Discover the amazing Akatsuka Orchid Gardens

If the Big Island is the orchid isle then Hilo is the capital of the everything orchid. Just outside Hilo is the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens, a great place to view an amazing variety of spectacular orchids. Whether you’re an orchid aficionado, a part-time gardener, or just curious about what makes these flowers such a special part of the Big Island – be sure to make this a stop on your road trip.

Where is it?

The Akatsuka Orchid Gardens are located between mile markers’ 22 and 23 on Highway 11 near Volcano National Park on the Big Island. It’s about a 25 minute drive from Hilo and a 10 minute drive from Volcano.

When can I visit?

The Akatsuka Orchid Gardens are open limited hours in 2020 due to the pandemic. Currently they’re open Tuesday and Thursday between 10am – 3pm (closed between 12pm-1pm for cleaning). Access is easy and is wheelchair accessible (check their website for the latest opening hours).

A popular stop for tour buses, the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens features a large showroom – an open warehouse-like space displaying an amazing variety of colorful orchids. There are over 500 blooming orchids on display! These include dendrobiums, oncidiums, phalaenopsis, miltonia and odontoglossums. There are also anthuriums, bromeliads and tillandsia plants.

History

The Akatsuka Orchid Gardens have been specializing in the cultivation of orchids on the Big Island of Hawaii for over 30 years. The founder, Moriyasu Akatsuka, moved to Hawaii from Japan and started the gardens as a family business in 1974. It began life as a cymbidium orchid farm before Moriyasu changed direction, growing the more vibrant Cattleya orchid.

The first garden showroom opened to the public in the 1980s. It was at this time that Moriyasu began creating his own original Cattleya orchids.

By the 1990s the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens had grown in popularity, attracting many visitors from around the country and around the world. The gardens expanded, adding a gift shop and gaining the required certification to ship orchids to customers.

In 2000 the gardens renovated the showroom and a modern greenhouse was also added.

In 2016 the gardens created the world’s first orchid maze! You can experience the maze on a self-guided tour of the gardens (all 8,000 square feet!). There is also a 45 minute tour through the maze and the greenhouse growing facility (COVID-19 may have postponed this tour, please check their website for the latest details).

The tillandsia (above and right) are air plants, native to northern Mexico, the US southeast, and Mesoamerica. They have the ability to cling to precarious locations on trees and rocky outcrops. A minimal root system means they can survive easily on even a small piece of bark! They do not require soil in order to survive, are easy-care and low maintenance. Tillandsia typically produce a brightly colored flower.

Tillandsia
One of our recent acquisitions from Akatsuka Orchid Gardens

The Volcano Queen orchid

If you’re on the Big Island during the months of April and May make sure you check out the Volcano Queen orchid. This orchid only blooms once a year and is the gardens’ most famous resident, worth approximately $20,000! The orchid is originally from Thailand and is not a hybrid. It can’t be cloned, so propagation can only occur through division.

Volcano Queen Orchid
Photo credit: Akatsuka Orchid Gardens
Purple orchid
On our last visit we added this amazing purple anthurium to our growing anthurium collection here at Horizon Guest House

Take the time to visit the orchid gardens and you’ll understand why the Big Island is also called the orchid isle!

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A day trip to the Hilo Farmers Market

Hilo Farmers Market Horizon B&B Kona

Make sure you stop by the biggest and most popular farmers market on the Big Island of Hawaii. The Hilo farmers market runs every weekday but it’s the ‘market days’ on Wednesday and Saturday – with over 200 farmers and local crafters selling fresh produce, crafts, gifts and assorted flowers – that make it a must-visit during your stay on the Big Island.

Hilo Farmers Market Big Island Hawaii Horizon B&B

First started in 1988, the Hilo farmers market began with only 4 vendors and grew rapidly. The open market is now held on the corner of Mamo Street and Kamehameha Avenue in downtown Hilo. Contained within the space of approximately 3 city blocks, the market has free parking nearby. The biggest (and best) days are Wednesday and Sunday. Get there early to get the best of the produce and the freshest flowers.

The market opens at 6am and runs until 4pm. Most of the market is situated under large tents and includes sections with produce, food and flowers, as well as an arts, crafts and retail section. Deal direct with the farmers, the growers, the crafters and the bakers. And don’t miss out on the amazing range of food on offer from the food trucks. There is even an indoor food court.

Hilo Farmers Market Big Island Horizon
Long squash

What you'll find

A favorite with locals and tourists alike, the Hilo farmers market sells a huge range of produce. Whether you’re on the look-out for some locally-grown coffee or fresh fruit and vegetables, the market has a huge selection. Find jack fruit, longan, mangos, papayas, pineapples, rambutan, strawberries, white pineapples, dragon fruit, passion fruit, apple bananas, lychee, sapote and much more! Vegetables you’ll encounter include – baby ginger, bok choy, eggplant, taro, avocados, hydroponic lettuce, organic spinach, sweet corn and more.

Hilo Farmers Market Big Island Horizon B&B

The market also sells jams, jellies, macadamia nut butter and honey as well as bakery treats like butter mochi, malasadas, coconut pastries and Portuguese bread. A number of vendors also serve breakfast and lunch.

Hilo Farmers Market Big Island Hawaii

A wide range of flowers are sold at the market. Orchids and anthuriums of all shades pack the flower stalls. Bonsai plants, protea and assorted herbs are also sold. The craft sections are full of amazing creations – handmade jewelry, etched glass and items carved from koa wood. If you’re looking for a special gift or souvenir, you’ll be sure to find something well-crafted to take home from the farmers market.

Hilo Farmers Market Big Island Horizon B&BJPG

The market’s central location makes exploring the historic downtown of Hilo easy. After the market walk to the nearby shops, restaurants and museums. Check out the nearby Lyman Museum and the Pacific Tsunami Museum.

Hilo Farmers Market Big Island Hawaii Horizon Guest House

Hot tip: Bring the kids on the first and third Saturdays of each month and make use of the free art booth for kids (keiki). Open 1-3pm.

Can’t make it on a market day?

Don’t worry. The market is still open on all other days of the week but at a much reduced capacity. Expect approximately 30 vendors on these days.

Hilo waterfront Horizon B&B Hawaii

After you’ve finished shopping at the Hilo farmers market why not visit the nearby Lili’uokalani Park and Gardens. The waterfront location is the perfect place to enjoy a farmers market-inspired picnic lunch by the sea.

Hilo is approximately a 2 hour drive from Horizon Guest House.

Hilo waterfront Horizon B&B
Looking toward Mauna Kea
Hilo waterfront banyan tree Horizon B&B
Banyan tree

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What is a jicama?

JIcama Horizon Guest House Hawaii

What is a jicama? A relatively unknown root vegetable, the jicama is common here on the Big Island of Hawaii. With its flaky brown skin and crispy, white texture, the jicama has a unique flavor that tastes like a cross between a potato and a pear!

Jicama Horizon Guest House Kona Big Island

Pronounced (hee-kah-ma) the versatile vegetable has its origins in Mexico and Central America. It’s now found throughout Asia as well as here in Hawaii.

The jicama plant itself is mostly toxic. The vines of the plant can grow up to 20 feet in length. The root of the plant is the only part of the vegetable that is edible. The rest of the plant including the skin remains toxic, so make sure you peel it well! But don’t let that scare you, the crunchy flesh is a great addition to everything from salads to stir fries.

Jicama Horizon BnB Hawaii

Are jicamas a superfood?

The jicama is seen by many as a superfood since it’s so nutrient dense. The nutrient profile of the jicama is packed with vitamin E, calcium and zinc. Its high in fiber, a great source of vitamin C, and contains that all-important beta carotene! It also contains inulin, a prebiotic that helps with maintaining gut health.

Fun fact: The jicama is also known as water chestnut, Mexican potato and yam bean.

Where to find them

Make trying a jicama part of your Big Island experience! We bought ours from the Hilo farmers market, but you’ll be able to find them at most farmers markets around the island.

Look for firm, dry jicamas. Make sure the skin isn’t bruised and that the vegetable isn’t old and shriveled. Jicamas keep well – after they’ve been peeled they’ll last in the fridge for approximately two weeks. Make sure to keep them wrapped in a container or a plastic bag.

Jicama Burrito HGH
Grated jicama on a burrito

How to eat jicamas

Jicamas can be eaten raw or they can be cooked. First, remove the brownish skin – either cut or peel from the vegetable. Then chop into cubes, slices, or even grate. You’ll find the consistency much like that of a potato, with a kind of watery starchy texture as you cut into it.

We used ours as a topping on a burrito and also chopped up in a salad but there lots of creative ways to cook with jicamas. Don’t worry about oxidation – once you cut into a jicama, the vegetable won’t brown.

Fun fact: In Central America they are often eaten raw – cut into slices, chilled, then drizzled with lemon/lime juice, sprinkled with chilli powder and a dash of salt!

Jicama salad HGH B&B Kona
Cubed jicama in a corn, pepper, cilantro salad

Be creative with jicamas!

Add jicamas to your diet in these creative ways

  • As an ingredient in your favourite fruit salad – works well with pineapple, mango and papaya

  • As a snack – cut into slices and then served with guacamole

  • Use in your favourite vegetable stir-fry

  • Cut into thick French fry-sized pieces (half an inch by half an inch), toss with olive oil and your favourite spices, and then bake on a cookie sheet in a hot oven! Jicama fries!

Some great jicama recipe ideas

  • Kale, jicama and orange salad

  • Spicy black bean burritos with grated jicama

  • Toasted chicken sandwiches with jicama and red cabbage slaw

Take the time to try a jicama on your Big Island adventure. Farmers markets around the island are your best bet for finding the freshest quality produce. How did you use jicamas in your cooking? Let us know in the comments.

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Orchid Extravaganza!

Orchid Big Island Horizon Guest House Kona 2

Guests at Horizon Guest House often ask me ‘what makes Hawaii so special?’ and the first answer that usually comes to mind is ‘the weather’.

The weather on the Big Island is consistent and doesn’t tend to change much throughout the year. The Big Island also has an added bonus – you can pick your weather within a tropical to subtropical range. Actually, you can technically find 10 of the 14 climate zones right here on the island.

Orchid Big Island Horizon Guest House Hawaii

One result of this consistent weather is the ability to grow a huge range of plants and flowers. And one of my favorites is the orchid (orchidaceae).

Orchid Big Island Hawaii Horizon Guest House

The variety of flower formations is astounding. There are about 28,000 currently accepted species and about 100,000 hybrids and cultivars.

Orchids Big Island Hawaii Horizon BnB

Developing new hybrids and cultivars is a huge endeavor on the Big Island – you can see a large number of varieties at the annual orchid show in Hilo sponsored by the Hilo Orchid Society. This year it was held on June 28-30th. I didn’t make it to this year’s show but I have been to many in past years and thoroughly recommend it. For more details check out their website here

Orchids Kona Big Island Hawaii Horizon Guest House

Fun fact! Another name for the Big Island is the ‘orchid isle’. This is because Hawaii quite quickly got a reputation for excellence in producing orchids. First grown commercially in the early 1900s, Hawaii was dubbed ‘the orchid center of the world’ when the Honolulu Orchid Society exhibited over 20,000 plants in St. Louis at the 1957 World Orchid Conference. Today, orchids are a multi-million dollar industry.

When seeing orchids out in the living room, guests frequently ask how I’m able to have them out all year. Easy – basically I feed and ignore. The weather does the rest!

Orchids Big Island Hawaii Horizon Guest House

The vanilla orchid (not pictured here) is probably one of the most well-known orchids. It is the second-most expensive spice after saffron. That’s because it’s so labor intensive. Two thirds of the world’s vanilla is grown in Madagascar and Indonesia.

I did have a vanilla orchid here at Horizon Guest House, and yes, it did bloom. The problem is that there’s a very specific window when it’s possible to pollenate – and I kept missing the window. And in the end, a turkey ripped the plant off the tree – and that was the end of my vanilla production.

Orchid Kona Big Island Hawaii Horizon Guest House

Native Orchids

There are only three types of orchids native to Hawaii. These are Anoetochilus sandvicensis (the jewel orchid); Liparis hawaiensis (the twayblade orchid); and Platanthera holochila.

The best place to find these orchids in the wild is on a hike at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, or in the wet forests on the east side of the island.

Alternatively, for all things orchid, check out Akatsuka Orchid Gardens not far from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Jewel orchid Hawaii
Jewel orchid. Photo credit: G. Daida and https://bit.ly/2plDjgu
Twayblade orchid
Photo credit. Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0, https://bit.ly/369rOct
Platanthera holochila
Photo credit. J.K. Obata

But sometimes all you need is an orchid and a sunset...

Orchid Horizon Guest House Captain Cook Hawaii

Book now by clicking the button below and then filling out our reservation request form. Or call us on 808 938 7822

Author: Angus Meek
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