Hawaiian Vanilla Farm Tour Lunch

Vanilla (orchid) growing on a hapuu fern
Vanilla (orchid) growing on a hapu’u fern

Vanilla has the reputation for being, well, somewhat bland, but did you know that vanilla is quite a fascinating plant?

Vanilla is actually an orchid that only blooms for one day. If the orchid is to produce a vanilla bean, it must very carefully hand pollenated on that one day of blooming.  I learned these interesting facts while visiting the Hawaiian Vanilla Company for lunch and a tour.

Though learning about vanilla is interesting in itself, the owner Jim Reddekopp weaves a family love story into his presentation about vanilla and how he came to farm it.  Jim and his wife Tracey were living on Oahu with their first two children when they decided that before they had more kids, they wanted to raise their children on a farm. Soon after, they decided to move to Hawaii Island’s verdant Hamakua Coast to start the USA’s first (and I believe only) vanilla farm. Jim and Tracey now have five children that he jokes are on a work-to-eat program.

Jim Reddekopp prepares a vanilla-infused dish
Jim Reddekopp prepares a vanilla-infused appetizer.

Jim Reddekopp does not hied his passion for his family and vanilla. The two are clearly intertwined. It was inspirational to hear how the Reddekopps grew their farm dream into a viable small business that currently employees nine people. How inspirational was it? Well, on the drive back to Waikoloa, Andy and I started daydreaming and brainstorming what sort of farm we could start in Hawaii.

We enjoyed a very tasty vanilla-infused, three-course lunch as part of the Hawaiian Vanilla Experience followed by a tour of the farm. Almost every part of the lunch incorporated vanilla in creative and unusual ways. For example, the roasted potatoes were seasoned in a vanilla southwest spice. I certainly learned by tasting that vanilla is not just for desserts.

Hawaiian Vanilla Company
Vanilla was added to each part of this savory lunch.

After lunch, we took a tour of a vanilla farm “field”. There, we looked closer at the type of environment and tender loving care that vanilla farming requires.

Vanilla Plant
Vanilla Plant

The Hawaiian Vanilla Company occupies a lovely old timber building that originally housed a coffee mill in the 1920s. It’s roughly located half-way between Hilo and Kona. We drove there from Waikoloa Beach Resort in about an hour. It’s quite a scenic drive, too. If you’re in this area, you might want to consider also visiting Akaka Falls, Waipio Valley lookout and, if time permits, the beautiful Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden.

Hawaiian Vanilla Company offers other tours and tastings in addition to this lunch tour we enjoyed. Tour reservations are strongly recommended.

Having lunch and farm touring at Hawaiian Vanilla Company was far more than a vanilla experience.

Mahalo to the Hawaiian Vanilla Company for hosting our tour.

  1. This tour was anything but vanilla! Jim is a great entertainer and I had fun learning about vanilla and getting to taste his ono recipes!

  2. You know I’ve got a vanilla plant growing in a pot right outside my window and it is growing so fast and big I am not sure where to put it where it won’t touch the ground and the dog won’t eat it.

    Nice post, enjoyed it.

  3. Planning a trip out to the Big Island this summer for a photo safari and this place sounds amazing! Can’t wait to try some of those vanilla dishes. I bet the vanilla ice cream is off of the charts.

  4. Do you still have tours of the Vanilla Farm available. We will be in Kona from May 9 to May 16, 2015. Thanks.

    1. Jerry – we at GoVisitHawaii.com don’t offer the tours. You must book directly with the Hawaiian Vanilla Company. Links to their site are hyperlinked in the above article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

Hawaii Hiking Resources

Over the past few months, I’ve written about several free online hiking guides here at Go Visit Hawaii. Since those guides were scatter through the site, I thought it would…
Read Article