Welcome to Kailua-Kona! Home of Kona coffee! You may have heard of it, sipped it, or even been on a Kona Coffee farm right here on the Big Island. To say that we are proud of our legacy of amazing coffee growers would be an understatement. It is simply the highest-selling crop on the Kona Coast.
What makes it special depends on who you ask. For some, it’s the aroma or the smooth finish. For others, it’s the regionally-specific location that makes the flavor unique like Champagne in France or beef in Kobe, Japan. Kona is where it is from and is why it can be grown nowhere else in the world. There is something uniquely special about drinking coffee on the very farm that it was grown, dried, and processed. The mineral-rich soil, sunny mornings, and afternoon sprinkles make it the perfect location to grow that beautiful bean.
Brought over from South America in 1828 by Samuel Reverend Ruggles and spread by the Greenwell family, the Kona coffee industry has exploded to the point where there are now over 800 farms along the west coast of Hawaii Island – 800! Immigrants from Japan, the Phillipines, and Europe helped propel the industry forward while the sugarcane business in Hilo was thriving.
So, if you’re looking to get your Hawaiian caffeine buzz on, pay attention… here is my Top 5!
5. Mauka Meadows (Doutor Coffee): Don’t let the entrance fool you; they’re open. Mauka Meadows is home to an oasis of fruit trees, macadamia nuts, a fountain pool (pictured), and tropical flowers. It has a bit of an enchanted forest / Alice in Wonderland feel upon entry; there’s only one sign pointing you in a peculiar direction – downhill. Follow the winding road through every fruit tree imaginable and crack open a macadamia nut along the way to a beautiful sea of blue as you arrive at the Doutor pavilion. Sit back and enjoy a fresh brew of Kona’s best and gaze at the scenery below. Don’t worry, free shuttles will escort you back up to the parking lot after you’ve properly tasted all the brews.
4. Kona Joe’s Coffee: Here’s something new Trellis Grown Coffee! By adopting the same growing technique they used for wine to grow coffee, these Central California farmers may have figured out the perfect way to grow and harvest Kona coffee. By exposing the cherries to more sunlight, they believe that the beans will be more flavorful and result in a better coffee. It’s tough to argue with that; this coffee is so good! Located in South Kona, this is a great place to see on your way to Kainaliu, Place of Refuge, or as a first stop on the way to the Kilauea.
3. Greenwell Farms: This farm is the gold standard for history, tours, and service. Greenwell is the most-trusted name in the Kona Coffee farm business – everyone in Kona knows them. Their farm tours are amazing as they explain the history of coffee, show you how the cherry grows, and even show you how the roasting process works. There will be plenty of samples available for you to try. Their packaging is great. Their service is great. Greenwell is my GO-TO coffee farm in South Kona.
2. Hula Daddy: This is an amazing coffee farm along the coffee belt road in Holualoa. Their buildings, labels, service, merchandise, and staff make this coffee company a brand that stands out from all others. From the moment you enter Hula Daddy, you are greeted by a warm, knowledgeable, and friendly staff. The views, interior, and coffee are what make this place so special. Learn about growing coffee, how to roast, and pick out your favorite type of coffee here at Hula Daddy! There’s a reason why all of the high end hotels direct you straight to this place.
1. Mountain Thunder Coffee: High above all else in quality and altitude, Thunder Mountain Coffee is my No. 1! Don’t wear nice shoes, this is a coffee farm in the cloud forest of Hualalai. You might recognize the place from an episode of Dirty Jobs. At the entrance you’ll be greeted by ducks, chickens, dogs, or even a resident cat if she isn’t napping. There’s a farm tour that covers it all, an incredible retail store, and even a donkey on site. They have also perfected teas as well if coffee isn’t your thing. This is a perfect stop for families to spend the morning and experience a place unlike any other.
Other categories to consider:
Best Tasting Coffee: Kona Farm Direct Coffee and Ice Cream has the best tasting coffee I’ve personally ever tasted. Kona Farm Direct is located on Alii Drive in Kailua, below Splasher’s and across from the King Kamehameha Hotel. You will pay for the difference, but they have what I believe to be a coffee lover’s dream.
Best Historical Coffee Stop: Uchida Farms. South of Kailua, Uchida Farms is a living museum of Kona coffee. Caretakers are on-hand until early afternoon to walk you through a coffee farm preserved from the early 1900s. Tough to find, but worth the stop.
Best Coffee House: Daylight Mind Cafe. The location on the water is ideal for any meal but their coffee is excellent too. Indoors or outdoors, they have the best seating and accomplished baristas. Another options is Kona Coffee and Tea Company. They are a more personalized approach to the Starbucks model; it even has the daylong loiterers. On a rare rainy day in Kona, this is a nice escape.
Well, there you have it. Let the debate begin. Where is your favorite place to enjoy Kona Coffee.