Starbucks, shmarbucks. Hawaii is the only state in which you can drink a cup of coffee that is locally farmed, roasted, and brewed. In the tiny town of Kona, located on the Big Island of Hawaii, java junkies can trace each cup of joe to the actual mountainside it grew upon.
Making up just 1% of worldwide coffee production, Kona coffee is the rarest in the world, and in our opinion some of the best tasting. So in this town built on beans, just where can you go to get the perfect cup of Joe? Here are our picks.
Kaya’s. Seriously THE best iced coffee around, and they use coffee ice cubes! Each cup is made with organic beans and brewed to perfection. Not acidic or bitter, just smooth and delicious. Kaya’s consistently makes good coffee. They also offer a wide range of organic, gluten free, and vegan food options. So if you’re looking for seriously good coffee served up in a funky, hippie-ish, creative atmosphere, this is the place for you.
Holuakoa Café. Located on the slopes of Mt. Hualalai, this quaint coffee shop and restaurant sits amongst historical buildings so cute and picturesque, you’ll expect a horse and carriage to go by at any moment. Whether you like plain black coffee, lattes, macchiatos, or Americanos you can’t go wrong here. Adjacent to the coffee shop, sits a beautiful garden restaurant which serves gourmet quality food. They claim to be part of the slow food movement, meaning your food won’t be out lickety split, but will be made with fresh, local ingredients. The menu changes often, but be on the lookout for their eggs benedict and brisket.
Daylight Mind Coffee Company. Their Ali’I Drive location has a gorgeous view of the ocean, while their Waikaloa location is adorably charming. One of the owners is an actual coffee scientist, with a Ph.D. in coffee studies. So if you want to geek out over how to brew the perfect cup, this is the place for you. The staff is not only extremely friendly, but also very knowledgeable. The baked goods are amazing, and this place just does coffee right. Make sure you get the pour over done at your table.
Kona Mountain Coffee. Sitting behind the barista bar is an unassuming plastic tower, where their ground coffee sits at room temperature for 24 hours. We’re not sure about the magic that happens during this time, but what comes out of that container is the smoothest, most flavorful cold brew around. We’ve heard some people complain that cold brew lacks flavor. Try Kona Mountain’s Bold Cold Brew, and be prepared to be blown away.
1. Take your food to the next level. For example, shave alone just doesn’t cut it. You gotta add azuki beans, ice cream, mochi, li hing mui powder, and a snow cap before you’re satisfied.
2.. Take off your shoes before entering someone’s home, and hope no one takes your black slippers by accident when they leave. When we go to the mainland, yes the mainland, we silently judge everyone who doesn’t take off their shoes. Think of all the dirt and germs you’re tracking into your home!!
3. Give directions based on landmarks. “Turn right at the bakery. Head Makai, then take a left by the big mango tree.”
4. Call everyone older than you Uncle or Aunty. It’s a sign of respect, and stems from the belief that we are all related somehow.
5. Argue over which beach to go to. Each spot has its pros and cons. Sherwoods is gorgeous, but not on a windy day. Near the Natatorium is great if you’ve got kids, but not when there’s a full moon, because that means the jellyfish are out. You know the drill.
6. Think toilet paper, water, spam and rice are the most important hurricane supplies. Seriously, Walmart, Target and all the supermarkets put that stuff out front whenever there’s a storm alert.
7. Know someone named Boy or Tita. Raise your hand if you know a Billy Boy or have at least one Tita in your phone.
9. Think anything below 75 degrees is freezing. It’s hoodie and sweater wearing weather brah!
10. Start salivating at just the mention of Li Hing Mui!
We recently bought some frozen poi from Waipio Valley on the Big Island. Never tried the brand before, and didn't know how to mix it once it came out of the microwave, so it turned into a lumpy mess. Nobody wanted to eat it, so we came up with this new mochi recipe, which is Oishii Kata! It's a variation of a Chi Chi Dango recipe my mom has been using for years. It's super easy to make and if you don't have poi, you can omit it and still make soft, pillowy mochi at home.
- 1 (1 lb) box of Mochiko Flour
- 2 cups white sugar (We use Maui Sugar)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 3/4 cup water
- 1 (12 oz) can coconut milk
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup of day old poi
- Mix first three dry ingredients together. Then add the wet ingredients, including the poi. Mix well.
- Pour into a greased 9x13 pan. Cover with foil and bake at 350° for 60 minutes.
- Uncover, cool overnight. (We couldn't wait and ate ours right away. Don't do this if you make this recipe WITHOUT the poi. It will be the wrong texture. For some weird reason, WITH the poi the mochi was soft and delicious.)
- Cut and sprinkle with potato starch.
Pandas spend about half their day eating and the other half sleeping. Sound familiar? Seeing as that in Hawaii we actually have a saying for that, “kanak attack,” I think Hawaiians might actually be part panda.
I got to get up close and personal with these magical creatures at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Base in China, and they are just as cute and fluffy as you can imagine. The Panda diet is 99% bamboo, but the weird thing is their stomachs are only able to digest a small part of the bamboo that they eat. This means that they have to eat almost constantly and then poop out the rest. In an average day a panda will poop around 20 pounds of undigested bamboo.
Can you imagine pooping 20 pounds a day!?! You would seriously need to invest in good toilet paper and plumbing. And maybe in a squatty potty. Anyway, if you are thinking of going to China I highly recommend visiting Chengdu. The panda research facility is amazing. The best time of day to visit is early in the morning, around 8 a.m. because the pandas are very active at that time. We hired a taxi driver to take us there and he also took us around the park and made sure we saw every panda get fed.
After visiting the pandas, the next best thing to see in Sichuan is Jiuzhaigou National Park. It’s an 8-10 hour bus ride from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou over a road similar to the one in Maui out to Hana. So be prepared for that. I had a friend with me who got very sick on that bus ride, but even she admitted that it was still worth it when we got there. The park is breathtaking. The sheer beauty of the waterfalls and mountains will blow your mind. You will see shades of blue and turquoise that are so vivid they seem fake.
There are buses that you can take around the park, and as it is quite large I would suggest taking a bus to the top and then working your way down, either by bus or on foot. There are clearly marked hiking trails all around the park, so you can’t get lost. Definitely bring your camera, as there are camera worthy vistas every dozen steps or so. Also, bring snacks. There isn’t anything good to eat in the park. Thank goodness the hostel we stayed at packed us sandwiches and drinks to take with us! The only other thing to eat was instant noodle aka saimin, made with questionable hot water. LOL. We ate that too though, and didn’t die.
Park tickets are about $45 USD per day. If you buy your ticket ahead of time, you can avoid the lines. Make sure to be there a little BEFORE the park opens. You’ll need the entire day to see everything. We went during the summer, and it was hot during the day and cool at night. Seriously though, I think Fall might be the best time to visit. The autumn leaves would be gorgeous enough to make me break out in song. Again. “Just around the river bend! I look once more, beyond the shore!”