Farmers Market in Hawaii: Kona’s Sensual Smells Tempt Our Tastebuds

Homemade breads, passion fruit and trinkets capture the senses at the Kona Farmers Market

In two words I can sum up the smell that embrace me as we step out of the car and walk towards the Kailua Kona Farmers Market. Passion fruit. A scent like no other. It captivates me no matter what continent we are on.

Sadly, I had no idea what they looked like when I caught a whiff of this sweet fruit in Shenzhen last spring. I didn’t know the Chinese word for passion fruit, so I had no way to ask for it. It was a pretty big disappointment. Happily I was able to find it quite easily when we walked into the Kona market.

Dek finds a friend to chase around at the local market

Liliko’i is the more commonly used name for passion fruit on the islands, but most vendors will list both names for the tourists. I really didn’t care what they called it though,  I just had to have some of that fresh fruit. I’d only had passion fruit mixed into other foods, never straight from the source. Even if I had to pay $5 for one piece of fruit I would happily make this splurge on our holiday. My jaw just about dropped when I saw the actual price.

Six passion fruits for a dollar! Were they kidding? Fruit wasn’t that cheap anywhere in the U.S., especially an exotic fruit like this one. But wait. We were in an exotic tropical paradise. This wasn’t an imported fruit; it was grown right on the island. It wasn’t the only thing growing on the island either.

Dragon fruit, avocados, alchemoya and papayas were front and center

Butter avocados larger than my hand, three kinds of unbelievably ripe and delicious papaya, sweet mangos, tiny apple bananas, intriguing cherimoya and starchy bread fruit were all available at the market. If you were renting a house, many of these might have even been in your backyard. The owner of our rental brought us strawberry papayas from their tree upon our arrival. No wonder vendors were practically giving this fruit away. People could pick most right at home.

You heard no complaints from me. We loaded up on passion fruit, papaya and apple bananas. I’d also like to add that the apple bananas tasted ten times better than the small bunch I had picked up at the grocery store when we first landed. They were also about a cheaper for a much larger bunch.

Fresh lei tempted cruise passengers as they disembarked for a few hours in Kona to check out the sights

Every morning we found ourselves loading up on our daily ration of apple bananas and some other fruit to get us through the day. Our vitamin quota was met at a fraction of the price it would have been on the mainland. The only other place it could have been cheaper was probably in a market in Asia or South America.

Dek made a friend on our second day at the market, a little boy about his age who’s dad ran a stand. This little guy ran around the market all morning, corralled by the other shopkeepers who were on the look out so his dad could do a little business. He and Dek chased each other around the market as Mike and I slowly perused the stalls, checked out the local crafts, bought some banana bread and fruit, and savored a few semi-quiet moments. I was sad to drag Dek away at the end of our shopping. He hadn’t had much toddler interaction on our trip, but we were headed to the beach for a little splash fun before nap time. Hopefully some other kids would be there too.

The typical Hawaii souvenirs were available, some at a fraction of the cost found in ABC stores.

Once we got home, I dove right into my passion fruit. It was a bit more tart than a bread, yogurt or jam made with passion fruit, but it was still delicious. I just had to cut one in half. With a spoon I was able to scoop out the seeds, pulp and juices in one tasty bite. My own little piece of heaven added right into nap time. I’m not sure it could get any better than that.

Tip: the earlier you arrive, the more you will have the place all to yourself

Know Before You Go:

  • Kona Farmers Market runs Wednesday-Sunday, 7am to 4pm.
  • Bring cash. I did not see anyone taking credit cards.
  • Parking is free in the big lot. Do not pull into the smaller pay lot closest to Ali’i Drive. Pull into the lot right next to it.
  • Bring a reusable shopping bag. Plastic bags are available, but show your earth awareness by bringing your own or reusing a bag from your trip to the grocery store.

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9 comments

  1. i *love* apple bananas…those are the BEST bananas EVER!!!!

    they also have a lot of apple guavas growing wild on the island if you know where to look. I ate a bushel full of them…not knowing that they worked like a laxative. I thought i was going to die and I was there for business!!!! ;-) Needless to say, I’m very careful to stop at ONE now…

    • Apple bananas were our perfect on the go snack. So cheap and just the right size for the little guy. I fell in love with them in high school when I went to the Dominican Republic. I’m just sad we can’t get them at home. Glad I stayed away from the Guava too! :-) I heard you couldn’t eat them raw so I left them alone. Next time I’ll make sure to just have one a day though ;-)

    • Isn’t it amazing how such a beautiful flower can make such an odd looking, yet delicious fruit? We did find some purple passion fruit later in the trip too, but it was way too expensive. We were happy with our yellow ones.

  2. Hawaii is incredible. I was there a few weeks ago, mainly on Oahu, but I did go over to the big island for a few days. Dragon fruit is delicious! Had it for the first time at the farmers market near Diamond Head on Oahu.

    • I’ve had a lot of dragon fruit in Singapore and China. Not a huge fan. I think when I have the option to have soursop or dragon fruit I will always take the soursop. Not that I would poo-poo dragon fruit if someone gave it to me though ;-)

  3. The market looks amazing! I’ve never had apple bananas so now I know to be on the lookout on our travels. I love it that Dek found a friend at the market!

  4. wanderingeducators

    Lovely colors, sights, and smells!

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