Kona coffee is famous across the world for its subtle flavors and smooth finish due to its low acidity. Even in 1866, fewer than 40 years after the first coffee trees were planted on the island, Mark Twain wrote “Kona coffee has a richer flavor than any other, be it grown where it may and call it by what name you please.”
The secret to Kona coffee’s success is the region’s rich volcanic soil and idyllic climate, which create nearly perfect conditions for coffee trees to thrive. These conditions are only found in what is known as the Kona Coffee Belt, a 6,000-acre area on the Big Island’s west coast that is home to more than 600 small farms. The farms in this region, most of which are family owned, produce about two million pounds of coffee each year.
There’s no finer way to experience Kona coffee than drinking a cup, or two, at one of the island’s many coffee plantations. Raintree Members are in prime position to enjoy some of the best coffee in the world if they book a stay at Kona Reef , which is located in the heart of the Kona Coffee Belt. Many of these farms offer tours, so you can see for yourself how coffee goes from the tree to the cup. Since there are so many farms in a very small area of the island, we decided to narrow it down by giving you a list of four plantations you should check out during your Hawaiian adventure.
Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation is located on a small two-lane road about 10 miles northeast of Kona Reef. The plantation has been featured on Food Network’s Unwrapped and the Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs. Its coffee has won numerous awards, including the Certified Gold Bean Award in May 2012 and the Good Food Award in 2011. With these credentials, you’d think a tour of the plantation would be expensive. Although you can pay $135 for a VIP tour, which includes lunch, a cup of coffee, and an eight ounce bag of the farm’s Custom Group Label coffee, the regular tours are free. If you opt for Mountain Thunder’s free tour, offered seven days a week, you’ll get to participate in a free tasting and a tour of the roasting facility, which is a great way to learn how coffee is produced.
Address: 73-1944 Hao Street
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii 96740
Greenwell Farms is one of the oldest operating coffee plantations on the island. It began in 1850, when Henry Nicholas Greenwell arrived in rural Kona with his wife. According to the farm’s website, Greenwell spent the next 40 years farming and perfecting his Kona Coffee, which he eventually exported to Europe and the Americas. Greenwell Farms is still managed by Henry and Elizabeth’s descendants, and the plantation has become a major tourist destination. The farm offers tours of its coffee fields and processing facilities, as well as free samples of various products, Monday through Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Address: 81-6581 Mamalahoa Highway
Kealakekua, Hawaii 96750
The Hula Daddy Plantation is a relative newcomer to the Kona Coffee scene. In 2002, Lee and Karen Paterson purchased 11 acres of cow pasture in Kona with the goal of making one of the best coffees in the world. Since then the farm has grown to more than 30 acres, and Hula Daddy’s coffee has received rave reviews. The farm’s Sweet Kona Light received a 97 out of 100 from Coffee Review in 2008, and it was named as the Honolulu Magazine’s Editor’s Choice in 2012. Tours include samples of the plantation’s various types of coffee, and you’ll also get to see some of the thousands of birds, including cardinals, doves, finches, owls, and hawks, that visit the plantation throughout the year.
Koa Coffee Plantation is a family-run farm located in the middle of the Kona Coffee Belt. Established in 1997, the plantation has won numerous awards and was named the best coffee producer by Forbes in 2001. Koa Coffee sells six different types of the black stuff, including a Hawaiian Espresso and its Private Reserve, which is made from the highest grade of coffee beans. Unlike the other plantations listed above, this farm doesn’t have public tours. However, if you call them at 866.562.5282 you can arrange a private tour of the farm and plantation.
Address: 82-1213 Greenwell Mountain Road
Hōnaunau, Hawaii 96726
Where to stay:
Kona Reef a four-story oceanfront resort covering three acres of the gorgeous Kona coast. Every unit has a garden, partial ocean, or ocean view, with a patio or balcony. The ambience of the ocean is present while swimming in our pool that is perfect for family fun, with four barbecue grills and a party pavilion nearby. Take a ten minute walk to the historic fishing village of Kailua-Kona, and explore wonderful shops, sidewalk cafes, restaurants and art galleries.