One of my favorite things to buy when I’m on any of the Hawaiian Islands is Mauna Loa macadamia nuts. I know we can get them on the mainland, but there is something about getting them in Hawai’i that makes them seem extra special. When I was doing research for The Big Island, I was so happy to find out you can take a tour at the Mauna Loa macadamia factory! Before we get into the factory tour, let’s get into some history of the macadamia nut.
HISTORY OF THE MACADAMIA
The macadamia is actually a genus of 4 species of trees that happen to be indigenous to Australia. Three of the species are essential for the fruit they grow, you guessed it, the macadamia nut. The macadamia nut has numerous names, which include, Queensland nut, bush nut, and Hawaii nut just to name a few. The macadamia nuts were first introduced to Hawai’i in 1882 then in 1910 The Hawaiian Agricultural Experiment Station started encouraging the planting of the nut on Hawai’i’s Kona District to help supplement the coffee production. The first macadamia farm was launched in 1925, and the first processing factory was established in 1931 in Kakaako, Hawai’i. Most importantly in 1946 Mauna Loa plantation planted their first crop which was harvested in 1956.
MAUNA LOA MACADAMIA NUT CORPORATION
Is, in fact, the world’s largest processor of macadamia nuts. They were a subsidiary of The Hershey Company but have since been acquired by Hawaiian Host, Inc. The central processing plant is located in Hilo in the Puna District on the island of Hawai’i. This processing plant is where we went for our factory tour, which I will get into next.
The visitor center is located on Macadamia Road in Keaau, Hawai’i. It actually isn’t that far from the Hilo airport. In fact, we flew over it on our helicopter tour, it was pretty cool to see the orchards from the air. If you aren’t paying attention to the street signs, you might miss it. When you turn onto Macadamia Road, enjoy a 3-mile drive through the orchards. Along the way, you’ll see fun facts on signs along the road until you reach the factory and retail store.
When you look at the factory, you’ll see a sign that says Factory Tour in large text and on the top in smaller print you see the words “self-guided.” So you walk up the stairs to the second floor, and there you will find windows along the entire factory that will show you what’s going on inside of the factory. Along the way, you’ll discover tv monitors and a button to push, I’m assuming they are supposed to tell you what’s going on in the factory, but none of the monitors worked so I can’t tell you for sure.
After that fabulous factory tour, you can go into the retail shop which has every variety of mac nuts that they make in various packaging sizes. If you want to sample any head over to the sample counter and they’ll let you taste any flavor you want. Fair warning though, the prices here are way higher than you can find at Costco or Target for that matter. Keep in mind Costco, and Target only carries certain flavors so you’ll need to decide if the price is worth the flavor.
If you exit the back of the retail store, you can purchase mac nut ice cream or go on a “nature walk” which really wasn’t much of a walk, it’s basically a small backyard with a variety of plants and fruit.
My sister and I were incredibly excited about this and were let down big time. In my opinion, this is a definite pass. There is so much to see and do on Hawai’i, don’t waste your time on this tourist trap.
Have you visited the Mauna Loa factory? If you have, were you as disappointed as we were? Let me know in the comments! Mahalo for reading! xo