Big Island Bees offers tours to the general public of their beekeeping and honey production operation. As the name suggests, they are located on the Big Island of Hawaii, where you can find a small museum and gift shop (with free samples!) in addition to the beehive tour.
The family-owned Big Island Bees allows visitors to its honey farm in Hawaii, where guests can take a beekeeping tour in a safe and secure screened area (reservations recommended) to learn more about how Big Island Bees produces its delicious, raw organic honeys. You can also browse their store full of honey, beeswax products and beekeeping memorabilia.
Located in Captain Cook just miles away from Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, another place we recommend visiting in Hawaii, the beekeeping tour at Big Island Bees is a fun way to spend an hour and learn a bit more about something you probably (if you’re anything like me) have not given too much thought…
We actually visited Big Island Bees twice on our recent visit to Hawaii. While beekeeping is not something that I’ve given much thought, Sarah is really into it, and wanted to be a beekeeper at one point.
The honey farm is located down a winding road along the coast, and it’s important to consult their website’s directions and put them into Google Maps before you get on the road (we lost service when we got off Highway 11).
The first time we visited, we just sampled various honey and purchased a large enough stockpile of honey that it’ll get us through the apocalypse. The tours were already done for the day, so we decided to make reservations for a couple of days later.
The gift shop and little museum (more a couple of displays than an actual museum, per se) were interesting, but probably not worth the adventure down Hawaii’s side roads.
On the other hand, the formal, hour-long tour was well worth our time. It started with a brief video introducing us to honey, and the sustainable versus invasive ways to harvest honey.
The latter topic was a big deal for the beekeepers at Big Island Bees, as were the various threats faced by bees. Our guides continually stressed that their operation was organic, eco-friendly, and sustainable.
They also explained the differences between their honey and mass-produced labels, including those cheaply produced in China. This was another topic about which I knew literally nothing before our visit, but I was ultimately ‘sold’ on the pitch that their methods of slowly producing honey were superior for one, simple reason: its taste.
Literally every single honey we sampled and inevitably purchased at Big Island Bees was delicious. However, the one that was the clear standout was the Macadamia Nut Blossom Honey. We’ve used this in a variety of different dishes, but I mostly just eat it by the spoonful, as the floral flavor is too good to be overpowered by other tastes.
After the video, you’re given a brief rundown of what beekeepers do and how their production works before heading outside where they have a viewing area and stacks of beehive boxes.
The bulk of the tour occurs in this screened-in area (with the bees on the other side of the screen). During this open beehive demonstration, the guide opens an actual working hive and explains where the queen resides, how honey is made, and what makes bees so fascinating.
What I found most interesting about this all was the mix of science, hands-on action, and intuition. I don’t know how I thought honey was produced, but it was far more labor intensive and hands-on than I expected. Our beekeeper clearly knew her stuff, and had to apply her knowledge–and memory–of the hives to exploring them. I guess this explains why good organic honey is so expensive.
It was a neat experience, and I enjoyed learning more about something about which I previously knew next to nothing. I’m not about to rush out and become a beekeeper or have a stack of hives at home, but it’s nonetheless nice to be slightly less uninformed about something I love to consume.
Currently, tours are offered Monday through Friday at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., and 2 p.m. On Saturday, tours are available at 10 a.m. and 12 p.m.
Despite the out-of-the-way location of Big Island Bees, our tour was filled to capacity, and we noticed that a couple of last-minute walkups were turned away. Due to space being limited, Big Island Bees recommends that you make reservations for their tours by booking online or calling 808-328-1315.
According to Big Island Bees’ site, the tour now costs $10 per adult. At the time we took the tour, it was free. It was a fun tour and definitely enhanced our experience; at a cost of $10, I’m not sure I can sing its praises quite so loudly. If your budget allows it, I think it’s probably worth doing, but it definitely felt more like something that’s offered to convince people to buy the Big Island Bees product, rather than a standalone experience. Then again, if the free tours were regularly at capacity, I can certainly understand why they started charging for them.
Overall, tour or no tour, it’s worth visiting the Big Island Bees honey farm facility in Hawaii. The displays are cool, there are a couple of neat pieces of art, several items of beekeeping memorabilia, and those delicious free samples. Just be warned: they know that they can afford to give these samples away because the stuff is like crack; you’ll be hooked as soon as you taste it, and end up spending over $50 on honey. The beekeeping tour is also something that’s potentially worth doing depending upon your budget and level of interest. In the end, it’s nice to support a family-owned company that does business the right way, and this is a uniquely Hawaiian experience.
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 Hawaii, and I highly recommend Hawaii The Big Island Revealed Guide. It’s written by a Hawaii resident, and is far better than other books we’ve read.
Have you ever wondered–or given any thought to–how honey is produced? Have you visited Big Island Bees? If so, what did you think of it? Did you go on tour? Any thoughts or a review of your own to add? Please feel free to ask any questions you might have or share additional thoughts in the comments!