Sweet on ChocolateTucked between coffee orchards in the uplands of Keauhou, the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory, 78-6772 Makenawai St., Kailua-Kona (www.ohcf.us; 888/447-2626 and 808/322-2626) began growing cacao in 1993. It was the first in the islands to produce 100% Hawaiian chocolate. The 1-hour walking tour ($17 adults, free for kids under 12) includes the orchard, small factory, and chocolate sampling, plus the option to buy the expensive but delectable chocolate bars and pieces shaped like plumeria flowers. Tours are at 9am Wednesday and 9 and 11am Friday by reservation only; book well in advance. The factory store is open Tuesday through Friday from 10am to 3pm.
Upcountry Kona: Holualoa
On the slope of Hualalai volcano above Kailua-Kona sits the small village of Holualoa, which attracts travelers weary of super-resorts. Here you'll find a little art and culture -- and shade.
This funky upcountry town, centered on two-lane Mamalahoa Highway, is nestled amid a lush, tropical landscape where avocados grow as big as footballs. Little more than a wide spot in the road, Holualoa is a cluster of brightly painted, tin-roofed plantation shacks enjoying a revival as B&Bs, art galleries, and quaint shops. In 2 blocks, it manages to pack in two first-rate galleries, a frame shop, a potter, a glassworks, a goldsmith, an old-fashioned general store, a vintage 1930s gas station, a tiny post office, a Catholic church, and the Kona Hotel, a hot-pink clapboard structure that looks like a Western movie set -- you're welcome to peek in, and you should.
The cool up-slope village is the best place in Hawaii for a coffee break. That's because Holualoa is in the heart of the coffee belt, a 20-mile-long strip at an elevation of between 1,000 and 1,400 feet, where all the Kona coffee in the world is grown in the rich volcanic soil of the cool uplands. Everyone's backyard seems to teem with glossy green leaves and ruby-red cherries (which contain the seeds, or beans, used to make coffee), and the air smells like an espresso bar. Holuakoa Café, on Mamalahoa Highway (Hwy. 180) in Holualoa (808/322-2233), is a great place to get a freshly brewed cup and a bite to eat.
To reach Holualoa, follow narrow, winding Hualalai Road up the hill from Hwy. 19; it's about a 15-minute drive.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.