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Growing Cacao in Hawaii

Posted on June 17, 2014

Did you know that Hawaii is the only place in the United States with a commercial cacao production? In the below post, chocolate lover Doreen Pendgracs shares what she learned while visiting cocoa farms and plantations around Oahu.

I’ve never seen such a dense concentration of cocoa pods as I did on the cacao trees of the Waialua Estate on Oahu.

Growing cocoa on American soil

Usually, the growing of cacao (cocoa) has been limited to a belt 20 degrees north or south of the equator. It’s only in the past 10 years or so, that cocoa has been grown in Hawaii in any quantity–which is at 21-22 degrees latitude. You’ll now find about 100 planted acres of cacao growing on the islands of Oahu, Hawaii, the Big Island, and lesser amounts on the islands of Maui and Kauai, with the amount of cacao grown in Hawaii increasing by 25% each year.

In 2013, there were 30,700 pounds of cocoa beans harvested in Hawaii. Of that, 24,500 was grown on Oahu, 5,600 pounds on the Big Island, 580 pounds on Maui, and 100 pounds on Kauai. It’s good to know that production is on the increase, as demand for Hawaiian cocoa far exceeds the amount of beans currently grown.

Cacao seedlings on the Waialua Estate are wrapped in heavy plastic to protect them from the Chinese rose beetles.

At present, chocolate makers and chocolatiers in Hawaii have to partially rely on imported cocoa to make their chocolates as there just isn’t enough cocoa grown on the islands of Hawaii to meet the demand. And due to higher production costs, the price for cocoa grown on Hawaii is considerably higher than what chocolate companies have to pay for imported beans or couverture. But it appears that is changing, and Waialua Estate (owned by Dole Food Company), now has 25 acres of cocoa planted alongside its 200 acres of coffee. They are making some excellent chocolate from those beans — most notably the Waialua Estate 55% semisweet bar adorned with Hawaiian cocoa nibs.

To continue reading, click here.

About Doreen Pendgracs: Doreen is a freelance journalist, blogger, and author whose specialty is chocolate travel. Doreen is author of “Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate.” The book is available on Amazon and via Doreen’s site at http://chocolatour.net. You can read Doreen’s chocolate travel adventures on her travel blog at http://diversionswithdoreen.com. Look for detailed information about Hawaii’s chocolate scene in volume II of Chocolatour, scheduled for publication in 2016.


  1. Thanks for reposting my blog! I really enjoyed my visit to Oahu and the Big Island in February, and hope to return to Hawaii next year when I can continue my research on Maui and Kaui, and in the Hilo area. So much Hawaiian chocolate to explore!

    Comment by Doreen Pendgracs — June 17, 2014 @ 9:57 am

  2. Great article. I have noticed more people growing chocolate here in Hawaii. Hopefully we will be fully sustainable in the future.

    Comment by Hawaii Island Gourmet — September 23, 2015 @ 3:50 pm

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