Wednesday, February 25, 2009


You're planning a trip to Hawaii's Big Island and want to experience more than just the beaches, sun and surf. How about a visit to a working vanilla plantation where you can learn firsthand all that goes into growing this beloved fruit of the orchid family? Further, you can enjoy a delicious gourmet meal with vanilla as the key ingredient in each of the dishes made fresh in the Vanilla Mill Café at the Hawaiian Vanilla Company.

Located in Paauilo in the beautiful Hamakua region, for many years this area was known for sugar cane. The tsunami of 1946 wiped out the area's railroad lines and the sugar cane industry faded away. Hamakua is once again enjoying a renaissance with a new generation of farmers producing coffee, tea, vanilla, cacao, organic produce, sustainably raised meats and artisan cheeses.

The Hawaiian Vanilla Company (HVC) sits on the gently rising slope of Mauna Kea at about 1800 feet altitude. Looking past rolling green hills and pastures, you can see the Pacific Ocean in the distance. Driving time is a little more than two hours from Kona, and about an hour and a half from Hilo. It's well worth the time to explore this gorgeous rural area set away from the big resorts and tourist activities. It's here that you can experience the true soul of this working island.


Vanilla Tasting: Tuesdays and Saturdays, 10am to 11am. Includes a sampling of foods from the Vanilla Kitchen as well as a vanilla presentation.

Vanilla Experience Luncheon: Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
12:30 pm to 2:30 pm. Includes lunch, vanilla presentation and guided tour of the vanillary.

Up-Country Vanilla Tea: Monday and Friday, 3:00 pm. Signature Hawaiian Vanilla Company Vanilla Teas and a Tower of sweet and savory delights are served.

The Vanilla Cafe serves panini made with freshly baked focaccia, organic salads with vanilla dressing, vanilla desserts and vanilla ice cream with their signature homemade chocolate and caramel dessert toppings when scheduled culinary events are not underway.

The Hawaiian Vanilla Company offers additional weekly events. Check their site at for what's happening the week you plan your visit as well as for directions. They also have a gift shop featuring their own products, including vanilla extracts and beans, jams, butters, dessert toppings and bodycare items.

Owners and hosts Jim and Tracy Reddekopp are often at the Vanilla Mill and you can usually expect some of their five charming home-schooled children as your wait staff at the larger culinary events. Call for directions, current prices and any special events planned during the time of your visit or go to

HOURS: Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
PHONE: 808. 776.1771 (local) or 877.771.1771 (toll free).