When most people think about Hawaii, they probably conjure up visions of local plants and flavors like coconut, pineapple, and macadamia nuts. But did you know that the Big Island is also an ideal spot to grow vanilla? The rich soil, warm temperatures, and tropical conditions are highly conducive to growing the crop here. Don’t believe us? Visit The Vanillerie.
Located in Kona, just a five-minute drive from Kona International Airport, The Vanillerie is a small, working vanilla farm on the island’s West Side. It is owned by dynamic duo Guy and Jeannie Cellier. Guy, originally from South Africa, has over 30 years of experience in forestry and agriculture. His knowledge of and love of his crops is evident throughout the property, and he is always proud to share his farm with visitors. Jeannie has developed a wide variety of products using their homegrown vanilla as the main ingredient. Many of these can be seen and purchased at the on-site gift shop.
The farm is currently open to the public for tours on select days of the week in the morning and early afternoon. However, we recommend calling to check on current hours before visiting, as they are subject to change for a variety of reasons. After purchasing tickets (please do so in advance), guests will be treated to a unique and comprehensive look around the farm. Experienced tour guides will proudly lead guests around the grounds, through the vanilla orchard, and into their unique “shade houses” where the vanilla is actually grown.
A shade house is similar in shape to a greenhouse, but instead of glass or plastic, it is covered with screens, similar to those in your windows at home. There is a reason for this, and it’s just one of the interesting facts you’ll learn on your tour. The tour guides impart a ton of information throughout the experience, but it’s done in a way that is enjoyable and entertaining, rather than overwhelming. Visitors will learn about the extensive history of vanilla farming in Hawaii and specifically on this farm. They will also get an overview of the complicated and time- and labor-intensive process of growing, harvesting, and preparing vanilla for sale. We were shocked to hear how many steps were involved in order to make, for example, a bottle of vanilla extract.
Throughout the tour, guests are encouraged to see, feel, and yes, taste the farm’s vanilla. The sweetest treat comes at the end of the tour when tour participants are given a complimentary taste of locally made vanilla ice cream. It’s a refreshing end to an informative experience, especially on a hot day.
After the tour, visitors are encouraged to check out the gift shop. It is quaint, and welcoming, and has a very unique and calming aesthetic. Housed inside a metal building resembling a greenhouse, it is filled with vanilla-infused products displayed on bamboo shelves, and lots of bright, eye-catching plants and flowers.
Here, there is something for everyone. For the chefs in the family, there is an assortment of vanilla-infused spices. Some are predictable, like vanilla sugar, while some are unexpected (and surprisingly delicious), like vanilla salt and pepper. For those looking for a spa day reminiscent of their day touring the far, there are several bath and body products to choose from. We especially loved the silky-soft body cream, the deliciously scented body wash, and the invigorating body scrub. There is also house-made vanilla extract. However, by far one of the most popular items is the unique DIY vanilla extract kit. This set, which includes vanilla beans from the farm, explains exactly how to create your own vanilla extract at home. It doesn’t get any fresher than that!
All in all, The Vanillerie is a unique and beautiful location that serves as a perfect getaway from the beaches and tourist districts when you’re ready to switch it up. It’s educational, entertaining, and oh-so-delicious. We highly recommend stopping in for a morning, enjoying the tour, and picking up some one-of-a-kind souvenirs to take home with you.
-While there is a fee for tours, children ages 14 and under can enjoy a discounted rate. It is also free of charge to visit the gift shop.
-The Vanillerie is currently offering limited tours on limited days. We recommend calling in advance of your trip to get their current schedule. Booking in advance is recommended.
-The tour takes about an hour. We recommend allotting about an hour and a half to enjoy the experience, including ample time to peruse the gift shop.