'Ulu is only three little letters. But it packs a delicious superfruit punch. This Kona Coast staple is known for its pudding-like texture you can eat straight from the fruit when ripe and its baked-bread-style versatility when roasted. Why do we love it? It's not only delicious and nutritious—it represents the spirit of possibility and growth for this unique Hawaiian paradise.
"'Ulu is an integral part of the Kona people," says Rolinda Weluwelu Bean, culture director at our Big Island destination Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa. "It’s our staple."
From Fritters to Poke
Today, lots of farmers in Kona are bringing this breadfruit back by planting more of the beautifully oversized trees. What makes it a star beyond its inspirational roots is its range of possibilities, featured in dishes from bisque and fritters to fries and mash and even "poke."
The superfood can feed a family on just one fruit, and its broad roots represent the storied beauty of Hawaii Island's Kona Coast. Here, the landscape is a little drier than its east-side counterpart (perfect for the big-as-a-house 'ulu trees) and for living life a little slower.
Past Meets Present
A slower pace means more time for sharing stories together, which Rolinda loves to do when she takes guests on local tours of the archaeological history surrounding the resort.
"As soon as you come into the site [of Outrigger], you see the canoe and outrigger that is over 200 years old and it's just a beautiful site," says Rolinda. "Then you turn and look to the mountains and you’ll see the lava-paved slide that was over a mile long that entered the bay ... The great thing, the beautiful thing, about here is that there’s great history everywhere you turn."
Rolinda helps keep this history alive through the art of oral storytelling.
"One of the elders, Auntie Lily Kong—we lost her at 94 years young—was the advocate for making sure culture and tradition was strong around this community," says Rolinda. "She attended all meetings and she shared her history and culture ... I use all of her stories because it's an oral tradition, so her legacy continues."
From the birthplace of the area’s favorite king to the “Cliff of Capes” where royalty hung their beautiful feather cloaks, these stories are as colorful as the sun-kissed, lava-laden surroundings.
Travel Like a Local
When asked how travelers can immerse themselves in the Kona culture, Rolinda shared that it's really about respect: respect for culture, for traditions, for what is.
"For us, that’s where the word 'aloha' comes in," she says. "Commercially it translates to 'hello' and 'goodbye' and even 'love.' But it doesn't mean that to us; it means a lot more. We also use the word aloha as an acronym, and we have values attached to it that are really important to us. This is why Hawaii is the way it is; because this aloha starts to branch out from us Hawaiians and other people start to learn it."
We invite you to come explore the true spirit of 'ulu and aloha—and authentic traditional culture—at Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa with tours from Rolinda (and lots of storytelling hospitality!).