Able to Climb a Tree in, well, Several Bounds

You don’t wait for the coconuts to fall–you’ve gotta climb the tree and go after them. Just like you don’t wait for the elk to die of natural causes, or for love to come knocking on your door via the pizza delivery guy (or gal).

Driving around Hawaii, coconuts are as plentiful as squirrels.  They’re on the side of the road, in groves, in yards. Look up, look down, look at roadside stands. If only I liked coconut…

Roadside coconut stands in Hawaii

At the Polynesian Cultural Center, one of the many incredible demonstrations is how to climb a tree to collect its bounty.

Up, Up and Away

It doesn’t seem human, the ability to climb a tree without limbs. But they scramble up like it’s nothing. But take a look at the muscles at rest and the muscles at work and you know it’s not nothing.

Climbing a coconut tree at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii

Climbing a coconut tree at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii

Time to Husk the Coconut?

How do you know when a coconut is ready? By it’s color–take a look at the slideshow. Click the pic to advance.

Cracking the Nut

I asked–because I’m from the city. On the mainland. The hairy part of the coconut is inside the husk. I was confused, looking at all the smooth coconuts on the tree (had they not gone through puberty?).

To husk a coconut, you put it on a sharp stick and basically hit it with the palm of your hand while rotating at the same time. I’m sure there are injuries while learning the skill. Then to crack open the nut, hit just so between the “eyes”–it really does look like a face–with a blunt object. Out pours the coconut water–not the milk.

To get the milk, you have to soften the meat. Before electricity, this was done by straddling a bench, and on the end of the bench was a sharpened tip to carve the coconut meat out of the shell. Then take the meat/coconut pieces in your hand and wring them like a wet towel. Tada: coconut milk.

Husking the coconut at the Polynesian Cultural Center

When I think about the “burden” of thirty minutes to make dinner, it’s put into perspective by demonstrations like this.


Do you know any tidbits about how folks prepared food in times of yore? Please share in the comments.

Disclosure: The Polynesian Cultural Center gave me a complimentary Ambassador pass, which included entry, a guided tour for the day, and access to the luau and Ha evening performance.

2 Responses

The burden alone is one thing. Doesn’t it also make you wonder who first figured out that the things were edible? And then how to get to the edible stuff? Here in 2012, I’m glad someone did.

Hey, be sure to go to the Dole pineapple plantation. It was fascinating!


That’s (coco)nuts! And its amazing one can climb with no limbs (har har)

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