You’ve probably heard of Kona coffee. Did you know the coffee is grown on the island of Hawaii? Before I planned any activities to do on the Big Island, I already had a full list of coffee shops and coffee farms I wanted to visit on the Hawaiian island. It was something I couldn’t miss as a coffee lover! It was our goal to try one coffee shop per day during our 7-day trip, both on the Kona side and Hilo side. Here are the seven best places to get coffee in Kona and Hilo and what makes each place special.
Best Coffee Spots in Kona
1. Kona Coffee & Tea
74-5588 Palani Rd, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
We visited the first coffee spot after a long and arduous journey from Sacramento to Kona. Our trip took the entire day (5 and 1 hour flights with a 3 hour layover) and we had to take two COVID tests to avoid the quarantine.
With another 1.5-hour drive to our Airbnb in Hilo, we were in desperate need of coffee. Luckily, we found the highly rated Kona Coffee & Tea still open, and it was just a 12-minute drive from the Kona airport.
Kona Coffee & Tea is located in a shopping center. Even though there was a nice patio with plants hanging from the ceiling, the patio overlooks the McDonald’s drive-through which wasn’t ideal.
However, the tasty Mauna Kea Freeze and iced Drip Coffee more than made up for it. I usually go for a drip coffee, but was in need of both caffeine and sugar. The Mauna Kea Freeze did exactly just that for me. It was real nice to drink a simple iced coffee after a sip of the freeze to balance out the sweetness though.
I don’t think the Mauna Kea Freeze was the best representation of their coffee’s quality, but it certainly satisfied my sweet tooth.
Wanderer Tip: If you’re looking to try Kona coffee in its most original form, make sure you order from the 100% Kona Coffee portion of the menu. It’s common for coffee roasters and shops to mix Kona coffee with other blends, so make sure you’re getting value for your money!
2. Heavenly Kona Coffee Farm
78-1136 Bishop Rd Holualoa, HI 96725
Heavenly Kona Coffee Farm exceeded our expectations!! Aside from sampling coffee from the best coffee roasters in Kona, I also wanted to visit a Kona coffee farm. I figured I should learn how coffee beans are grown an roasted and turned into the delicious coffee drink.
I had done a lot of research on different coffee tours, and Heavenly stood out to me because it was well-rated, free, and they offered coffee tastings! Ok, I think I mostly chose Heavenly because of the last reason.
The tour was straightforward and to-the-point. Our tour guide introduced the farm and its fair trade program. She also gave a high level overview of Kona coffee, how it’s harvested, and how coffee beans are turned into coffee drinks. I could tell she was super passionate about coffee and their fair trade practices.
My favorite part of the tour was that we got to sample four different kinds of Kona coffee that Heavenly offered, and we also got to try their coffee candy! Oh and they have an amazing view of the Kona coast. Even if you don’t like coffee, it’s worth stopping by the farm just to take in the scenery.
3. Kope Lani Coffee
75-5719 Alii Dr Suite E, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Kope Lani Coffee is on a busy street by Kailua Bay. According to Yelp reviews, their iced lattes and coffee freezes are the best things to get.
Still alert from the coffee I made at the Airbnb that morning, I decided to go for an unsweetened Mango Iced Tea. I instantly regretted it and ended up taking a few sips out of Alan’s iced coffee haha.
Their coffee definitely wasn’t as good as Heavenly or Kona Coffee & Tea’s. I’m guessing the place really is best for iced coffee drinks like their flavored lattes and freezes. Learn from my mistakes!
4. HiCo Coffee
74-5599 Pawai Pl #B3, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
HiCo Coffee has my vote for coffee shop with best atmosphere in Kona. The moment I walked into the coffee shop, I noticed how differently it was decorated compared to the others we visited. It had a LA-vibe to it, and its decor was more modern compared to the others.
I tried an iced mushroom latte for the first time at HiCo and ended up really liking it. It tasted very much like regular coffee. Ooh and the vegan donut! So yummy.
We also got a taste of their Wednesday Open mic night, where anyone can sign up to perform for the cafe guests. It was a good time.
Best Coffee Spots in Hilo
5. Hilo Coffee Mill
17-995 Volcano Rd, Mountain View, HI 96771
One thing to note about Kona coffee is that it only counts as Kona coffee if it was grown on the Kona side of Big Island. Even though Hilo is only an hour away from Kona, there’s far less options for coffee on the Hilo side. Probably due to this exact reason, the coffee shops in Hilo really step up their game and we found a few good spots.
We visited Hilo Coffee Mill on our way to Waipio Valley. The place is a coffee farm, coffee shop, and souvenir store all-in-one. They offer farm tours and tastings too, so if you’re on the Hilo side looking to visit a coffee farm, Hilo Coffee Mill could be a good option.
The coffee was great, and I honestly couldn’t tell a huge difference from their coffee and most of the coffee we got in Kona. Heavenly probably still wins in terms of quality and taste though.
We also loved their gift shop, and ended up buying two cups of coffee with four bars of handmade soap as souvenirs! They’ve got coffee flavored soaps too!
6. Hilo Sharks Coffee
28-1672 Old Mamalahoa Hwy Ste 28 Honomu, HI 96728
We noticed Hilo Shark’s Coffee when we passed by the town it was in, Honomu, on our way to Akaka State Falls Park. The town was super cute. Plus, it was hard to ignore the shop’s wooden surfboard sign that had a shark’s bite mark in it.
Although initially attracted to Hilo Sharks Coffee for the coffee, I ended up getting a taro smoothie. Taro is only grown in tropical places like Hawaii, so I HAD to get the smoothie to try. It turned out to be the perfect cup I needed to recharge.
7. Papa’aloa Joe Coffee
45-3625 Mamane St E, Honokaa, HI 96727
Last but definitely not least, we stopped by Papa’aloa Joe while getting lunch in Honokaa. The coffee was just the way I liked it. I don’t know if it’s the coffee beans, the way the beans are roasted, or the barista’s craftsmanship, the coffee was delicious!
Papa’aloa Joe’s coffee is 100% grown on the Hamaku Coast and is family-owned. It’s the perfect spot to get coffee that’s not as expensive as Kona coffee but equally unique and tasty.
A Local Coffee Experience
What’s cool about half of these coffee shops is that they are completely farm to table. Papa’aloa Joe, Hilo Coffee Mill, Heavenly, and Kona Coffee & Tea are all coffee farmers, roasters, and baristas. And a cup of coffee is only $5-7.
While Hilo Sharks Coffee, HiCo, and Kope Lani don’t grow their own coffees, they source their coffee locally so you’re still supporting Hawaiian coffee farms that way!
Remember that Kona coffee is only grown on the Kona coast, and you don’t need to be having Kona coffee for it to be delicious. I hope you enjoyed this article. Stay caffeinated during your visit to the Big Island 🙂
Save this guide for later!