By Lisa Scontras | Photos by Davin Iyamatsu
The birthplace of Dole Food Company in 1851, Wahiawa is now the only remaining commercial pineapple grower on the island. And while pineapple is what the region may be best known for, the agricultural-rich locale is also sprouting new harvests of kakau chocolate and coffee - a testament to the spirit of the people who have worked the land there for generations.
According to resident Ernie Martin, it's indeed the people and the community pride that make Wahiawa special.
"The residents of Wahiawa are very warm and friendly, but more importantly, they are very proud of the history and legacy of their community," Martin says. "We are surrounded by some of the most prime lands on Oahu for agriculture. And there is a wealth of residents who have a deep appreciation for this industry and stand ready to re-commit themselves towards its revitalization."
Vina Marcello, a Realtor Associate at Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties, says the people who live in Wahiawa love it.
"Wahiawa has lots of character," says Marcello. "It is a quaint community where people know each other or know their families."
Affordable prices, large lots and spacious homes are a few of the top reasons that attract buyers to the area, according to Coldwell Banker agent, Melody Pevateaux.
"Wahiawa is a very special place, where most of the homes come with a lot of old school Hawaiian charm," says Pevateaux.
"A good portion of the homes were built in the 1950s to 1970s … and in those days, nearly every single-family home was a fairly decent size," she says. "Buyers also like Wahiawa for is its location."
A short drive to the North Shore and to beaches or to Mililani, where families can enjoy parks and movie theaters, Wahiawa is also just minutes from freeway access. The largest employers in the area are Schofield Barracks, Wheeler Army Airfield, and Wahiawa General Hospital, which was built in a plantation style architecture. For anyone working at these facilities, living in Wahiawa is a natural choice.
Real estate sales are stable in Wahiawa, with 32 sales in the most recent six months. According to Pevateaux, nearly half of those homes sold for more than the asking price.
Homes currently listed provide a diverse mix, ranging from the mid $200,000s to nearly $2 million - offering affordability to first timers as well as secluded estates for those looking for something more traditional and private.
"Overall, Wahiawa is a good value and a hidden gem to a lot of prospective buyers," says Pevateaux.
Residents are proud of the community's past and optimistic about its future.
There is something serene in the air in Wahiawa. Maybe it's the tradewinds that gently caress the acres of farmland and echo a past, rich with the scent of pineapple. Or maybe its simply the homemade pies baking at Sunny Side.
Wahiawa Botanical Garden
As lovely as it is native, the Wahiawa Botanical Garden is a serene sanctuary where you can experience one of the most beautiful collections of rare indigenous Hawaiian plants on the island.
The 27-acre parcel was first used by sugar planters as an experimental arboretum and is now a natural habitat to a tropical rain forest resplendent with plants that thrive in a cool and moist climate.
Born from the area's agricultural beginnings, Wahiawa's Botanical Garden features Native Hawaiian plants, palms taro and heliconia, cinnamon, Arabian coffee, and allspice, as well as the gingers, tree ferns and epiphytes.
The fragrant and colorful paths weave around ponds and terraced rock gardens, bamboo and eucalyptus. The garden is exquisitely maintained and a walk there is simply magical - often the perfect setting for a small wedding.
Located on California Avenue, the garden is one of the five Honolulu Botanical Gardens - run with the help of volunteers. It is recommended to wear walking shoes. Parking and admission are free.
Perhaps the most well known attraction in Wahiawa is the Dole Plantation, Oahu's only remaining commercial pineapple grower, and home of the Pineapple Garden Maze, the world's largest maze.
Welcoming more than a million visitors annually, it is a must stop when entertaining guests. The Garden Maze debuted in 1998 and has recently been expanded to win back the Guinness Book of World Record title from a Peace Maze in Ireland. The expanded maze - the center of which is a huge pineapple - now occupies an area of more than two acres, with a two-and-a-half-mile path, and is made up of 14,000 colorful Hawaiian plants including hibiscus, heliconia, croton, panax and, of course, pineapple.
Adventurers can search for eight secret stations on their way to finding their way through the life-sized maze. Those successful can bring their card back to the entrance and win a prize. While the average is about 45 minutes to an hour, the fastest finisher clocked in at about seven minutes.
Other favorites there include the Pineapple Express Train and the delicious pineapple ice cream. Dole Plantation is open daily between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Fishing is a way of life in Hawaii. Stories and been spun and legends created surrounding our fascination with snatching creatures from the sea and we all carry a fond childhood memory for the very first time our hook met water.
And in Wahiawa's Lake Wilson, the only freshwater fishing site on Oahu, the fish are plentiful - and they're biting.
The privately-owned Wahiawa Reservoir known as Lake Wilson is located just a few hundred yards off of Avocado Street.. Fishermen young and old appreciate the relaxed lake atmosphere as they cast their lines for a variety of species of fish, including Large Mouth Bass, Small Mouth Bass, Bluegill, Channel Catfish, Tilapia and the brilliantly colored Peacock Bass.
A great outdoor recreational place to bring the family, the state park has restrooms and picnic tables as well as a boat-launch ramp and vehicle-trailer parking areas. The tranquil location is a great place to introduce keiki to the thrill of fishing.
There is a Freshwater Game Fishing License and entry permit required, which you can obtain at no cost from the licensed vendor at a local fishing supply store. The best months to fish at Lake Wilson are between April and October.
In Wahiawa, veterinary medicine has gone to the dogs - in a very caring way.
Kilani Pet Clinic, home to one of Oahu's only doggy acupuncturists, is giving Hawaii's four-legged friends plenty to wag their tails about.
Veterinary acupuncture is becoming mainstream with more pet owners turning to acupuncture to treat illnesses that include cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, reproductive and neurological disorders, as well as allergies, musculoskeletal pain and hip problems.
Under the attentive care of the staff at Kilani Pet Clinic, the canine treatment uses the same philosophies of traditional Chinese medicine. Most dogs don't even feel the needles being inserted and actually find the experience relaxing.
Treatment can involve several sessions but some dogs start feeling better after their first visit.
Kilani Pet Clinic has never had to advertise. Of course, the dogs know it makes them feel better. They beg to come, and their owners couldn't be more pleased with the results.
Wahiawa Pineapple Festival
Pineapple roots run deep in Wahiawa. Proud of its agricultural heritage, the legacy of the Hawaii pineapple industry is showcased each year at the Wahiawa Pineapple Festival.
Sponsored by the Wahiawa Historical Society, the Pineapple Festival preserves the historical and cultural legacy of Wahiawa during an era when pineapple was one of the major crops for Hawaii.
Courtesy of Jack Kampfer
"At its peak, Hawaii and Wahiawa were known for its pineapple throughout the world," says Ernie Martin, Pineapple Festival Parade chair. "At its peak, agriculture rivaled tourism as the major revenue-generation industry in our state."
The festivities are heralded by a parade with marching bands from local schools competing for trophies.
"My favorite part of the festival is the parade, not just coordinating the event, but also having the opportunity to walk the route and greet the residents who lined the streets," said Martin.
A variety of food booths range from barbecue to Indian curry and local chefs whip up their best pineapple concoctions for the community to sample, while entertainers include ukuleles, the Royal Hawaiian Band dancers and drummers.
"In addition to recognizing the significance of the era, the festival also provides attendees, through exhibits and performances, with a historical overview of Wahiawa, past and present," Martin added.
The annual festival centers on the extraordinary story of Wahiawa, its heritage as Oahu's agricultural center and the key figures responsible for making it so.
The Wahiawa Pineapple Festival blossoms once a year at Wahiawa District Park in May.