The western coast of Hawaii’s Big Island — in addition to being a sunny resort destination — is a bean-growing hotspot. For 10 days in November, the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival celebrates coffee farming and the island’s (agri)cultural heritage.
The biggest deal — World Cup of Kona Coffee, if you will — is the cupping competition, where companies bring their best beans to be roasted and brewed, then judged by a panel of experts. There are two prize categories: the Kona Crown for larger operations and companies, and the Kona Classic for smaller farms. Other coffee related events include a barista training, recipe and latte art contests (bring your tastiest creation that incorporates coffee for a cooking smackdown), and an expo where you can sample and buy coffee from a variety of local coffee companies.
As well as promoting the region’s great brews, this festival celebrates the cultural history of the people responsible for Kona Coffee. For 200 years, multi-generational tenant farmers, mostly of Japanese and native Hawaiian descent, established and nurtured coffee farming in the Kona District. Learn about the life of early Japanese immigrant farmers with the festival’s interpretive historic coffee farm, bon dance participation (a folk dance that honors one’s ancestors), and lantern parade. There are also plenty of opportunities to learn about traditional Native Hawaiian arts and culture from expert practitioners, and workshops if you feel like getting into the fine details of coffee flavors and farming.
- According to organizers, the festival welcomes between 10,000 and 12,000 over its 10 days.
- Entry into most events requires a festival button; some require additional tickets. Buttons are $5, and can be purchased at many businesses around Kailua-Kona. See a full list here. Kids 5 and under are free.
- Looking for a place to stay? Check out PACIFIC-19, a boutique property in Kailua-Kona. And here‘s our guide to Hawaii.
What is the closest airport to the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival?
Fly into the Kona International Airport (8 miles, 17 minutes driving). Rent a car or take a rideshare to get to downtown Kailua-Kona.
Where does the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival take place?
The festival takes place in multiple venues in and around Kailua-Kona (the most touristy area of Hawaii’s Big Island), including hotels, coffee shops, and cultural centers.
What coffee-related events can I expect?
Barista Training, Latte Art Throwdown, Recipe Contest, and a Coffee Expo.
What other events and types of entertainment does the festival offer?
Hawai’i Artisan Market, Lantern Parade, Miss & Little Miss Kona Coffee Scholarship Competitions, Multicultural Showcase, Kona’s Got Talent Showcase, Half Marathon.
Will I need a car?
Yes. Events are spread out between the towns of Kailua-Kona and Kahaluu-Keauhou (approx. 10 miles apart), and buses run infrequently.