Northwesterners are no strangers to good coffee, and although we can brew it with the best of them, the growing of coffee beans is most skillfully done in the United States by our 50th state: Hawaii. Fortunately, we’re just a nonstop flight away from the Big Island, where the district of Kona serves up everyone’s favorite caffeinated beverage in a gorgeous environment.
on the Plantation
First things first: drinking (and learning about) coffee. For that, a coffee plantation tour is a highlight of the trip. There are about 650 farms cultivating coffee in the Kona district, many of which open their doors to the public. Hula Daddy Kona Coffee is open Monday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. for free coffee tasting and tours of the orchard and roasting room—guides are super knowledgeable, and you’ll get just enough of a look into the process to whet your appetite, but not so much that you’ll be bored. It’s also worth trying the teas here, flavorful concoctions made from the dried fruit of the coffee trees. More learning abounds during Greenwell Farms’ daily tours from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., which involve walking through the coffee fields and processing facilities (and having a taste or two). Mountain Thunder also offers free tours, or you can spring for a VIP tour that allows you to become roast master for a day—everything you roast, you get to take home!
Step Back in Time
For a tour that’s a little bit different, visit the Kona Coffee Living History Farm. First homesteaded in 1900, this 5.5-acre farm tells the story of Japanese immigrant farmers from the 1920s to 1940s. You’ll learn about coffee cultivation, but more importantly, you’ll get a glimpse into how these coffee pioneers lived nearly a century ago. Coffee, macadamia nuts, roaming chickens, and a friendly donkey are all part of the package. Add this to one of the modern-day tours, and you’ll have a more holistic understanding of Kona’s coffee heritage.
Live a life of leisure at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka’upulehu, designed with native art, nature-inspired touches and plenty of outdoor spaces to evoke a sense of Hawaii’s golden age. Around the resort, there are a variety of pools (seven, to be exact), a Jack Nicklaus signature golf course and tennis courts. The oceanfront location is perfect for lounging on the beach, snorkeling or canoeing. For a more intimate property, Hawaiian Oasis Bed and Breakfast Inn offers personalized service in a lovely house surrounded by lush foliage. If you can tear yourself away from your lanai, you’re near a number of the attractions in Kona. A hearty breakfast each morning—accompanied by Kona coffee, of course—completes the experience.
Kaaloa’s Super Js may not look like anything special, but this hole-in-the-wall dishes up laulau (that’s meat wrapped in taro leaves) that’s to die for—it was even featured on the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate. For a nice sit-down experience, Holuakoa Gardens and Café is a charming spot that takes local ingredients and attentive service seriously.
A Celebration of Culture
If you time your trip right, you can attend the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, this year November 7–16. Learn how the rich volcanic soil, ideal climactic conditions and hardworking families come together to produce the world-renowned coffee. Some of the highlights of this 44th-annual event include a cupping contest, farm tours, a competition to see how you measure up against Kona’s best coffee pickers, and the Kamehameha Schools Ho’olaule’a, a celebration of Hawaiian food, art and music.