Mailing a Coconut is a Must-Do for Hawaii Post Office Visitors
Long-time postal employees are used to seeing unusual items in the mail stream. Live crickets, golf clubs, even a set of tires. It’s all in a day’s work. But one rural Post Office™ on the island of Molokai in Hawaii isn’t just a transit point for unusual items. It’s the point of origin of 3,000 coconuts that are mailed annually to addresses across the globe.
“Our Post-a-Nut program was created in 1991 by my predecessor, Margaret Keahi-Leary,” said Hoolehua Postmaster Gary Lam. “She wanted to provide a way for residents and visitors to send an unusual, authentic bit of Molokai to their friends. Post-a-Nut has expanded over the years to become a ‘must-do’ activity for visitors to the island. In September of 2016, it ranked #3 on Trip Advisor’s® list of ‘Things To Do on Molokai.’
Currently, the tiny Hoolehua Post Office sends out more than 3,000 coconuts a year, about 700 of those to foreign countries. Annual revenue from the postage for the coconuts increases yearly and is currently approaching $60,000.
What goes into mailing a coconut
It costs between $12 and $20 in postage to mail a Post-a-Nut coconut, depending on its weight. The customer pays only for the postage to mail the coconut. “We provide the coconuts to customers at no charge, as well as decorating materials,” Lam explains. “We then affix postage, often in the form of colorful postage stamps, and an agricultural inspection stamp. I have obtained authorization from the USDA for my office to inspect these coconuts and approve them for shipment.”
The Hoolehua Post Office has sent coconuts across the country and to such exotic, faraway destinations as the Antarctic, Easter Island, Iceland, Kathmandu, Kazakhstan, Namibia and Zermatt in the Swiss Alps. Coconuts have been used as birthday cards (including a recent 105th birthday), wedding invitations, as press releases for a publisher’s new book, and for countless other special occasions.
Besides the Trip Advisor listing, the Post-a-Nut program has been featured in Frommer’s® and Lonely Planet ® guidebooks as well as travel magazines, including Travel & Leisure. The fast and steady growth of the program has paralleled the rise of the Internet and social media.
“It’s enjoyable to have people from all over the world visit my small, out-of-the-way Post Office to Post-a-Nut,” says Lam. “We take pride and pleasure in helping them mail a special, tangible greeting to a friend or loved one, while also helping to increase revenue and grow our business.”
Hoolehua Postmaster Gary Lam prepares a shipment of Post-a-Nut coconuts for shipping
“Customer reaction to our Post-a-Nut program is overwhelmingly positive,” he continued. “Many people have told me that it’s the best time they’ve ever had at a Post Office!”