There’s nothing quite like plucking fresh, juicy guavas from the trees on an island summer day or sitting down for a traditional Hawaiian plate lunch al fresco. Add live music, and you’ve got the perfect way to while away the day — which is to say, Hawaii farmers markets aren’t quick errands. They’re experiences to cherish, immerse yourself in, and enjoy.
Of course, checking out a farmers market on your next visit to Hawaii is just plain fun, too. But beyond the joy-filled day it guarantees, it’s an incredible way to show support for the islands, promote a sustainable lifestyle, and share the spirit of malama (meaning “to care for”). Buying fresh, buying local, and supporting agriculture is a win for everyone.
“Farmers markets are known for carrying the freshest seasonal produce available,” says Tylun Pang, executive chef at Fairmont Kea Lani. “The flavors that come from a local harvest have no comparison to something that was shipped or stored. Our farmers work endlessly with integrity, care, and respect for the land. I couldn’t imagine what our island communities would be like without them.”
Not only are you giving the island economy a boost by supporting local farmers, but you’ll get a boost, too. You’ll discover new foods — if you’ve never seen breadfruit, that’s about to change! — eat like the locals, experience the community, and feel good about giving back. Here are a few farmers markets to visit — to immerse yourself in, to cherish — on your next Hawaii vacation.
On Tuesdays, make the Wailea Village Farmers Market your first stop. Bag up the day’s fresh catch (if you get there early), every kind of produce your kitchen can fit, and prepared snacks and meals made with local ingredients. Think dragon-fruit smoothies, acai bowls, and delightful fresh juices. Afterwards, stroll around the restaurants and shops or play a round of golf at the nearby course.
When Saturday hits, get yourself to the Upcountry Farmers Market, one of the island’s largest and oldest — it’s been running for 51 years. Early birds can score fresh fish; later birds should beeline for the turmeric elixirs, fresh poke, macadamia nut dips, and fresh coconuts, to name a few. You can even buy locally made hats, crafted by Maui Alpaca and Kula Cottontail Farm, and scarves made from local alpaca wool and angora rabbit fur. (Which will come in handy if you visit Haleakala National Park’s summit; it gets chilly up there!)
People also flock to Kula Country Farms, going strong since the 1940s, for even more reasons than quality fare and a sense of community history. For starters, the view isn’t too shabby — this plot of land gives you a dreamy look at the entire central valley of Maui, including Maalaea Bay and Kahului Bay. Secondly, there’s always something fun going on. You might be surprised (and delighted) to find strawberries on the slopes of Haleakala, and you can pick your own when they’re in season; in fall, there are hundreds of volcano-grown pumpkins to choose from. At the small enclosed farm stand, pick out jams, honey fresh from the farm’s hive, fresh breads, dressings, and marinades. Don’t forget Maui’s famous sweet onions, heirloom tomatoes, and persimmons. And, may we suggest buying protea flowers to fancy up your hotel room?
Tip: Pair the day’s market experience with a breakfast or lunch at Oo Farm, where you can search for chameleons hanging out in the coffee plants, purchase locally made coffee, learn how the farm operates, and — of course — sit down to a delicious farm-to-table meal.
Learn more about Maui farmers markets.
On the south shore on Wednesdays, visit Kauai Culinary Market at The Shops at Kukuiula. With live Hawaiian music in the background, you’ll scour everything from fruit, flowers, and produce to locally raised meats, ready-to-eat culinary treats from local chefs, and lots of handcrafted gifts made on the island. Talk story with local farmers — they may offer up a cooking tip or two — stop by the beer and wine garden, and take notes at the cooking demos. Afterwards, do some shopping. It’s hard to go wrong here, for sure.
On Saturdays, start the day with a cup of Moloaa Bay Coffee at the Kauai Community Market, then load up on jams, poi, kulolo, and Hawaiian plate lunches from Hanalei Taro & Juice Co. There’s also Kunana Dairy goat cheese, spices from Salty Wahine, and fresh baked goods that smell too good to pass up. Hint: If you need a gift to take back home, Tropical Flowers Express — you can catch them at the community market — ships to the mainland.
Last but not least, the Kapaa Sunshine Market — the island’s all-encompassing term for farmers markets — is held every Wednesday at Kapaa Beach Park. When the bell chimes at 3pm sharp, the gates open and it’s off to the races for art, fresh flowers, organic produce, and artisan crafts. Afterward, it’s off to the beach!
On Saturday mornings and Tuesday nights, meet farmers and food producers at the Kapiolani Community College Farmers Market and go home with local honey, handmade pasta, aqua-cultured seafood, scones, and oatcakes. Keep an eye out for different restaurants each week that prepare drool-worthy plates, too.
Located in the heart of Honolulu, Kakaako Farmers Market — taking place on Saturdays — features local vendors, fresh fruits and vegetables, and, of course, delectable treats. Think half-moon dumplings, Hawaii iced lattes, fresh pineapple, and other ultra-local goodies to fuel your body and spirit for a day in the city.
Beyond the markets, there are a few more spots you should put on your Oahu list for supporting local farmers:
- Make time for a farm-to-table tour at Kahumana Organic Farm. Treat yourself to a banana-coconut bar, lilikoi cheesecake, and pesto-veggie pasta. Or pick up a CSA (community supported agriculture) box, full of fresh fruits and veggies, to prepare on your own — and see how Hawaii-fresh is its own flavor.
- Mao Farms, one of the largest certified organic farms in Hawaii, connects young folks to the land through the aloha aina tradition, which means “love of the land.” Here, they grow more than 40 different varieties of fruits and veggies.
- Similarly, singer-songwriter Jack Johnson and his wife Kim started the Kokua Hawaii Foundation years ago to teach people about where their food comes from and why it makes sense to grow your own produce. At the Kokua Learning Farm, in the heart of Haleiwa on the North Shore of Oahu, residents and visitors can purchase low-waste lifestyle products, vintage goodies, and local produce at the Kokua General Store and AINA Farm Stand.
Learn more about Oahu farmers markets.
ISLAND OF HAWAII
Start the day with a Hawaii Island-grown coffee or tea at the Waimea Town Market on Saturdays, if you’re on the north side of the island. Follow your nose to the fresh-baked pastries and tarts; peruse the artisan wares, like locally produced wool, crafts, and ceramics; and buy some raw honey to mail home as gifts. When you’re finished, nab a picnic table with a view of Maunakea.
On the other (east) side of Hawaii Island, there are two things you’ll notice immediately about the Hilo Farmers Market: It’s massive (there are typically more than 100 vendors) and it’s popular. It’s also open seven days a week, which means there’s plenty of time to search for treasures from aloha shirts and ukulele to any food you’re craving. Stock up for a day of hiking at nearby Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where you’ll get to experience the origin story of the islands’ rich, volcanic farmlands. And this way, the lava’s bounty will already be packed in your bag.
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