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Kona Coffee Country

Tourist Trap:

Royal Kona Coffee (83-5427 Mamalahoa Hwy, Honaunau, toll free 800-338-8353, www.royalkonacoffee.com). Stuck on the side of the highway like a gaudy roadside attraction, Royal Kona Coffee demands a visitor’s attention. It boasts a “Coffee Museum” and a “Visitor Center,” but is really a gift shop. The museum is made up of a tattered selection of black and white photos without captions, a few miscellaneous pieces of old-school coffee paraphernalia, and a plaque explaining how the Royal Kona Coffee company ostensibly saved the Kona coffee industry from obscurity. This entire complex is self-serving and self-promoting, but that might be excusable if they actually had the product to back it up.

Unfortunately, almost all of the coffee sold is the same stuff that you’ll probably find in your hotel room, 10% Kona blend. They will even brag that they are the “choice” of Hawaii’s finest hotels, which may be true, but it certainly isn’t worth bragging about. They offer most of their 10% blends for tasting, and, to be fair, also offer a sample of their 100% Kona, which isn’t too bad. Most of the coffees for sale are their inferior product, however, and if you want to buck out for the premium 100% stuff it’s going to cost you: $28.95/12 oz. (not a pound) of Extra Fancy, or $33.95 for 12 oz. of Peaberry. You can do better almost anywhere else. If you must go, it’s on Hwy 11 in Honaunau.


Where to Shop

Oshima Store (79-7400 Mamalahoa Hwy, 322-3844) is a general merchandise store with groceries, beer, wine, fishing supplies, surf wear and sandals. Open 7:30 am-7:45 pm Mon- Sat, until 7:15 pm Sun.

Books, Buddhas & Bears (79-7412 Mamalahoa Hwy, 324-7170) is a New Age store with books, candles, Buddhas and the kind of clothing that seems to float. Open 10 am-6 pm Mon-Sat.

Loke’s Island Memories (79-7401 Mamalahoa Hwy, 322- 3312) is like Hilo Hattie, but without the stigma. The store is locally owned and operated, and simply more genuine than its mass-market doppelganger. You’ll find much of the same stuff, including lots of things made with shells, tiki furniture, polished kukui nut necklaces, and loads of alohawear. There seems to be more clothing that’s actually made in Hawaii here. Open 10 am-6 pm daily.

Paradise Found Boutique (79-7406 Mamalahoa Hwy, 322-2111) mainly sells island-inspired clothing and prom dresses; we had to be sure to include it because it markets itself as carrying “clothing for the adventurous.” Open 9:30ish to 5:30ish Mon-Sat.

Adventures in Relaxation

The Kona Healing Arts Center (Mamalahoa Hwy, 322- 7997) is home to numerous talented local healers, like massage therapists and acupuncturists, as well as the Aloha Massage Academy (937-6019, www.alohamassageacademy.com). The academy provides an opportunity to support massage students – and pamper yourself – with a $30 student massage.


Where to Shop

Antiques and Orchids (Mamalahoa Hwy, 323-9851) is a large antique store that also sells orchids. It’s fun to browse the diverse offerings, like African masks, Chinese Buddhas, a collection of Duke Kahanamoku paraphernalia and more common goods like dishes and 100% Kona coffee. There is free drip coffee and a public “washroom” in the back of the store. Open 10 am-5 pm Tues-Sat.

Grandma’s Attic (Mamalahoa Hwy, 323-8282), under a giant sign that says “Tiki Shack,” has lots of kitschy Hawaiiana, like records by the “Percussive Pineapples.” There are some soda pop tops for Hilo Soda, glassware and a tiki bar. Open 10 am-5 pm Mon-Sat.

H. Kimura Store (Mamalahoa Hwy, 322-3771) is a fabric store that opened in 1926 at the site of the former T. Ikeda Store. It is one of the area’s many Kona Heritage Stores. Open 9 am-6 pm Mon-Sat, 10:30 am-4:30 pm Sun.

Where to Eat

Ocean View Chinese Cuisine (81-6587 Mamalahoa Hwy, Kealakekua, 323-2366) has an à la carte menu in addition to all-you-can-eat buffets, which are $7 at lunch and $14 at dinner. Saturday and Sunday is a seafood buffet. Portions are large at this no-frills operation, where you’ll find the occasional stray piece of meat in your vegetarian noodle dish. Open 11 am-2 pm and 5-8:30 pm daily, with an extra half-hour for lunch on weekends. $-$$

Orchid Isle Café (81-6637 Mamalahoa Hwy, 323-2700, www.orchidislecoffee.com) serves up bagel sandwiches and 100% Kona coffee straight from their very own farm. They offer both a medium and dark roast drip coffee, as well as espresso and coffee drinks. The sandwiches are simple but delicious, using fresh island ingredients. The view from the back lanai is wonderful, with a vista over the verdant Kona slopes all the way down to the ocean. This is the place for a quick turkey and cheddar served on a toasted-everything bagel to break up a tour of Kona coffee farms. They also have computer terminals and Internet access. Open 6 am-4 pm Mon-Fri, 7 am-2 pm Sat-Sun. $

Captain Cook


Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden (82-6188 Mamalahoa Hwy, 323-3318, www.bishopmuseum.org/exhibits/greenwell/greenwell.html). Situated on 12 acres above Captain Cook, this land is used to display and support endemic species of plants and trees, 10 of which are listed on the federal endangered species list. The garden was planted in the manner of an ahupua`a, a traditional Hawaiian land division that ran from the mountains to the sea to ensure that residents had access to resources from all elevations. Following this example, the garden is planted with upland forest plants in the higher elevations, and lowland vegetation closer to the entrance.

The only trail is a short loop through the “Inner Circle,” which will give most folks a sufficient idea of what the garden is about, while botany enthusiasts may be inspired to explore the outer portions of the property. Whatever your bent, don’t expect bright displays of showy flowers; the experience is definitely more cerebral. For instance, a plain-looking shrub may be labeled: “Iliee – plumbago zeylanica (Latin) – Leadwort (common name) – indigenous – Plumbago family – sap used to blacken tattoos.” While this is fascinating to some, to others it’s akin to an elementary school field trip. The suggested donation is $4 for visitors 12 and over. Guided tours are offered at 1 pm on Wednesdays and Fridays, and the second Saturday of each month at 10 am. Open 8:30 am-5 pm Mon- Fri.

Where to Shop

Big Island Art Farm (83-5315 Mamalahoa Hwy, 323- 3495) actually feels more like a souvenir shop than an art farm. Paintings and handcrafted jewelry are sold alongside koa bowls, candles, Tibetan calligraphy brushes, sticker books and art projects for kids, incense, lotion, cards and sushi sets. Open 10 am-5 pm Mon-Wed, 10 am-6 pm Thurs- Sat. McWade’s Gallery of Fine Art (82-6125 Mamalahoa Hwy, 323-8028) features the island-inspired work of three artists, Ray McWade, Jane Scull and Floyd Unger. Their styles complement each other, from Scull’s paintings of tropical flowers, to McWade’s bold use of color and subject, like a man surfing a fish, or mermaids. Unger creates digital paintings of photos taken on the Big Island. Open 9 am-5 pm Mon-Sat.

Where to Stay

Rainbow Plantation B&B (323-2393, toll free800-494- 2829, www.rainbowplantation.com, five rooms, $79-$99). The seven acres of Rainbow Plantation B&B are covered with coffee, mac nut and fruit trees, animals like chickens, dogs, birds, pigs and mini-horses, and they have distant ocean views. Mariana and Reiner have created an interesting budget accommodation at their home, with an outdoor shared kitchen area, a temple to Mother Nature with a stained-glass window dating to the 1920s, and a breakfast area overlooking the ocean. Simple rooms have TVs and minifridges; the most interesting room is in a converted boat called the Jungle Queen. Breakfast consists of homemade granola, banana bread, fruit, cereal and other treats. DSL is available. This place is popular with international travelers. $$


Where to Shop

Coffees N’ Epicurea (83-5315 Mamalahoa Hwy, 328- 0322). Located in some spiffy new digs on Hwy 11 in Honaunau, this place beckons to the tour bus crowd and independent explorer alike. It feels a bit hollow, however, as the coffee selection is limited, and the “epicurean” aspect is pretty much pastries, pies and cakes. There are some tables out back, and a gift shop trading in familiar-looking, Starbucks-style coffee paraphernalia. That said, this is a decent place to experiment with sugar and caffeine if the tour buses haven’t just belched out their loads. Located makai on Hwy 11 across from the 106 mile marker. Open 5 am-6 pm daily.

Where to Eat

Big Jake’s Island B-B-Q and Catering (Mamalahoa Hwy at the 106 mile marker, 328-1BBQ, www.bigjakesislandbbq.net). Think your barbecue is the best? Compare it to the smoked meats at Big Jake’s – chicken, baby back ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, and pork butt. You can pair it with coleslaw, potato salad, rice or baked beans. There’s another location at the Swing Zone in Kailua-Kona. Big Jake sometimes pulls up to beaches and serves his Memphis- style BBQ to hungry surfers. Open 11 am-6 pm Tues- Thurs, till 7 pm Fri and 5 pm Sat. $$


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