Hawaii: Maku’u Sunday Farmers Market

Ho hum, you probably think, another farmers market post. True enough, but the Maku’u Farmers Market is the nicest we’ve been to this far. We liked it even better than the Hilo Farmers Market although for an overall experience the night market at Uncle Robert’s is hard to beat (it doesn’t have a lot of produce vendors though, mostly jewelry, clothes and crafts). 

Held every Sunday from 8am to 2pm on the Hawaiian Homelands Farm Lot off Highway 130, just a few miles northwest of Pahoa, this 5-acre market is home to over 150 vendors selling everything from fruits and vegetables to arts and crafts, cut flowers and potted plants, and even motor oil! There is also a large food court where you can indulge in whatever strikes your culinary fancy, whether it’s Hawaiian, Filipino, Thai, Indian, Mediterranean, or even just hot dogs or a burger.

One of the things I wanted to do on this trip is to see how the locals live, and it appears that markets like this one are a popular way to buy produce, eat out, hang out with family and friends, and in general have fun. The produce prices are very reasonable—quite in contrast to the farmers markets at home that tend to be pricey and a bit on the snooty side. I do think that for many locals farmers markets—instead of supermarkets—are where they buy their fruits and vegetables, This in turn supports local agriculture and keeps the money in  the community instead of sending it to some faceless supermarket conglomerate thousands of miles away.



I knew I was going to like the Maku’u Farmers Market when I saw this row of bamboo


Bambusa vulgaris ‘Vittata’


Bambusa vulgaris ‘Vittata’ with moss growth


Pandanus tectorius ‘Variegata’ in the small garden adjacent to the parking lot


I was watching in fascination as this massage therapist was using her knees to massage this guy’s back


Cut anthuriums


Variegated ti (Cordyline fruticosa)

The biggest surprise for me at the Maku’u Farmers Market were the many plant sellers. It was torture seeing all these plants I would never be able to grow at home. To make things easier, I was pretending I was going plant-shopping for a property I’d just bought on the island.

The guy in the next photo had many plants I would have picked, including various gingers and heliconias. I started to chat with him, and it turns out that he lived in Southern California many years ago. (It’s amazing how many people who eventually settle in the islands come here from California.) I complimented him on his plants and told him I wish they would grow at home. He then pointed out one plant that might: naranjilla (Solanum quitoense), a member of the nightshade (tomato) family from Ecuador that produces fruit with a citrus flavor. I’ve got to look into that when I get back home.


Several vendors were selling tropical clumping bamboos, including Bambusa lako, a clumping black bamboo that I’ve coveted for years (it’s too frost-sensitive to grow in Davis).


Other bamboo varieties I saw for sale included Bambusa dolichomerithalla, Bambusa vulgaris ‘Wamin’, Dendrocalamus minor, and Nastus elatus, all species that would never survive the winter in the Sacramento Valley.



I had no idea what this bamboo was, but the culm was painted and had an orchid attached to it. As you can see from the branches, it’s still very much alive.


Here are a few more plant and flower vendors:





Exotic fruit trees

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Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis)


And finally some photos of the many types of fruit available for sale:


Papaya, 5 for $1.00!




Jackfruit, a breadfruit relative


Fuerte avocado


Longan, a relative of the lychee


Dragonfruit, the fruit of a vining cactus (Hylocereus undatus)


Assortment of locally grown bananas


I love the name of this vendor!

Tomorrow we’ll be moving to the other side of the island. I’m sure there will be more farmers markets to explore there.


  1. You should definitely look into Solanum quitoense. Hope you like spiky plants and big leaves -- also known as "bed of nails" plant. I tried growing this as an annual for its leaves last year but didn't give it the attention it needed so it stayed quite small. I'll try again some day...

    I'd love to taste some of these exotic fruits!

    1. I really wanted to buy some gingers and bamboos for my imaginary property on the island :).


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