Like any good coffee junkie, before our recent trip to Kauai we researched coffee shops to visit. We asked around for the "must stop" places and tried to hit as many as possible. There were also a few that we just stumbled across on our own. Since they were all worth a stop and we think others might find this info useful — we've shared our findings here.
60% of the coffee grown in the U.S. comes from the island of Kauai (more on this in an upcoming post). You might not have chosen Kauai for the sole purpose of visiting a coffee farm like we did, but you're sure to encounter some great coffee along the way.
The south side of the island is where the bulk of the coffee tourism is located. If you're staying on this side of the island, you're in for a treat. If not — these places are still worth the stop if you're in the area.
Kauai Coffee Company, Kalaheo
Kauai Coffee Company is one of the few places in the United States where you can experience a seed to cup coffee experience. They do a great job of sharing information about the process and you can enjoy a variety of tours on their estate. You can sample all of their coffees for free, order from their cafe and/or take a bag of beans home with you.
This was a highlight of the trip for me. I'll have a full blog post about it (to come).
Little Fish Coffee, Hanapepe (and Poipu)
Little Fish was in a cool little town called Hanapepe. Lots of artisan shops, galleries and food joints. Little Fish is a highly recommended staple on the island of Kauai — with two locations you can also drop into their Poipu shop. The atmosphere is authentic coffee shop with lots of personality. But I've gotta be honest, I had already had enough caffeine by the time we stopped in and didn't even get a coffee at Little Fish. Instead the "Monkey Nuts" smoothie caught my eye and it was so gosh darn delicious and filling I didn't need anything else.
Cortado Coffee Bar, Koloa
Cortado Coffee Bar was my first coffee stop on Kauai...and we almost missed it. It's housed in a little tiny building, with a bare-bones setup. It's fantastic! It might be small, but the coffee was delicious. Stop here on your way to or from Poipu beach for a quick pick-me-up.
Dark Roost Coffee, Kalaheo
Nestled inside a pie shop (The Right Slice), Dark Roost coffee is a nice stop if you're headed up to Waimea Canyon. Formerly a super cool coffee truck — they found a spot of their own to put down roots. When I stopped, they were experiencing some equipment issues so we sadly didn't get to sample their wares. However, their reputation precedes them so swing by if you're in the area. Word is, you won't leave disappointed.
We drove through Kapa'a quite a few times on our week long trip. It's got a little bit of everything. Food trucks, board shops, restaurants and best of all, coffee shops!
Java Kai, Kapa'a
Often recommended, Java Kai was one of our favorites. It was a crowd-pleasing stop for the whole fam (there were 12 of us on this trip). They had a massive menu that ranged from a simple shot of espresso to some crazy signature drinks like the "El Bandido"...a concoction of espresso, mexican Coca-Cola, vanilla and cream over ice. A must-stop for any coffee adventurer. I should also mention that they might be the only shop on Kauai that roasts their own coffee. While most used various local roasters, Java Kai roasted their own.
Small Town Coffee Truck, Kapa'a
This place was recommended to us a few times by locals and actually by a few fellow coffee shop owners (I love the collaboration over competition mindset). Unfortunately, our schedules just never matched up and we never got a chance to stop. Give them a stop if it works out for ya. I guess we'll have to make another trip back to Kauai in the future. Shucks...
The coffee scene was notably stronger on the south side of the island — but that didn't stop us from getting a coffee fix. We stayed at an airbnb in Princeville, but found ourselves hanging out in Hanalei most of the time. Like Kapa'a, Hanalei had a little of everything.
Hanalei Bread Company, Hanalei
There are lots of little shops and eateries to wander through in Hanalei. Among them is Hanalei Bread Co. They have a simple menu and feature a local roaster — which is always something I personally like to see in a coffee shop. They also have a variety of gluten-free bread and treats for the gluten challenged, such as myself.
Wishing Well Truck, Hanalei
A large coffee sign on the side of the Wishing Well Shave Ice stand pulled us in as we drove by. I literally whipped a U-turn and went back. I think their primary focus was shaved ice, but they made a mighty fine iced latte as well. Plus, their slogan "Slow Yourself Down" really struck a chord with me. Sometimes we're in such a hurry to cross the next item off our to-do list that we miss out on the best things life has to offer.
If you're planning a vacation and haven't used the Google My Maps tool yet — give it a shot. We love it!
You can copy and add to the map we made and customize it with your own stops until your heart's content.
A few notes
What's great about Kauai is that there aren't many large businesses, but instead small, local shops. My kind of people! Here are a few things we learned while there:
- A few places had un-posted hours and we encountered places that weren't open due to equipment issues...so go with the flow. After all, you're in Hawaii.
- I'm typically a hot coffee guy, but I chose cold coffee drinks on this trip. The island was hot and humid and cool beverages were all I was craving while out and about.
- Expect inflated prices when ordering drinks with milk. Milk is like liquid gold on Kauai (and probably all Hawaiian islands), so it doesn't come cheap.
- If you have the opportunity to brew your own you might want to check out a local roaster. We found a few including: Java Kai, Kauai Coffee, Kauai Roastery, Imua Coffee Roasters and Hanalei Coffee Roasters.
Did we miss any?
Share your favorite spots in the comments below.