More than 600 farms grow coffee in the Kona Coffee Belt on the slopes of Hualalai, from Kailua-Kona and Holualoa in North Kona to Captain Cook and Honaunau in South Kona. The prettiest time to visit is between January and May, when the rainy season brings white blossoms known as “Kona snow.” Harvesting is by hand—one reason Kona coffee is so costly—from July through January. At least 40 farms offer regular tours with tastings, and many more provide samples. You can make impromptu stops along Mamalahoa Highway (Hwy. 11 and Hwy. 180) or find more obscure farms and those requiring reservations via the Kona Coffee Farmers Association (www.konacoffeefarmers.org). Some highlights, heading north to south:
- Kona Blue Sky Coffee Company, 76-973 Hualalai Rd., Holualoa (www.konablueskycoffee.com; 877/322-1700 or 808/322-1700): The Christian Twigg-Smith family and staff grows and sells its coffee on a 400-acre estate, with free, 15-minute guided walking tours (about half of which is watching a video) and tastings Tuesday to Friday, on the hour from 9am to 4pm.
- Holualoa Kona Coffee Company, 77-6261 Mamalahoa Hwy. (Hwy. 180), Holulaloa (www.konalea.com; 800/334-0348 or 808/322-9937): Owned by Desmond and Lisen Twigg-Smith, this organic farm and mill sells its own and others’ premium Kona coffee. Tour the orchards (mowed and fertilized by a flock of about 50 geese) and witness all phases of processing, weekdays from 8am to 4pm.
- Kona Joe Coffee, 79-7346 Mamalahoa Hwy. (Hwy. 11 between mile markers 113 and 114), Kainaliu; www.konajoe.com; 808/322-2100): The home of the world’s first trellised coffee farm offers a free, self-guided tour with 8-minute video, as well as guided tours by request ($15 adults, free for kids 12 and under), daily from 8am to 4pm. Guided tours of the 20-acre estate include a mug, coffee, and chocolate, with reservations recommended for groups of six or more; coffee-loving couples should book the 1-hr., in-depth VIP tour ($170 per two adults.)
- Greenwell Farms, 81-6581 Mamalahoa Hwy. (makai side of Hwy. 11, south of mile marker 112), Kealakekua (www.greenwellfarms.com; 808/323-2295): If any farm can claim to be the granddaddy of Kona coffee, this would be it. Englishman Henry Nicholas Greenwell began growing coffee in the region in 1850. Now operated by his great-grandson and agricultural innovator Tom Greenwell, the farm offers free tours daily from 8:30am to 4pm. On Thursday, join volunteers baking Portuguese sweet bread in a stone oven from 10am to 1pm at the Greenwell Store Museum ★ just south of the farm; bread sales ($8) start at 12:30pm and sell out quickly.
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.