Many street vendors favor a machete for opening coconuts, which are cupped in one hand while the blade is wielded by the other. It's a versatile tool that can be used to fashion other tools, but the machete is safe only in practiced hands.
Less perilous alternatives include a three-pronged splitter employed on older coconuts, which contain little or no coconut water and are sought instead for their meat. At rest, the three prongs form a single spike, on which the coconut is impaled; stepping on a foot pedal spreads the spikes like reverse pliers. The litter of husks shows the effect.
This technique would spill the liquid from young coconuts, of course. Though it lacks island flair and old-fashioned mechanical charm, a power drill provides the necessary precision. Zip zip, it is done.
How to open a coconut
Two approaches witnessed during an event at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
10901 Old Cutler Rd., Coral Gables, Florida
(From an autumn 2012 visit)