Kona Coffee Belt
Take a Break in Honoka‘a
Take 600 specialty coffee farms, add a smattering of mills, roasters, retail outlets and museums, then cluster them along 20 miles of scenic country roads, and you’ve got the makings of a self-guided coffee-tasting tour.
Most people begin their tour from Kailua-Kona and head north on Palani Road (Highway 190). If Mountain Thunder Kona Coffee Plantation is your first stop, drive on Palani for about 4.5 miles and turn right on Kaloko Drive. Then go 3 miles to the third sign for Hao Street. Turn right again and follow Hao for about 1 mile. Mountain Thunder will be on the right side of the street.
To continue the tour, return to Palani Road, then back to the junction of Highways 180/190 and head south to the old Mamalahoa Highway toward Holualoa Town.
Before you reach the tiny mountain village of Holualoa, you’ll find Ueshima Coffee Company’s Kona Coffee Estate. Down the road, you’ll come to Kona Blue Sky Coffee Company, a large 500-acre estate. Holualoa Kona Coffee Company is further south on Highway 180.
End your tour at the Kona Coffee Living History Farm on Mamalahoa Highway in Captain Cook, which provides a wealth of information about the unique lifestyle of Kona’s coffee pioneers.
Roast Your Own Private Label
Stop for a cup of coffee and a chat at Ueshima Coffee (UCC Hawai‘i) Corp., a picturesque coffee estate just north of Holualoa Village. The 26-acre hillside property is crowned with a grand view of Kailua-Kona and the sparkling Pacific Ocean.
Ueshima Coffee (UCC Hawai‘i) Corp. offers free farm tours and hot Kona coffee to visitors who stop at the roadside kiosk near the entry to the property. The company’s signature Roastmaster Tour is now available at the Mamalahoa Highway kiosk, where you can try roasting a “one-of-a-kind” private Kona coffee reserve. These original labels make great keepsakes or gifts for special occasions.
• Ueshima Coffee (UCC Hawai‘i) Corp. (808) 322-3789 or toll-free (888) 822-5662
The largest organic coffee farm in the United States is located 3,200 feet above sea level in a mist-cooled rainforest about seven miles from Kailua-Kona. Trent Bateman, a Mainland transplant who left a career in engineering to come to Hawai‘i, is growing award-winning Kona coffee on his farm and breaking all the rules.
For starters, the property he purchased didn’t fit the mold—it was too high above sea level. Then, he decided to grow organic coffee. He and his family hand-tilled the soil, and then purchased some Chinese geese, St. Croix sheep and Kona Nightingale donkeys to handle weed control and provide organic fertilizer. Today, both Hawai’i and California regulatory agencies have certified Mountain Thunder Kona Coffee Plantation organic.
Call for tour times and other coffee activities at Mountain Thunder.
• Mountain Thunder Kona Coffee Plantation
A Town Built Around Coffee
A slight detour off Highway 11 leads to the funky, upcountry village of Holualoa. For a true taste of old Hawaiiana, check out this eclectic little town.
You’ll know you’ve reached Holualoa when you see a fluorescent-pink building called the Kona Hotel. Built in 1926, the hotel is still maintained by its founding family members. With the exception of the exterior paint job, there’s not much to indicate the passage of time—it has maintained its original early 1900s style. The homey, 11-unit establishment offers rooms with shared bathrooms at rates that range from $20 to $30 a night.
In Holualoa, you’ll find an interesting blend of artisans and crafters. The half-mile stretch of Mamalahoa Highway (180) that is Holualoa Village features over a dozen historical old buildings that have now become world-class art galleries, studios and shops, along with a cafe and restaurant, bed & breakfast Inns that range from cozy to exclusive and general store that features farm-fresh Kona coffee and produce. A three-mile winding drive up the mountainside reveals a cool, lush Kona that most visitors never see. A step back in time to a lifestyle centered around art, coffee and history.