Island Address Book: Sue Kanoho

Executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau, on ‘home grown’ Hawaii


Big Island
Big Island Abalone Corp.

Kona Coffee Farm Tours

Volcano Winery

Kilohana Plantation Railway

Steelgrass Chocolate

Alii Kula Lavender Farm

Surfing Goat Dairy

Tedeschi Winery

Kualoa Ranch


Promoting sun-splashed beaches, ribboning waterfalls and verdant valleys — it’s just another hard day at the office for Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau.

Marketing one of the world’s most beautiful islands is an enviable task, Kanoho admitted.

“It doesn’t get any better than sharing Kauai with those on the mainland, then returning home to this wonderful island and our people,” she said.

More and more, Kanoho has noticed that visitors are keen on culture and aspects unique to a particular island — pieces of paradise beyond sun and surf. As with the other Hawaiian Islands, Kauai is showcasing its agricultural roots with tours and locally made products featuring everything from sugar cane to native Hawaiian hardwoods.

Perhaps the most ambitious among Kauai’s ag-focused activities meanders through stately Kilohana Plantation in Lihue.

“Kilohana has actually taken the concept of a large plantation estate and made it a mini-destination in itself,” said Kanoho.

With Gaylord’s Restaurant, local-style shops and museum rooms filled with antiques, the former sugar-era estate recently added the Kilohana Plantation Railway. The 2½-mile journey chug-a-lugs through 70 acres of land leased today by more than a dozen local farmers raising taro, exotic fruits, tropical flowers, coffee, macadamia nuts and livestock.

“What’s nice is that the railway travels inland to an area where visitors never had access before,” Kanoho said. “It takes you into the interior toward the mountains and lets you see what’s grown on Kauai all in one place.”

Kanoho praised how Kilohana has also created the Maile Products line from plants growing along the route.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn about Kauai and take a piece of it home with you,” she said.

Also new to the island is Steelgrass Chocolate. In addition to growing bamboo, cacao and vanilla, this eight-acre “demonstration farm” provides hands-on training, workshops and educational tours. Visitors can learn everything they need to know about growing and harvesting chocolate fruit, then turning it into their own homemade chocolate. “This is the ultimate branch-to-bar experience for those chocolate lovers out there,” Kanoho said. “You can do a sampling and not feel guilty since it’s for educational purposes!”

Kanoho has acquired a taste for tours promoting local flavors of Kauai’s neighboring islands as well.

“What I really enjoyed on Maui was touring the Alii Kula Lavender Farm and getting into the nature aspect of it,” she said. “It was also great to view the visitors center and see the end product on the retail side.”

Nestled upcountry on the slopes of Haleakala Crater, 10½-acre Alii Kula brims with 45 different varieties of lavender, olive trees, hydrandrea, protea and more.

Gaining ground literally on Hawaii’s Big Island are Kona Coffee Country driving tours. Java lovers can savor the richness of a multicultural heritage that has been percolating for nearly 175 years in the West Hawaii region. This famous crop has achieved such prominence that it merits its own 10-day festival each November.

On Oahu, family-owned and operated Kualoa Ranch maintains its mission to protect the beauty and culture of its land through recreational and agricultural enterprises compatible with the environment.

The 4,000-acre working cattle ranch offers a Hawaiian Fishpond and Garden Tour exploring the distinctive facets of the land’s rich history through fields of tropical flowers, fruit trees and lush gardens before venturing out onto Molii Fishpond. In ancient times, the pond was stocked with fish reserved for the culinary pleasures of Hawaiian royalty.

Regardless of the island and the agricultural product being harvested, Kanoho acknowledged how sustainable, diversified agriculture transports visitors into educational activities that carry over to what keeps the Hawaiian Islands “green” in more ways than one.