Tip: Check out the largest wetlands in the Hawaiian Islands

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Big Island Farm Tours

Don't be misled by the Big Island's barren lava fields. Here you'll find a virtual Garden of Eden planted in all manner of crops, from coffee and macadamia nuts to vanilla and cocoa beans. The island's $500 million agriculture industry is the largest in the state, and the bulk of Hawaii's

agricultural products are grown and processed here.

Some crops—like cacao trees, Kona coffee trees and orchid—producing vanilla beans—are unique to the island and yield products available nowhere else. The Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory, for example, produces its chocolate from cocoa beans that grow on cacao trees in the company's orchards.

Ocean Rider, Inc., a 3—acre aqua farm near Kailua—Kona, grows seahorses and sea dragons in its unique facility. This is the only living gene bank of live seahorses in the world. Hold one in your hand on a tour of the facility.

Hooking up with Big Island growers is a fascinating experience. See how taro grows and is pounded into poi. Find out how to crack a macadamia nut or how vanilla beans are pollinated. Walk through a field of tropical flowers, visit a winery, taste fresh produce in the farms that supply local restaurants, visit a hog farm. Buy Noni Juice, go Kona coffee tasting, tour a honey farm, or just sit a while and watch mushrooms grow.

Hawaii Forest & Trail conducts a unique tour of local farms that are using sustainable agriculture methods. The tour is followed by dinner at the award—winning Merriman's Restaurant in Waimea. This restaurant is known for its Hawaii Regional Cuisine. Chefs will prepare a gourmet dinner using fresh, local ingredients.

Or get acquainted with one of the island's oldest farming practices. Visit Kahua Ranch and get a glimpse of a working cattle operation. An Evening at Kahua Ranch includes a barbecue dinner and a taste of life on the ranch.

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