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In 1993, Rob Pacheco had a vision. He was eager to share his passion for Hawaii’s natural world with visitors. At the same time, he wanted to protect the endangered environment through education, and he wanted to champion local businesses.
Pacheco’s vision became Hawaii Forest & Trail, one of today’s leading ecotourism tour operators.
On the heels of its 25th anniversary, the company has launched two new tours — one on Hawaii Island and another on Oahu — that epitomize its goal of telling the destination’s story through nature, culture, history and food.
“Hawaii Forest & Trail sees today’s traveler to Hawaii as someone yearning to connect to the place,” said Jason Cohn, vice president of sales and marketing for Hawaii Forest & Trail. “Through the years, we have stayed true to this by giving guests an adventure that is more experiential, and in turn, guests carry that experience home with them.”
Like all its outings, the following two new offerings are led by guides with impressive backgrounds in biology, geology, culture and history.
Flavors of Hawaii, Hawaii IslandIntroduced in late July, Flavors of Hawaii stands out from other foodie excursions by featuring people and places that clients wouldn’t encounter otherwise. The daylong, farm-to-table extravaganza takes participants behind the scenes while heightening their senses and pleasing their palates.
First, the tour stops at a farmers market in upcountry Waimea, where guides lead guests in a tasting of seasonal produce. Next up is a visit to the cutting-edge Kahi Ola Mau Farm — home of Honokaa Chocolate Co. — where the group enjoys lunch.
The tour continues to Mauna Kea Tea, a specialist in unusual green tea blends, followed by a look at Honopua Farm, which cultivates organic vegetables and flowers. Along the way, farmers spend quality time with clients and talk about their growing methods, sustainable crop choices and the joys and challenges of island farm life.
The trip culminates in a three-course meal with wine at Pueo’s Osteria, an Italian restaurant focused on using locally sourced products. Clients can chat with chef James Babian, who pairs fresh island ingredients with a creative culinary approach.
“We want to inspire deep connections with the natural world,” Cohn said. “For Flavors of Hawaii, that translates into connecting with farmers, the food they grow and the chefs who create rewarding dining experiences.”
Flavors of Hawaii begins at $275 per person.
Oahu Sunset on the Ridge, OahuAs with all Hawaii Forest & Trail itineraries, Oahu Sunset on the Ridge provides exclusive entry to an extraordinary place. The tour is particularly convenient for clients who are staying in west Oahu’s Ko Olina Resort, although it also offers pickups in Waikiki.
After a van ride to the trailhead, participants take a 1-mile walk in a pristine forest, winding through the uplands of the Waianae district. They marvel at rare perspectives on Pearl Harbor, Honolulu and Diamond Head in the distance, as guides spin legends and lore about this part of Oahu.
The destination is a private location on the ridge of Palehua. At 2,400 feet above sea level, it’s a dramatic spot for watching the sunset and savoring a spread of seasonal fruits and veggies.
“We knew the Palehua area was a hidden gem that would be an interesting adventure,” Cohn said. “With its sweeping views of the west side of the island, the sunset-watching from here is remarkable.”
Moving forward, the company will continue to dream up tours with activities that align with its philosophies.
“With all the beauty and discoveries that Hawaii has to offer, everyone at Hawaii Forest & Trail is constantly seeking new experiences,” Cohn said. “For now, we are two-island committed, but there are certainly wonders to discover on each island.”
Oahu Sunset on the Ridge begins at $135 per person.
The DetailsHawaii Forest & Trailwww.hawaii-forest.com