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Kona business shines a light on paʻakai made from seawater 2,200 feet below the surface

Sea Salts of Hawaii hosted a grand opening blessing for its facility in Kona just a few weeks ago. It's where salt comes from seawater some 2,200 feet below the surface. The company joined forces, taking over the operation from Kona Pa’akai — pa’akai is the Hawaiian word for salt. Pa’a means solid and kai means ocean.

The Conversation was there recently as tours of the salt farm reopened to the public at a newly renovated visitor center. Guide Kanekoa Pawn White talked to us about pa’akai production back in the day on Kauaʻi and Molokaʻi. The tour shares Hawaiʻi’s story and this “sense of place.” The 7-acre facility shares space with an algae company that began operating at the state’s Natural Energy Laboratory in 1999.

Melanie Kelekolio was there from the beginning and has watched the business morph over the years. She told The Conversation she's excited to move into this next phase of diversification for Sea Salts of Hawaii. Its visitor center offers rental venues for events and retail space for those who stop by for the eco-tours. It's the latest venture of this mariculture business.

The company also shares a portion of its proceeds to help with the marine debris problem in the Pacific Ocean and the efforts to protect the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the marine preserve area in our backyard.

Read more stories from The Conversation's series on paʻakai, or salt. This interview aired on The Conversation on Dec. 8, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at
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