When it comes to the macadamia nut, never has a nut been so difficult to crack but so tremendously easy to eat. Whether eaten whole, covered in chocolate, or crushed into a succulent brittle, the macadamia is a culinary staple of Hawaiian treats and desserts.
Luckily for travelers visiting Hilo, there is an entire factory and sprawling orchard devoted solely to the wonders of this nut. At the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory, a self-guided tour explains the process of harvesting these off-white nuts, from the lengthy and protracted growing process right up through roasting and canning. More than just a look at the production process, there are also recipes on the dozens of ways to consume a macadamia. From standard methods of baking them in cookies to wasabi or onion flavoring, even the most accomplished gourmands and foodies will likely pick up some tips. Best of all, free samples are often distributed in the visitor center gift shop, and from the moment you turn on Macadamia Road and make the three-mile drive through the orchard, everything about this farm experience seems tasty, engaging, and fresh.
The Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory is located five miles south of Hilo off of Highway 11. Visitor center hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Saturday, and the factory is an easy, convenient detour on the drive to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.