by Anne E. O’Malley
E*Trade founder Bill Porter and his wife Joan are akamai about their 500-acre Wai Koa Plantation, founded in 2006. They’ve thrown open the gates and designed it to be a working farm, fun and educational, with a tram tour that scoots through the nation’s largest mahogany plantation with three miles of groomed gravel and dirt hiking trails open to the public.
There’s history — Kilauea Dam, unveiled in 1891 when Koloa was a sugar plantation town, is still in service, these days bringing water to Wai Koa. It’s nestled at the back of a beautifully landscaped valley.
Hydroponic greenhouses here are totally solar powered. Inside, there are tomatoes — cherry, cocktail and beefsteak. There’s cucumber, basil and over 13 varieties of lettuce that workers cut and bag as a mix and the farm sells to restaurants and resorts on island.
There are 3 acres of organic orchards with a plan to triple that size over the next two years. You get to see a permaculture egg and vegetable farm and koi ponds.
Once people discover this place, says Tour Manager Susan Elliott-Hubbard, they tell her, “You would never know this was here, it’s a hidden gem.”
Residents who’ve driven past it for years tell her, “It’s like having a natural park in your backyard.”
Tours are approximately 2.5 hours long and are on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., lunch included. Fee is $65/person; $32.50/children ages seven and under.
Advance reservations required.
For reservations call 808-651-1191 or email Tours@KauaiFreshFarms.com. To learn more about Kaua`i Fresh Farms, click here.