The coconut trees, or nui in Hawaiian, are palms that can reach up to 100 feet in height. Their nuts have a fibrous exterior and can take nearly a year to mature. The palm blooms continually and its nuts s have hard inner shells with a soft, meaty interior and a core of nutrient liquid, called coconut milk.
The interior coconut shell is made of tough, durable material and was frequently used in tools like stirring spoons, utensils, brooms, roof shingles, shirt buttons or tools like small shovels. Coconut palm trunks are one of the sturdiest substances for building and were commonly used for the construction of houses and other such structures. The fibrous outer areas of the nut were also used in ancient canoes as well as in religious instruments.
Coconut oil can be used as a moisturizer, sun burn treatment or as cooking oil. Coconut milk is high in electrolytes and potassium, making it the perfect ingredient or beverage used in the Hawaiian climate, as it aids in hydration. The coconut meat is often consumed both cooked and raw or dried shaves called copra. Coconut milk and meat is found frequently in many Hawaiian sauces, marinades, desserts and body products, such as face soaps, body lotions, etc. One of the most popular Hawaiian staple desserts is called haupia or coconut pudding. Coconut meat, oil and milk have also been found to possess tremendous medicinal benefits. The fats found in coconuts have been proven to help reduce obesity, heart problems, fight acne, heal burns, moisten dry skin and strengthen hair follicles. Coconuts also provide the body with nutrients such as vitamins B and C, as well as calcium, iron, potassium and zinc.
The Pu’uhonua O Honaunau site on the Big Island has a historic coconut grove where visitors can explore the line of trees. There is also a grove found on Molokai in Kapuaiwa. The Royal Hawaiian Resort in Waikiki also has a small coconut grove and the Kapalua Resort has a 12 acre coconut grove for those who would like to get a closer look at how these trees grow and produce fruit. But anyone viewing coconut trees should always proceed with caution, as falling coconuts are quite heavy and dangerous.
The Kapa’a Business Association in Kauai holds an annual Coconut Festival in Kapa’a Beach Park in October. Here, attendees can enjoy making coconut crafts and artwork, playing coconut games, learning about the way the trees grow, finding more about the history of the plant and tasting foods made with coconut. Many families flock to this festival where the live music, hula dancing, petting zoo, inflatable bounce houses and coconut dishes make it an exciting outing for all. The Big Island also sometimes hosts a Hilo Coconut Festival in October, where children can get their faces painted, learn traditional dances, listen to ukulele songs, weave ropes and bowl with coconuts. At this festival, there are also coconut recipes and drinks for everyone to sample.
It is apparent on every island that coconuts play a significant role in Hawaiian cuisine and culture. On Molokai, often described as the most Hawaiian of all the islands, visitors can experience a new way in which coconuts are celebrated souvenirs. Through the Post-a-Nut program on Molokai, guests can ship a coconut anywhere in the world. At the Ho’olehua Post Office, the post master can help you send someone special a coconut. Visitors can choose an authentic coconut from Molokai, write a message on the shell or paint it with decorative designs. So if you can’t decide what to bring your friends back from Hawaii, you could always post them a little taste of Molokai, fresh from the coconut groves. The price for posting usually costs between $10 and $15.