KOHALA COAST, Big Island Organizers of the third annual Big Island
Festival believe travelers are hungering for culinary tourism
opportunities like never before, and in response, they’re adding
tempting ingredients to this year’s schedule.
As in years past, the Nov. 3-7 special event emphasizes the
variety of things to see and do on the Big Island. However, guests
attending the 2004 celebration get something extra, thanks to the
creation of new gourmet agricultural tours during the
“We believe Hawaii’s Big Island Festival is one of the first of
its kind to tap into the growing trend of culinary tourism and
harness it into a unique five-day adventure,” said Big Island
Festival director Kristin McGrath. “Visitors can learn terrific
amounts about agriculture and the products coming out of the Big
Island, then return home and use this newly-acquired knowledge in
their own kitchens.”
McGrath noted that a growing number of Big Island farms, ranches
and gardens are opening their gates to visitors. “With agricultural
tourism bearing fruit on Hawaii’s Big Island, visitors can access
remote, private lands, meet family farmers and gain hands-on
experience in the day-to-day productions of Hawaii’s tasty treats,”
she said. “Visitors have the opportunity to explore the path less
traveled, pick a bag of Kona coffee, crack open roasted macadamia
nuts, and ride horses across verdant mountainsides where cattle
roam. They come away with lasting memories and culinary
connections, feeling an emotional tie to our farms and their
The new agricultural tours are the brainchild of the Big Island
Farm Bureau. Clients who sign up for them can get a first-hand look
at the production, roasting and processing of Kona Coffee, and
learn how Hawaiian chocolate is created. They can visit farms
specializing in locally-grown mushrooms, vanilla and exotic
tropical fruits, and learn how Hawaiian bees create mouthwatering
Big Island honey. Back by popular demand is a tour launched last
year at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii, where a
state-of-the-art aquaculture facility cultivates such world-class
seafood as lobster, abalone, Dungeness crab and oysters. Most of
the agricultural tours include lunch, so guests can experience the
flavors of the fresh local products, McGrath said.
The third annual Big Island Festival will host nine of the ten
celebrities chosen by Food & Wine magazine as the best new
chefs of the year. “Only at Hawaii’s Big Island Festival can a
visitor see this much culinary talent in one place,” said
Clients attending the festival’s food and wine events get a
chance to pick up tips from creative American masters, then pair
that knowledge with local agricultural products and great wine.
“Even visitors who aren’t particularly good in the kitchen will be
inspired by the level of expertise and new ideas that they see
here,” McGrath said.
Hawaii’s Big Island Festival is produced by the Big Island
Group, a promotional alliance between the Big Island Visitors
Bureau, county of Hawaii, Kohala Coast resorts, and corporate and
community sponsors. Mauna Kea Resort is serving as headquarters of
the 2004 festivities, with the main paviliion at Hapuna Beach
McGrath expects this year’s festival attendance to reach 2,000
participants, up from 1,300 in 2003. Tastings and demonstrations
are intimate affairs, with 75 guests each, while the opening and
closing galas draw hundreds of revelers.
Highlights of this year’s schedule include a Nov. 3 party at
Hilton Waikoloa Village, where executive chef Willie Pirngruber and
his team showcase island products ranging from Hamakua mushrooms to
Waimea tomatoes. On Nov. 6, a Mauna Kea Resort gala called Under
the Hula Moon satisfies the crowds with foods crafted by local and
national chefs. Throughout the week, clients can attend health and
wellness activities, including spa events at the Hilton and a
morning of guided yoga, meditation, Hawaiian storytelling and
Officials are working closely with participating Big Island
hotels to provide members of the travel industry with sales tools,
including a one-page flyer for travel agents. Event organizers are
targeting potential participants with four-page advertising inserts
in national publications. The festival has also developed a direct
mailing piece that will be sent to 100,000 targeted consumers.
SIDEBAR: THE DETAILS
Clients attending the Big Island Festival can purchase tickets
to daytime tours and activities for $79-$115 per person, per event.
Event dinners cost $105-$125 per person, including wines.
The $400 Platinum Pass provides access to the festival’s opening
and closing events, culinary demonstrations, wine pairings and
seminars (a $460 value).
The following hotels have put together five-night packages timed
with the Big Island Festival:
Kona Village Resort: Standard accommodations, including three
meals daily. Add $15 per person for the Fri. Nov. 5 chef’s dinner
($1579 per person).
Hilton Waikoloa Village: Golf course-view room with daily buffet
breakfast for two ($789 per person).
Mauna Lani Bay Hotel: Garden-view room ($1,095 per person).
Waikoloa Beach Marriott: Partial oceanview room with daily
breakfast for two ($619 per person).
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel: Mountain-view room and $100 per room
dining credit ($829 per person).
A four-night package is available at Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel,
with terrace view accommodations, daily breakfast buffet and two
tickets to the festival’s final evening event ($1,100 per