There are countless iconic attractions for visitors to Hawaii. From Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head to Waimea Canyon Kauai to Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii Island to Haleakala Crater on Maui, many of these attractions are known and marveled at by people all over the world. All have been covered over the years in pages here on the HAT Blog. But we’re discussing here “Hawaii’s hidden gems”, unexpected delights most wouldn’t expect to find in a tropical paradise.
Hawaii’s hidden gems – wines and whiskeys
There was a time when Hawaii had to import virtually all its wines and spirits. Back in the day, every Mai Tai, every Blue Hawaii, every Zombie was concocted with imported rum. Of course, sugar was king for well over 100 years here and Hawaiians made and marketed their own hooch called “Okolehao”, which translates loosely to “iron bottom”. But there was never enough made to serve the ever-growing tourism industry.
That’s changed in recent years and now there are a handful of small-market distilleries making world-class vodka, rum, and whiskey. Now in Hawaii, you can get your tropical vacation swerve on and “buy local”. On Maui, there’s Ocean Vodka Organic Farm and Distillery and Sea Spirits Organic Farm and Distillery. Oahu is home to Kohana Distillery (rum) and Ko’olau Road Distillery (whiskey). Koloa Rum Distillery on Kauai is a popular destination for rum enthusiasts, as are Kuleana Rum Works and the 12th Hawaii Distiller on Hawaii Island.
There are other distillers in Hawaii, too, and the experts at Hawaii Aloha Travel are happy to help you find and visit them.
Upcountry Maui and Hawaii Island are…wine country? Yep.
When it comes to winemaking, it’s fair to say that Hawaii is not famous for it. No, that distinction goes to ancient vineyards in Europe and posh wineries in California, Australia, New Zealand, and South America. Or wherever else. But fine winemaking is a thing in Hawaii, and it’s something to explore for visitors who seek more than social media pictures of their toes in the sand or drink in their hand for an epic sunset meme.
Volcanic soil is good for growing grapes. So are cool temperatures. There’s both on the slopes of Mauna Kea on Hawaii Island and Haleakala Crater on Maui.
Maui Wine cultivates a handful of varietal grapes on Haleakala’s southern slope, offering reds and whites that are exceptional (we assume because we honestly don’t really know good wine even though we’ve toured snooty vineyards in California and France). They started in the 1970s. The point is that fine wines are cultivated and perfected on the Valley Isle. Maui Wine makes wine out of pineapple, too, and honey. And other stuff like organic tea.
Volcano Winery on Hawaii Island makes truly fine wine as well, with grapes ripened in the rich soil of the adjacent Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. They make wine out of guavas and other tropical fruits. Oh, and they grow their own organic tea as well.
We’ve never made a secret of our lack of actual food or wine critic credentials here at the HAT Blog. But we do know good and honest products and establishments that adhere to the notion of doing right for the land and the community. Hawaii’s winemakers and distillers are certainly among them. We’ll help you get there.