When most people think of things to do on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, they usually think about relaxing on beaches, snorkeling, visiting beautiful Waikiki, fishing, para-sailing and surfing. The majority wouldn’t think to visit a pineapple plantation.
The Secret Wonder of Oahu
The Dole Plantation on Oahu was actually one of the first activities that my kids planned for the family when we go onto the island. I’m glad they chose it even if it was a little surprising that my 19 and 20 year old wanted to visit a pineapple plantation before Waikiki or the Ko Olina Lagoons!
The Dole Plantation is the only remaining pineapple plantation remaining on the Hawaiian Islands. The name “Dole” is synonymous with many of the fresh and canned fruits that you find in your grocery stores. From Pineapple to avocado, Dole delivers a great product.
But how did it all start?
History Behind James Dole and the Dole Plantation
James Drummond Dole was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1877. Less than 23 years later, he was in Hawaii with degrees from Harvard University in Business and Agriculture. The ink on the paper was barely dry.
A year later he had purchased a 61 acre plot of land on Oahu, in a village called Wahiawa. This is where Dole started his pineapple plantation and later a cannery.
It had begun.
In 1922, James Dole even bought the Hawaiian Island of Lanai and basically turned the majority of the island into a huge pineapple plantation. Soon, Dole would be known as the pineapple king. His combination of business savvy and agricultural knowledge ensured that what others had done before him (grow pineapples and sell them) became a modern business empire.
Dole’s heart and that of the business always remained in Wahiawa, though.
Today, the Dole Plantation is a testament of one man’s legacy, a “shout out” to the hard working people that labored in the fields, and a fun place to visit and learn about Pineapples.
The Dole Plantation Main Attractions
The Pineapple Express
The Pineapple Express is a train ride of education and history. Over 2 miles of train chugging throughout the plantation where the entire family can learn about the history of the pineapple on Hawaii, how it is grown and cultivated and experience the gorgeous landscape of the Dole Plantation.
The best thing about the Pineapple Express is the opportunity to hear the fully narrated tour as you pass by pineapple fields in different stages of growth. You’ll also be able to see parts of Oahu’s North Shore that many people will never get to see because they disregard the plantation all together and never expect the unique vantage point.
You’ll see growing fields of mangoes, cacao and coffee beans. For 20 minutes you and the family will be mesmerized by the beauty and information that you’re receiving. The narration is intriguing. Not too often do you find this kind of narrated tour that doesn’t talk “over” the kids or too simply for the adults.
Children: (4-12): $6.50
Children under 4: Free
Plantation Garden Tour
The Plantation Garden Tour is a beautiful experience. It is self-guided and something that I enjoyed even more than the Pineapple Express. While the train ride is exciting, I liked the fact that I got to stroll through the Garden at my own pace and read the informational placards that are placed throughout. It was just more…relaxing. And that’s what anything on Hawaii should be about. You’ll also be able to use wand like instruments to activate voice narration at many spots.
You’ll learn how a pineapple grows, see and smell the dazzling fresh fruits and flora, as well as the chance to taste the fresh fruit before having to leave the garden tour. It was definitely my favorite attraction of the entire plantation. I even saw red pineapples!
Children (4-12): $4.25
Children under 4: free
The Pineapple Maze
The Pineapple Maze was officially certified as the World Largest Maze by Guiness in 2008. The maze spans 3 acres and has 2.5 miles of paths to navigate.
On the way into the maze you get a small map and “score card”. The map is hard to follow but it’s supposed to be a challenging maze. The scorecard is in order to record a different pattern on each of 8 secret stations within the maze that lead you closer to the sacred finish line.
On the way in you’ll have your picture taken with the ability to buy it at the end. (I wonder when this type of thing will stop with the rise of digital photo equipment.)
While the maze is a “fun” event, I’d be wary of letting children that are too young to go off by themselves and attempt to figure the maze out.
Children (4-12): $4
Children under 4: Free
It’s convenient to have the Plantation Grille on site. You and the family can enjoy some local favorites like the teriyaki chicken plate or the kalua pork plate. They also have the regular grille grub that will keep the kids happy & fed such as hotdogs, hamburgers, fries and salads.
The best thing, though, is something that my daughter got. It’s called the “Dole Whip” (image right). It’s pretty awesome! It has fresh pineapple, fresh pineapple juice and some cream. It’s also served in a take home cup that can be a Dole Plantation souvenir.
Shop for Souvenirs
The plantation has a huge shop that is co-located with the Plantation Grille. The shop is vast. Besides being able to purchase Dole branded merchandise to remember your visit, you are also able to browse at and purchase tons of Hawaiian themed items for your return trip back to the mainland. Either keep them for yourself or give them away as gifts to loved ones when you go home.
Dole Plantation Hours of Operation
The plantation is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The plantation is closed on Christmas Day.
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(price as of Sep 6, 2015)