At first glance, Hawaiian words, especially names, can be difficult to grasp. I’m still no expert, but it’s actually pretty easy when you pay attention. All of the letters are pronounced, and the vowels are pronounced only one way. The hardest part was parsing out a name like “Alanui Ke’ali’i” (ala-NEW-e kay-ah-LI-i) or “Upper Hamakuapoko Road” (hama-kua-PO-ko) in the 5 seconds between when you could read it on the road sign and when you passed it!
When we first started planning our trip, we knew that there were several places we wanted to visit around a place called Hali’imaile. We jokingly referred to it as “Holy Moly,” but not wanting to sound like ignorant tourists we decided to make an effort to learn how to pronounce the words property. Of course most of these Hawaiian words also have significant meaning, but we weren’t prepared to figure that out. When it mattered, a driver or guide would tell us the meaning!
So what is in Hali’imaile? First, it is the home of Maui Gold Pineapple Company. They are very proud of their home-grown pineapple in Maui, to the extent that they generally don’t sell beyond the island. Their fruit is sold all over the island, and wherever someone served pineapple, it was likely Maui Gold. But their picking method requires that the fruit be sold and used within 5 days for optimum freshness. Beyond that it gets turned into juice and used at the distillery that is conveniently right across the street! Ever had pineapple vodka? It’s pretty good!
We did a tour of the Maui Gold Pineapple Farm with a guide named Mo, who has lived in Maui for about 20 years, moving from California. A lot of people in Hawaii are from elsewhere, and now we know why! Mo talked with a confidence that sounded like he could be one of the owners, but I suspect that he is just a knowledgeable and enthusiastic employee. He did a nice tour, showing us pineapples in various stages of growth, how to make new plants from old pineapples, and slicing a fresh picked pineapple for us to taste. Yummy! After the tour, we were all offered pre-boxed pineapples that were carry-on friendly. We declined since we weren’t leaving for over a week. And we got plenty of already-cut pineapple in other places!
After the pineapple farm tour we visited the Hali’imaile Distilling Company. Their main product is vodka made from pineapple juice. Because vodka is generally odorless with a neutral flavor, it can be hard to distinguish tastes, but the Pau Vodka had just a hint of pineapple sweetness. Even the Bourbon Girl liked it! They also make a flavored rum using local ingredients including Kona coffee, a whiskey that is made from blending Kentucky Bourbon with some local hooch, and a gin made with Hawaiian botanicals. We didn’t bring home any of their souvenirs, although we did make a point of seeking out cocktails made from their spirits!
Also in Hali’imaile is the Hali’imaile General Store. No longer an actual store, it is the name of a restaurant owned by James Beard Award recipient and celebrity chef Bev Gannon. We had lunch there and the poke’ was excellent! 😉
So how do you say Hali’imaile? Sound it out: holly-e-ma-EE-lay. Now you know Hawaiian! 🙂