National park, so the name is no exaggeration. I tried four of their wines, including two that aren’t on their site. I’m not a wine person, but they seemed decent. The Mac Nut Honey wine (which has a champagne yeast, iirc) is very light and delicate.
- Hilo Coffee Mill is one of the non-Kona coffee growing regions of Hawaii, and one of three on the big island (the other being Kona, which includes both North Kona and South Kona, and then there’s Ka’u, which is east of Kona and west of Kilauea). Because of the rainfall, it’s the mildest coffee, but it’s also significantly less expensive than the premium Kona coffees. (Example: Kona coffee at Peet’s, which is a very nice select grade, runs $50 per pound. Hilo Coffee Mills’s coffee runs $29.) I have had some truly awful roadside Kona coffee (that I needed to cut with TJ’s coffee to improve it), so I can say for sure that not all Kona coffee is created equal. In essence, Hilo coffee is shade-grown simply because of the frequent cloud cover. Because of the difficulty transporting and logistics surrounding manure and compost from other farms in a high-rainfall area, this is not an organically-grown coffee if that’s important to you, but they do not use pesticides in growing, just non-organic fertilizers. I am incredibly impressed with their pineapple coffee. Usually, flavored coffees are an excuse to use up the worst beans, but that’s not true in this case. It’s a subtler flavor than you’d expect, and a nice addition to the coffee. Really. None of their coffees are bitter, so if you like coffee but not bitter, you might give it a try. Our pound of the pineapple coffee is almost gone. Sniff.
- Aunt Phyllis’s Macadamia Nut Butter with Macadamia Nut Honey. Three ingredients: mac nuts, mac nut honey, and sea salt. This stuff is incredibly addictive and I am now out. I will be getting more in a few weeks. They do mail order (it’s $10 a jar plus shipping), but don’t have a web site set up. If you want contact info, let me know.
- Wao Kele honey (link is to a story and video about them, but they don’t have a web site) makes great honey. I do have a PO Box for them off their labels if anyone’s interested. The lehua honey is particularly nice.
My favorite discovery by far is the funny and gregarious guy who runs Filthy Farmgirl Soap at the Hilo farmer’s market. He definitely has great marketing and labels. Product names range from the extremely tacky to the merely quirky, each with its own unique label and ingredients. He advertises “no yucky stuff” and means it. Most of the soaps are vegan; a few are not (e.g., the Goat’s Milk Chai soap we picked up for my mother-in-law). I picked up some of the Filthy Geek (aka Hyper Mocha Minx) soap (chocolate and fair trade coffee) for ourselves. Unlike most of the other small businesses listed in this post, he’s got a shopping cart and takes PayPal.