There are certain things that come to mind when you mention the Hawaiian Islands. Most people will think of surfing, Waikiki Beach, Maui, sunrises and sunsets, volcanoes, and turtles among other things. When you think of the Hawaiian Islands in terms of food and fruits, that generally conjures up images of coconuts, poke, mahi mahi and ono, shave ice, lilikoi, loco moco and pineapples among other things. One of Hawaii’s most recognizable imports to the Mainland may be Dole pineapples. Last year when my husband and I were on Oahu, we didn’t get a chance to visit one of Oahu’s most popular attractions, the Dole Plantation, because we ran out of time. This year, as we were driving around the island with my husband’s parents, we figured that a stop at the Dole Plantation would be a neat little stop on our way from the island’s North Shore back to Waikiki Beach.
James Drummond Dole moved to Hawaii in 1899 with a degree from Harvard in business in agriculture in hand. In 1900 he bought a 61-acre tract of land in Wahaiwa and planted pineapples. At the time, farming was booming across the United States, and Dole figured that he could get in on the action by proving that farming in Hawaii would be a profitable venture. While Dole wasn’t the first person to have a pineapple plantation in Hawaii, he was the first to make it a commercial venture extending back to the Mainland. With technological advances in packing and distributing fresh pineapple to the Mainland, Dole’s first pineapple cannery opened up in 1901. Dole used his success to continue to promote pineapple as a desirable fruit to Mainlanders who weren’t quite sure what to do what a pineapple, he combined with other plantation owners to promote the sweetness and greatness of Hawaiian pineapples. And Dole moved his cannery to Honolulu to be closer to distribution and shipping facilities. That cannery, at one time the largest in the world, was in operation until 1991. Due to the popularity and increasing demand for pineapple, Dole purchased the Hawaiian island of Lana’i in 1922 and turned it into the largest pineapple plantation in the world. For close to 3/4 of a century, Lana’i supplied more than 75% of the world’s pineapple, and turning Dole into the Pineapple King. In 1958, Dole passed away, and his company, The Hawaiian Pineapple Company became known the world over as the Dole Food Company. Today’ the Dole Plantation, adjacent to the site of the original tract of land in Wahaiwa still welcomes visitors today to come and learn about this succulent, tropical fruit.
The Plantation offers a number of pineapple-themed things to do for visitors. There’s the world’s largest maze, offering 3-acres of fun with landscaped plants and paths cut to the shape of a pineapple. There’s the Pineapple Express Train which takes you on a 20 minute narrated journey of the history of the fruit. And there’s a Plantation Garden where you can view plants native to the Hawaiian islands as well as walk through a growing field of a wide variety of pineapples. If you thought all pineapples were the same, you are sorely mistaken. In fact, the pineapples come in so many different varieties that produce pineapples of different colors, shades, shapes and sizes.
But what we really came to the Dole Plantation for was some dessert, namely a Dole Whip. Dole Whip is soft-serve, pineapple flavored ice cream. Extremely popular at the Disney theme parks, this is where I first had a Dole Whip. That cool, creamy and subtle pineapple flavor is something you’ll never forget if you’re a fan of pineapples. Why not enjoy the same pleasure at the Dole Plantation. In fact, my father-in-law got himself a Dole Whip in a cup with a topping of pineapple. Later on, my mother-in-law actually ordered herself the same dessert. Although I ordered something different, I was so tempted to go back and order myself a cup of Dole Whip as well because it looked so cool and refreshing and absolutely delicious, subtle pineapple flavored ice cream surrounded by sweet pineapple slices.
Instead of ordering a cup of Dole Whip for myself, I decided to order a pineapple float. As you might expect, the float consisted of half a cup of pineapple juice topped with Dole Whip. It’s a cool, refreshing drink with a bit of tang from the pineapple juice. The juice soaks into the Dole Whip and the Dole Whip melts a bit and creates this nice, creamy concoction. I ordered the pineapple float thinking that my husband would enjoy it since pineapple juice is one of his all time favorite drinks. He could literally sit and drink a gallon of pineapple juice in one sitting. And I was right, the minute he took a sip of this pineapple float he couldn’t stop drinking from the straw and scooping with the spoon. I had to pry my pineapple float out of his hand just to get my share of the float or else he would have happily finished off the whole drink without me. And that’s ironic because originally my husband wasn’t that interested in stopping at the Dole Plantation and when I went to the cafe to buy the pineapple float, my husband was nowhere in sight as he said he didn’t really want anything. And yet, when I return with the pineapple float, he wants to have the whole thing to himself! I should have known better. I can’t blame him though because this pineapple float really hit the spot with its creamy pineapple ice cream, and delicious pineapple juice. It almost tasted like a melted, pineapple smoothie. I’ve never thought about making a float at home using pineapple juice, but maybe I should.
While the Dole Plantation was a little bit of a last minute stop, it was one that I was glad to make. I’ve been wanting to stop here since our visit to Hawaii last year both for the appreciation of what Dole and the pineapple has meant to the economy of the Hawaiian islands, but also because you just can’t pass up a delicious Dole Whip. If you grew up near Disneyland the way I did, then you understand the special connection with the Dole Whip. Surprisingly, I think all of us, myself, my husband and his parents, enjoyed our little detour to the Dole Plantation. We bought a few souvenirs and shared some laughs while enjoying our delicious pineapple treats. Good times shared among loved ones, what more could you ask for.