"Please don't call this a factory," said our tour guide at this lovely stop on the road to Hana.
She has a point. Stopping off at the Hana Gold chocolate tour is about trees - and of course, the cacao bean. On the way down the winding road to Hana on the island of Maui, you'll see an unassuming sign that says Chocolate factory. Drive too fast and you'll miss it.
Drive up an unpaved road and you're there. Members of the family-run business greet you like family. They show you one of the cacao trees where the beans are harvested. The beans are dried in the sun and turned by hand to draw out the flavor. You're explained how the bean is ground and turned into various types of chocolate. Unlike many other chocolate makers, the only ingredient are beans, a bit of sugar and, with milk chocolate, milk.
You're then presented with a plate filled with treats, including a honey-like glaze from the inside of the cacao pod and samples of chocolate. The Hana beans have a rich dark taste, which is part of the advantage of the personalized process.
This basic tour is free, but you can sign up for a more comprehensive one for $40. That tour allows you to take the chocolate at various stages of the process.
As we left, our guide handed us a Maui banana (which is very different than those you get in the store) and said, "everything in Hana is happy and delicious."
Let's face it - chocolate is just one of those things we'd like to be see made all day long.
Tour: Edelweiss Chocolate
Address: 444 N. Canon Dr. Beverly Hills, Calif.
If you're looking for the "Disneyland" of factory tours, the Sriracha tour in Irwindale, Calif. is about as close as you'll get.
Tour: Huy Fong Foods
Address: 4800 Azusa Canyon Rd. Irwindale, Calif.
Price: Free (call for reservation)
Wine has entertained humans since 7000 BC. It has inspired murals and stories throughout the ages. Factory Tourists, though, want to know how vino is actually made - in a 100-year-old factory in Downtown Los Angeles.
Tour: San Antonio Winery
Address: 737 Lamar St, Los Angeles, CA 90031
You've probably heard the beautiful sounds of the ukulele. You might even have wondered how to play this four-stringed wonder. But as Factory Tourists - you can find out how the lovely instrument itself is made.
Tour: Kamaka Ukulele
Address: 550 South St., Honolulu, HI 96813
Factories come in all shapes and sizes. Some are tiny. Others are huge! Here's one of the largest factories you can imagine - and yes, you can see how the whole thing works.
Tour: Dodger Stadium
Address: 1000 Vin Scully Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90012
Sometimes you can't fully appreciate something until you see how it's made. That was the case with marmalade for us. The tour of E. Waldo Ward & Son, a citrus farm and jam, jelly and olive factory in Sierra Madre, Calif., showed us why. (click to see review and rating)
Tour: E. Waldo Ward & Son
Address: 273 E. Highland Ave., Sierra Madre, Calif. 91024