Dole Plantation Review & Tips

Posted on Mar 7, 2017 by Tom Bricker  •  Points of Interest  •  23 Comments

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The Dole Plantation advertises itself as Hawaii’s preeminent “pineapple experience” and one of the most popular draws on the island of Oahu, welcoming over one million visitors per year. In this post, I’ll share some of my photos from Dole Plantation, thoughts on whether it’s worth your time, and what’s worthwhile here.

First, I want to clarify what Dole Plantation is and what it is notIt is popular. There’s no doubt about that. I remember visiting a decade ago with my parents, and it was packed. More recently, we visited in the off-season. You could barely move in the gift shop, and there were long lines for the Pineapple Express train ride through Dole’s gardens.

What it is not is a working plantation. On its website, Dole is careful to call the location “Hawaii’s complete pineapple experience.” You’ll notice throughout the site that Plantation is used as a proper noun, to identify the name of the location. (Likewise, I could change my legal name to “King Thomas of Melmac,” but that would make me neither actual royalty nor hailing from ALF’s home planet of Melmac.) Nowhere on Dole Plantation’s list of activities does Dole indicate you’ll be able to see pineapple growing. It’s implied, but never expressly stated.

Only in one spot does Dole indicate the true nature of the experience: “tour through breathtaking vistas that were part of James Drummond Dole’s plantation when pineapple was king.” (Emphasis added.) I suppose there could be a few stray pineapples growing on the grounds by accident, but it’s definitely not some large-scale pineapple-growing operation. It also begs the question…is pineapple no longer king?!

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If you’re not visiting Dole Plantation with the idea that it’s, well, a plantation, I suppose it could be an okay experience. If you’re a collector of fine pineapple-themed heirlooms and trinkets, you might have a blast. The gift shop is huge and has everything pineapple you could possibly imagine.

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If you only want to eat overpriced foods that incorporate pineapples into them, you could also have fun. (Note: pineapple dishes are also served pretty much everywhere in Hawaii.)

If you’re a huge Disney fan staying at Aulani, you might want to make the trek to Dole Plantation to get a fresh Dole Whip from the source. Just reminder, Dole Plantation is not a source of fresh pineapple.

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Even if it were, Dole Whips’ main ingredients are sugar, dextrose, coconut oil, assorted stabilizers, maltodextrin, and citric acid (hey, we’re getting closer!). Somewhere down the list under the “contains 2% or less of each of the following” heading are “natural and artificial flavors,” one of which is pineapple juice. In other words, the Dole Whip here tastes just like the Dole Whip anywhere.

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Then, there are the paid experiences: the Pineapple Express train, garden tour, and garden maze. As being thoroughly underwhelmed by the free options, we decided to start with the garden maze to hedge our bets, since it was the most cost-effective choice.

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As far as gardens in Hawaii went, this was the most underwhelming that we experienced, free or paid. That’s not to say it was totally awful, but it was relatively small. Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and you can do so much better at myriad other points of interest.

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After the garden experience, we opted against doing the Pineapple Express train. Not only was it more expensive, but there was a 30 minute wait. We both felt that we had already sunk too much time we’d never get back into Dole Plantation, and it was not worth prolonging the experience for the sake of a more comprehensive blog post. (Sorry?)

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Let’s at least end this on a positive note…there are public restrooms and parking is free. (On the day we visited, parking spots were a hot commodity and it took about 10 minutes to grab an empty one.)

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The grounds are also fairly nice and inviting. There is a light, airy feel to the location, and a couple of fun photo ops, so at least you can make it look like you had a blast visiting Dole Plantation to all of your followers on social media. (And at the end of the day, isn’t that what really matters?!)

Ultimately, I do not recommend visiting the Dole Plantation. This is the epitome of a tourist trap, and I fear that a lot of tourists might make the trek from the posh hotels in Waikiki Beach based on the name of the attraction, forgoing the real parks and natural side of Hawaii. If that’s your benchmark, and you see exactly none of Hawaii’s other real beauty, the Dole Plantation might seem okay. (Even then, probably not.) While you might see it pitched as a free place to visit, it’s absolutely not. The only free aspects are the (overpriced) gift shop and (overpriced) restaurant. The draw for many people is going to be seeing where Dole grows its pineapples, but it is not a working plantation. You might also think of it as a good place to go to get a “fresh” Dole Whip…but keep in mind that soft serve ice cream is mostly made of artificial ingredients. (So, it’s not.) The paid experiences at Dole Plantation are underwhelming and inferior to alternatives on Oahu and the Big Island. The only way I’d recommend Dole Plantation is if you’re already in Wahiawa, Oahu, driving down the road on which Dole Plantation is located, and want to make a quick stop to check it out for yourself…or need to use the restroom.

If you’re planning a visit to the Big Island or Oahu, please check out my other posts about Hawaii for ideas of things to do. There are a ton of incredible, under-the-radar experiences in Oahu, and I highly recommend Hawaii Oahu Revealed Guide. It’s written by a Hawaii resident, and is far better than other books we’ve read.

Your Thoughts

Have you visited the Dole Plantation? Do you think this is one of the top points of interest in Hawaii, or do you agree with my assessment that it’s a tourist trap that is a waste of time? Would you recommend visiting this “plantation”? Any thoughts or tips of your own to add? Please feel free to ask any questions you might have or share additional thoughts in the comments!



23 Comments

  1. Brian Sennett
    Mar 7, 2017

    LOVE the Alf reference!

    • Tom Bricker
      Mar 8, 2017

      Maybe my new gimmick should be reviewing places I visit based on how ALF would feel about them. More effective than clickbait! (Or not.) 😉

  2. Ashley
    Mar 8, 2017

    We went during our Hawaii trip back in 1997 & I don’t remember there being much to do. They had just recently planted a pineapple maze, but it was only about 6″ high and you couldn’t go thru it yet. The Polynesian Cultural Center made much more of an impression & was a way better place to spend our time & money.

    • Tom Bricker
      Mar 8, 2017

      I haven’t been to the Polynesian Cultural Center as an adult, but I remember going as a child (and doing the luau) and that is still high in the list of my memories of Hawaii. Definitely want to go back, but the cost is just…a lot!

  3. Kayla
    Mar 8, 2017

    Wow, you may have just saved us an excursion on a our already short trip. I have a memory of reading someone else going there with pictures of pineapple growing. I must have mixed up two things, or they decieved me with their photo placement.

    • Tom Bricker
      Mar 8, 2017

      Maybe at one time, there were pineapple growing? Or perhaps we just missed the secret pineapple patch. 😉

  4. Michelle
    Mar 8, 2017

    I would second your comments, it is mostly a store. As a Dole Whip fan I rot some of the harder to find flavors like mango would be offered, but it’s not. I found it most worthwhile as a stop over beween the south and North Shore. Grab the epic souvenir Dole Whip pineapple cup (apparently some folks just come to by the cup for resale overseas and dump the Dole Whip in the bathroom sinks- tragic loss of Whip), and snap a photo in a the giant pineapple. I ate the pulled pork sandwhich, which is similar to the one at Disney’s Polynesian Village, but can also be had at other spots on the island like the base of Wiamia Valley on the North Shore as you hike to a waterfall.

    • Tom Bricker
      Mar 8, 2017

      That’s moderately funny about the souvenir cups. We did see a lot of people purchasing them, but I assumed it was just for personal use.

      The kalua pork served throughout Hawaii is AMAZING. We’ve had this all over the place, and it has been good every single place we went.

  5. Karyl
    Mar 11, 2017

    Waaaaaaaay back when, the Dole “plantation” had a drinking fountain that shot out pineapple juice instead of water. That’s my childhood memory of the place (which, of course, made the whole tour worth it.) I’m guessing that’s not there anymore. Pity. But your photos are beautiful!

    • Tom Bricker
      Mar 12, 2017

      I don’t recall that from when I visited as a kid, but that does sound cool. About how long ago was that?

      • Karyl
        Mar 13, 2017

        About 35 years ago — before your time. I checked the interwebs just to make sure I wasn’t going crazy, but there are definitely other folks who remember it, too.

  6. Kim
    Mar 13, 2017

    We went to the Dole Plantation on our first trip. It was fun but definitely not something that we would do again next time. The Dole Whip was the highlight!

  7. Krista
    Mar 13, 2017

    As a lover of Dole Whip and all things with or flavored like pineapple, this tour would be on my must-do list when I finally do visit Hawaii. Maybe after I put two daughters through college. 😉 Thanks for allowing us to follow along! Mahalo!

  8. Hailey
    Mar 13, 2017

    I’m really glad I read this review so I know this place isn’t worth it. I’m pretty sure I would have fallen into this tourist trap because of my love of pineapple and dole Whip. Lol.

  9. Kelly S.
    Mar 13, 2017

    Both of my daughters love the Dole Plantation and insist that we visit there every time we are on Oahu. I am always shocked at how many people are there, because I agree that there isn’t much to do there! We have to do the maze every time.

  10. Sam McShane
    Mar 14, 2017

    love a dole whip!

  11. Laura B.
    Mar 14, 2017

    I just want to know if any of the other Dole whip flavors are available there. I’ve been searching for the mango flavor everywhere. I fear I’m going to have to buy a soft-serve maker and the Dole whip mix, and just make the dang stuff myself!

    • Tom Bricker
      Mar 14, 2017

      I did not see any other flavors there, so unless there’s a secret menu (and a hidden, secret ice cream machine), it’s only pineapple.

      Tokyo Disneyland has mango soft serve, and it’s everything I could possibly imagine a Mango Dole Whip to be.

  12. Lisa
    Mar 14, 2017

    I adored this review. It made me giggle. When I win that trip to Hawaii I may chose to skip it. 😉

    • Tom Bricker
      Mar 14, 2017

      I feel like this should be the penance people have to do if they win trips to Hawaii. (Side note: but no one else should ever have to go.)

  13. Kendra
    Mar 14, 2017

    Well dang. I had always wanted to see the Dole “plantation” on my next Hawaii trip, but that might get axed based on your glowing review. Good to know!

  14. Bill
    Mar 15, 2017

    Makes me want a Dole Whip!!!

  15. Lauren
    Mar 16, 2017

    We just got back from our honeymoon in Hawaii a few months ago and couldn’t agree more with your views of the Dole Plantation, however, we did agree that it was worth the visit just once (though we probably won’t go back if we ever make it back to Hawaii). We went pretty close to opening so the plantation wasn’t packed when we went. We did pay to do the Pineapple Express and enjoyed it enough, but the gardens were a total rip-off. We also did get a Dole Whip here (despite staying at Aulani) and actually loved all the extra toppings you could add to them here. We got toasted coconut flakes and it was delicious. Also the pineapple photo op was totally awesome! Haha.

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