Hawaii's Honey Bee Farms

Hawaii Stories

Adventure Food & Entertainment

Hawaii's Honey Bee Farms

Catch the buzz on this thriving industry.

Honey Bee Hero

Above: Bees busy at work on their honeycomb, producing the sticky sweetener we all love.

On October 21, 1857, three hives of Apis mellifera honey bees that had been ordered by the Royal Hawaiian Agricultural Society were put aboard the bark Fanny Major in San Jose, California. The voyage to Honolulu took 18 days, and the hives arrived in good condition. The Society paid $100 apiece for them and placed them in the care of Dr. William Hillebrand, a German physician and botanist, who lived in Nuuanu Valley.

By the following year, the three original hives had increased to nine. Over the next few decades, feral bee colonies and hives owned by a few hobbyists got established, but it wasn’t until the 1890s that entrepreneurs saw the potential of commercial honey production.

In 1894, the Sandwich Island Honey Company exported eight gallons of honey to the U.S. Mainland. Just three years later, 109,000 pounds were shipped by various producers, primarily to markets in Germany and the United Kingdom.

Today, there are dozens of honey companies statewide. Some are small, family-run producers; others are large-scale operations with thousands of hives in multiple locations. Hawaii’s bee farmers produce more than 100 pounds of honey per hive per year—the highest yield in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Here’s how you can learn more about the bee-dazzling golden sweetener.

Events

1. Hawaiian Honey Challenge
Hilo, Hawaii Island
HawaiianHoneyChallenge.com

The annual Hawaiian Honey Challenge provides a way for local beekeepers to receive recognition for their products, spotlights the wide array of quality honey being produced in the Aloha State and raises awareness about what people can do to protect honey bees, which pollinate some 80% of the nuts, grains, fruits and vegetables in the United States. About one third of the food Americans eat is directly or indirectly due to honey bee pollination.

All Hawaii beekeepers can enter the competition. The entries they submit must be harvested from their own apiaries, can’t be heated during extracting or bottling and must not be blended, contain any additives or flavorings or be processed in any way. Judges chosen for their honey and/or culinary expertise conduct a formal blind tasting, giving points for aroma, taste, texture and clarity.

The public has a chance to weigh in, too. An informal taste testing for the People’s Choice awards is held at Mokupapapa Discovery Center, 76 Kamehameha Ave in Hilo on the first Friday in November, which coincides with the town’s big Black and White street party. Between 5:30 and 9 p.m., they can sample 60 to 90 honeys, cast their votes, view sample hives and collect honey recipes. Honey and beeswax products are available for sale, and beekeepers are on hand to answer questions.

Winners of the formal judging and the People’s Choice awards are announced about two weeks after the Mokupapapa event.


2. Family Day: Pollinators
Oahu Urban Garden Center
Pearl City, Oahu

The University of Hawaii Master Gardeners’ volunteer Bee Hui sponsors this educational family-friendly event every year on the second Saturday of June. Attendees learn about beekeeping equipment, watch a live hive demonstration, see how honey is extracted, taste different honeys, view a display on the native yellow-faced bee and make a simple bee hotel, a place for bees who don’t live in a colony to nest. These bees don’t make honey; however, they are important pollinators for flower and vegetable gardens.

Tours

Several companies offer behind-the-scenes tours of their beekeeping operations, including an explanation of bee biology, societal structure and life cycle; bees’ role in agriculture; how they make honey; and hive care and maintenance. You’ll also get up-close looks at observation hives.

On some tours, you’ll put on a protective suit, open a hive and pull out a frame to see bees busy at work and honey in its purest form. The visit usually ends with a tasting session and, perhaps, a little jar of honey to take with you. Call or check the websites for more information.

Hawaii Island

1. Bee Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea Beach Resort
Kohala Coast, Hawaii Island
(808) 882-5707

This tour is available only to guests of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel or The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort.

Bee Mauna Kea

Above: Any beekeeper will tell you that this job is a labor of love, but comes with its own sweet reward.

2. Beekeeping Tour
Big Island Bees
Captain Cook, Hawaii Island
BigIslandBees.com

Beekeeping Tour

Above: A delicious array of products on display from Big Island Bees.

3. Botanical Garden & Bee Tour
Fairmont Orchid
Kohala Coast, Hawaii island
(808) 887-7368

This tour is available only to guests of the Fairmont Orchid.

Botanical Garden and Bee Tour

Above: The Fairmont Orchid uses its own honey to pamper guests by incorporating it into their dining, beverage and spa menus.

Maui

1. Hive Mind Maui
Makawao, Maui
HiveMindMaui.com

Hive Mind Maui

Above: These golden jars of honey are the end product that indicate the beekeeper is doing something right.

2. Maui Bees Farm Tour
Kula, Maui
MauiBees.com/Farm-Tours

Maui Bees Farm Tour

Above: Used to sweeten coffee, tea or as an ingredient in baked goods, honey has never been in such high demand.

Oahu

1. Beelieve Hawaii Honey Bee Tour
Waimanalo, Oahu
BeelieveHawaii.com

Beelive Hawaii Honey Bee Tour

Above: Swarming around the hive is just part of the daily routine for these active insects.

Kauai

1. Beekeeping Adventure by Kauai Nectar
Kapaa, Kauai
Bit.ly/Bee-Experience

Bee King Adventure

Above: The job of the beekeeper allows you to get close and personal with nature.
Educational Programs

To learn more about bees, beekeeping and honey production, consider signing up for these classes and programs. You can also get more information about Hawaii’s honey industry by contacting the following organizations:

• Hawaii Beekeepers’ Association (HawaiiBeekeepers.org)
• Big Island Beekeepers Association (BigIslandBeekeepers.com)
• Kauai Beekeepers Association (KauaiBeekeepersAssociation.com)

Hawaii Island

1. Adopt-a-Beehive with Alan Wong
Panaewa, Hawaii Island
Hilo.Hawaii.edu/AdoptABeehive

In 2011, renowned local chef Alan Wong partnered with the University of Hawaii at Hilo to launch this program, which offers 65 hives for adoption at the college’s 110-acre farm in Panaewa, five miles from campus. Mapuhonehone (“the wafting of the sweet smell of honey”), a one-acre garden at the farm, contains a model beehive owned by Chef Wong and bee-friendly features such as plants that provide nectar for bees year-round.

As an Adopt-a-Beehive participant, you’ll receive reports and photos of your hive, honey and honey products (the latter produced by beekeeping students) and invitations to join Chef Wong at bee- and agriculture-related activities. All proceeds benefit the college’s beekeeping program.

Mapuhonehone and the apiaries are not open to the general public; however, group visits to Mapuhonehone can be arranged on a limited basis. Call (808) 932-7151 or email tsutsumi@hawaii.edu for details.

Adopt a Bee Hive with Alan Wong

Above: Protective gear allows students to learn a few things about the important role of bees without getting stung.

2. Beekeeping Lessons
Paradise Nectar Apiaries
Wainaku, Hawaii Island
ParadiseNectar.com/services/Beekeeping-Lessons

Since 2008, Jen Rasmussen, a self-described “bee guardian,” has been caring for bees without antibiotics or other treatments and teaching others how to do the same. She invites visitors to her apiaries for a hands-on workshop with honeybees, including protective gear, handouts and samples of honey and bee bread, pollen covered with nectar, which reputedly aids digestion. Book online.

Beekeeping Lessons

Above: Not only used for food and drink, honey is often regarded for its natural medicinal qualities.

3. Hands-on Hives

Hilo, Hawaii Island
BigIslandBeekeepers.com

The Big Island Beekeepers Association sponsors a free introduction to beekeeping from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month, weather permitting. Meet in the back of the University of Hawaii’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resource’s Research and Extension office, 875 Komohana Street.

After weeding and cleaning up around the apiary, participants inspect each hive. Advance reservations are recommended, so the instructor can ensure there are enough suits, veils and gloves for everyone. Call (805) 399-2422.

Hands on Hives

Above: Honey bees are vital to the pollination process and are an important part of our ecology.

Maui

1. Bee House
University of Hawaii Maui College
Kahului, Maui
www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/Maui/pages/Programs.aspx

The University of Hawaii Maui College’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) is home to the Bee House, an observation hive set outdoors in a little structure that seats up to 15 people. Presentations there discuss honey bees’ life cycle, nutrition, social structure, the honey-making process and bees’ vital role as pollinators.

Before or after seeing the Bee House, guests can take a guided stroll through the surrounding gardens of aalii, ilima, plumeria, pua kenikeni and other tropical flowers, which are pollinated by bees. To schedule a group visit, call (808) 244-3242, extension 229.

Oahu

1. Beekeeper’s Visit Program
Manoa Honey Company
ManoaHoney.com

In addition to making quality honey, this small family-owned-and-operated business offers an outreach educational program for schools and community groups. How do bees make honey? Why are they important not only for cultivated crops but for plants in the wild? Why do worker bees sting but not drones? Do bees really dance?

A beekeeper will come to your meeting place with an observation hive and honey samples to answer those questions and more. Email yuki@manoahoney.com.

beekeepers-visit-program

Above: While visiting a beautiful blossom, this bee is actually doing its part in helping flowers and plants reproduce.

2. Introduction to Beekeeping
Meli LLC
Waimanalo, Oahu

During this session, beekeeper Max Towey explains how to construct an apiary, including honey bee biology and disease, the equipment needed and proper locations for hives. It’s available to groups of at least 10 people; bee suits are provided for everyone.

Towey also offers this class a few times a year at Lyon Arboretum, which comes under the auspices of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. For kids’ events, including birthday parties, he brings an observation hive and a fun narrative for the appropriate age group. Email hawaiianmeli@gmail.com.

Introduction to Beekeeping

Above: Classes and workshops are now available to help educate and perpetuate the incredible role of the honey bee.

3. Pollinator Program
Beelieve Hawaii
Waimanalo, Oahu
BeelieveHawaii.com

Jasmine Joy, founder of Beelieve Hawaii, takes her presentation to schools, garden clubs, restaurant staffs and other groups. She customizes each talk for the audience, but it always includes photos, examination of an observation hive and a discussion about the importance of bees as pollinators and honey producers. Call (808) 497-1743.

Pollinator Program

Above: Directing smoke to areas of the hive help to disrupt the bees and minimize their stings.

Kauai

1. Kauai Community College Apiary Project
Lihue, Kauai
www.kauai.hawaii.edu/apiary-project

The public is welcome to the college’s apiary and lab to learn about bee and hive care, harvest honey and discover the many products derived from it. Hours are usually Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays starting at 10 a.m. Email kccbees@hawaii.edu for details.

In addition, a free or low-cost one-day beekeeping/honey class is offered once each semester through the Office of Continuing Education. Topics include Introduction to Beekeeping, Honey Harvesting and Products of the Hive (e.g., honey, wax, mead, lotion, lip balm, candles and baked goods).

KCC honey products can be purchased in the college’s bookstore and at the Saturday Kauai Community Market on campus if a month has a fifth Saturday. Proceeds help support the Apiary Project.


Sweet Success

Following is a partial list of Hawaii honey companies; there are dozens statewide. Their products are available online and at shops, supermarkets, festivals, swap meets, farmers’ markets and/or their own farm stores. Check their websites or email them for details.

Hawaii Island

1. Aha Honey House 
www.ahahoney.com

2. Big Island Bees
https://bigislandbees.com

3. Hawaii Bee Company
www.hawaiibeeco.com

4. Hawaii’s Local Buzz
www.hawaiis.localbuzz.com/honey

5. Hawaiian Honey
telio@earthlink.net

6. Hawaiian Rainbow Bees
https://rainbowbees.com
It’s also based on Oahu.

7. Kalapana Gold
kalapanagold@gmail.com

8. Rare Hawaiian Honey Company
www.rarehawaiianhoneycompany.com

9. Steve’s Akaka Falls Farm
https://stevesakakafallsfarm.wordpress.com

10. The Honey Bee Company
www.thebeecompany.buzz

11. Wao Kele Honey
islebuzz@gmail.com

Maui

1. Da Beehive
www.dabeehive.com

2. Hive Mind Maui

http://hivemindmaui.com

3. Maui Bee Farm
www.mauibeefarm.com

4. Maui Bees
https://mauibees.com

5. Maui’s Best Honey
emillynch76@gmail.com

Oahu

1. All Hawaiian Honey
lkawamoto3@hawaii.rr.com 

2. Green Valley Farm
greenvalleyfarm.hi@gmail.com

3. Manoa Honey Company
www.manoahoney.com

4. Nalo Meli Honey
www.nalomelihoney.com

5. Rhea’s Hawaiian Honey
raykar6@gmail.com

6. Tolentino Honey Company
www.tolentinohoneyco.com

Kauai

1. Bee Kind Apiary
bee.kind.apiary.kauai@gmail.com

2. Lee’s Bees
lnwilke@aol.com

3. Kapaa Honey Factory
conan@hawaiiantel.net

4. Kauai Community College Apiary Project
kccbees@hawaii.edu

5. Kauai Nectar
info@kauainectarco.com

6. Kauai Island Honey/Hanalei Bay Honey
kauaiislandhoney@hotmail.com

7. McPhee’s Bees
http://mcpheesbees.com

8. Miki Macs
mikimacs@hawaiiantel.net

9. M.Y. Kauai Honey
https://mykauaihoney.com

Molokai

1. Molokai Meli
www.molokaihoney.com

Related Stories

Hawaiian Airlines Liberty Challenge

Liberty Challenge

Launching the Aloha Spirit in the Big Apple

keiki hula

Keiki Hula

In Hawaii, love of traditional dance, discipline, and culture blossoms early

Surfers at dawn

A Beginner's Guide to Surfing Oahu

A lifelong surfer offers her picks, tips, and insights

olelo3

Olelo Odyssey

Its pioneers and champions reflect on the revival of the Hawaiian language