The best way to see, smell and taste East Hawai'i Island's tropical bounty - fresh off the produce truck from the countless farms and gardens making up the island's rainy, fertile side - is at the Hilo Farmers' Market.
Operating inside a new, large open-air shelter located along the city's famous, iconic bayfront, the market boasts rows of plastic folding tables piled unimaginably high with colorful mounds of all the typical mainland fruit and vegetable fare along with some surprisingly strange, rare and curious tropical produce like rambutan, lychee, mangosteen, breadfruit, soursop, starfruit and much, much more. For anyone visiting the island who wants an easy one-stop-shop for experiencing Hawai'i's world-famous "fruit tour", this place is a must.
It's open everyday from dawn until late-afternoon, and the tables are primarily worked by local women of various ethnicities, and it's not uncommon to hear different languages hollered back and forth between vendors throughout the day. There's often a table selling fresh-cut water coconuts, and will let customers pick out their own coconuts and have them machete-sliced right before their eyes. Another vendor sells vibrantly colored tropical flowers underneath a rainbow parasol, with stunning orchids and a vase of blood red anthuriums greeting shoppers.
There's local staples, too, like bags of purple sweet potato, soft, ripe breadfruit globes and even the large, woody, seemingly inedible roots of the taro plant - the ancient Hawaiian staple crop used to make the ubiquitous local dish poi. This is a great place to learn about the variety of Hawaiian agriculture, ask real farmers questions about the myriads crops they grow, and even gather the essentials for an attempt at cooking Polynesian cuisine.
As far as fruit, pyramids of perfectly ripe mangoes the size of baseballs beckon to passersby, and the sharp, jutting crowns of white "sugarloaf" pineapples poke out of the piles of other fruit stacked on the tables. The usual fare of guavas, papayas, avocados, citrus fruits and several varieties of bananas have their own piles, and sometimes market-goers can even get lucky and find truly strange and exotic fruits there like dragonfruit, eggfruit, durian, longan berry, sapote, soursop and rollinia. For fruit enthusiasts, doing a little research beforehand about how to identify these more peculiar crops - and what they taste like - will go a long way in making sense of the market's overwhelming, colorful cornucopia. But it's a great place to learn, sample, experiment, and experience the flavors of Hawai'i with fruit that simply can't be found in any mainland grocery store.
Hilo Farmers' Market is located in downtown Hilo at the corner of Mamo Street and Kamehameka Avenue, right across the street from Hilo's bayfront bus depot. It's a great starting point for exploring downtown, as it marks the beginning of the iconic section of Bayfront and its boulevard of small, colorful, quirky shops selling everything from locally made candy to ukuleles, volcano art to health food to surfboards, swimwear and, of course, the typical Hawaii souvenirs. The market is cash only, unless otherwise posted by vendors.
Mahalo nui loa to Stefan Verbano, Content Blog Writer for Kona Wedding Officiant® - Hawaii 101 - Things to Do On Hawaii Big Island - www.konaweddingofficiant.com/blog
Aloha - Deanna - Kona Wedding Officiant, Licensed Minister and Marriage Officiant.
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