Aloha With Every Cup – Hawaii, My Favorite Coffee Houses

by Shelli

People say I’m passionate about coffee. They know me well! Coupled with travel, I’ve taken to exploring and writing about the coffee scene wherever I roam. I have a passion for supporting local roasters and coffee houses. With increasing Hawaii tourism, why not wake to the smell of great coffee to start your Aloha vacation? Here are my favorite coffee shops on Oahu and even a few new ones. They still served the best coffee in Hawaii!

Though it was hard to tear myself away from the mochi, ramen, beach, and my favorite hotel in Waikiki, I did make time to drink plenty of coffee! I drank plenty of coffee, talked with baristas, and I’ve got lots to share with you. So let’s talk coffee, Hawaii style.

Who Are The Players On The Hawaii Coffee Scene?

You’d think talking about coffee in Hawaii is an open and shut case of best coffee ever. After all, it’s the only state in the U.S. where coffee is grown, and most coffee drinkers have heard of Kona coffee.

But here’s the thing. I’m not at all a Kona blend fan! It’s too weak, and I prefer a stronger more robust blend. I do know that Kona coffee has different grades and different degrees of flavor. I’ve tasted enough of it to know that it’s just not for me.

Why People Ask Me For Coffee Recommendations

My history as a tourist in Hawaii goes way back and I even lived there full-time for many years, so I’m no newcomer to the coffee scene.

Every week, I get an email or message from someone visiting Hawaii and it goes like this:

Tom: Oh great Shelli… please reveal to me where to find the best coffee in Kona ☕️

Shelli: I don’t care for Kona blend coffee. Too weak for me. My favorite in Hawaii is the Honolulu Coffee Company but their stores on the Big Island are nowhere near Kona. Hard to find good coffee on the Big Island cause it’s all Kona. Wish I could be more caffeinated help. Let me know if you find a place!

Tom: Thanks anyhow! I tried the Kona coffee, I don’t like it either, but you know I am spoiled after living in Little Italy in Montreal… very spoiled! But I will make it my mission to find a good spot!

Did he find a spot? Nope 🙁

Is It All About Kona Coffee?

Sure, you might look for and find plenty of cafes, but ask them what coffee they use and I’m betting it’s some Kona blend. I guess they think it’s what the tourists expect in Hawaii.

So if Kona blend isn’t your cup of java, where DO you find good coffee in Hawaii? I have a great suggestion!

The story has changed, but it started way back in 2003. I discovered that two brothers had started roasting beans, creating their own blends, and had opened up a few coffee shops around Honolulu.

And although they did the traditional Kona blend, they also had a blend that was great. It was called Lava Roast. A few years ago, a guy from Kansas City, who apparently had a coffee empire of his own back there, came in and bought one of the brothers out and then really started to grow the company.

It’s called Honolulu Coffee and they now have a presence in Hawaii and Japan, as well. They even have a coffee shop in Vancouver, British Columbia!

My Favorite HCC Locations

Let me share with you my favorite locations, (I have two) and what I drink!

If you’re visiting Maui, their location in Wailea is a great one. The inside is rather small, but they have plenty of tables outside and a lovely fountain to sit by. And if you take your coffee to go, walk down towards the Marriott and out to the ocean, and enjoy your coffee while watching the sea turtles!

If you’re visiting Oahu, it’s likely you’ll pay a visit to the Ala Moana Mall. They have two locations there, one is a kiosk and the other is a cafe. Both are fun for people watching!

What do I order?

Their Lava Roast blend is now called Lokahi, so make sure when you get your latte, cappuccino, or espresso, that it’s made with this blend, or at the very least an espresso blend and not a Kona blend. It’s strong and delicious and when the latte is made well, it’s still one of my favorite coffee beverages anywhere!

Delicious latte from Honolulu Coffee Company

Delicious latte from Honolulu Coffee Company


Two Newer Players on the Coffee Scene

Remember the two brothers who started the Honolulu Coffee Company? Being good businessmen, and knowing the coffee scene well, they did what good businessmen do…..they each opened their own coffee shops.

One brother, Ray Suiter, opened up Kona Coffee Purveyors, on the Kuhio side of the International Market Place in central Waikiki. It’s a great space where you can enjoy your coffee standing, sitting at tables out front, or at outside counters with seating. Though coffee prices are on the high end, I thought their cortado was excellent. I was glad to see it served in the traditional way with carbonated water on the side.

Here’s a tip for you, if like me you don’t favor Kona blends.

Ask to have your coffee beverages with the one bean they carry that is not Kona. When I visited they had a Central American bean, which is much more to my liking than Kona and created a smooth yet robust beverage.

As you approach the Kona Coffee Purveyor site you can’t help but smell the amazing aroma of pastries. I think their on-site baked goods may be even more popular than the coffee! The pastries are well-priced and look delicious. They get rave reviews from friends of mine. I didn’t try them because just upstairs from the HCP site is a Japanese market, Mitsuwa Market. They make fresh mochi! I went with the mochi and cortado, rather than the pastries from the HCP. Next time, however, I’m getting the almond croissant. Always good to have a pastry plan!

The other original Honolulu Coffee Company brother, Sam, along with his wife Natalie, opened Kai Coffee.There are two locations, one in Waikiki at the Hyatt Regency, and the other in downtown Honolulu. Though I didn’t get a chance to enjoy their coffee, I did stop into the shop at the Hyatt Regency. It has a nice quiet vibe to it as it’s off the street and inside the lovely Hyatt Regency atrium.

I’ve known Sam and Natalie going back many years, as they were the duo that ran the first Honolulu Coffee Company spot at the Ala Moana Mall. I’m confident whatever coffee beverage they create would be delicious. If you don’t want to take my word, my Hawaiian friend Kyle tells me his parents drink coffee at Kai Coffee, and that’s a good enough endorsement for me!

Need More Miles To Visit Hawaii?

Knowing the best places to enjoy coffee will save you time and money. Using miles and points for award flights to Hawaii is another way to save.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Guide: Chase points are some of the best transferable currency to get you to Hawaii. Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to multiple airlines for a flight to Hawaii.

Here are some of the best offers to accumulate Ultimate Rewards quickly.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is also offering 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of opening. That’s a BEST EVER offer!

Southwest Airlines is another option for using points for flights to Hawaii. Their Rapid Rewards program could be your best bet for getting into the Aloha spirit. If you need to top up your Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards account, here are some offers to consider.

Final Caffeinated Thoughts

So there you have it. A bit of Hawaiian coffee scene history, a local place for great coffee, and another confession…….I’m not a Kona coffee fan!

Am I missing any places you’ve found while visiting Hawaii that serve up great espresso?

If you liked this post, please check out all the other coffee scenes I reviewed:

Coffee in Vancouver, BC

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Lisbon, Portugal

Related Posts:

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


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Roman February 1, 2019 - 12:47 am

try ChadLou’s Coffee • Cafe & Roastery, good one

Shelli February 1, 2019 - 8:49 am

Thanks for the Kailua recommendation, Roman! I’ll stop in when I’m out that way.

Island Miler July 7, 2020 - 5:22 pm

Hey Shelli! You’re correct. Kona Coffee Purveyors is probably more famous for its pastries than coffee. Their bakeshop, which is an offshoot of San Francisco-based B. Patisserie are the best in the islands. Definitely try the kougin amann, which is what they’re known for. But, their chocolate chip cookie is my all-time favorite. The best croissant in Hawaii, in my opinion, comes from the Breadshop in Kaimuki.

Hope you’re staying healthy & safe!

Shelli July 8, 2020 - 1:16 am

Aloha IM, Thanks for chiming in. I agree on the kouign-amann! A baked good where the main ingredient is butter works for me:) Haven’t tried the choco-chip cookie yet so will do for sure. While we’re letting visitors to Waikiki in on some goodies, I’m also partial to those black sesame mochi donuts from MoDo in the Mitsuwa Market. Breadshop is tops and a great addition to Kaimuki, agreed. I’m also a big fan of Scones in Kaimuki for their scones and cornbread. And who doesn’t love Ottos cheesecake, also in Kaimuki. You’d think we were working for the Kaimuki Chamber of Commerce! Nah, we’re just helpful enthusiasts of good coffee and pastry/bread and know that Oahu doesn’t disappoint! Aloha, IM.

Zero @ Bad Ass Maui July 8, 2020 - 6:57 am

I like your approach and your information! When in West Maui, please feel invited to come try us out at Bad Ass Coffee of Maui. We feature awesome Kona coffee, but for a great value alternative, we love Maui coffees, like our Maui Mokka and the fantastic 100% Maui Peaberry.
You will surely love the flavor and the cost savings over Kona beans.

Shelli July 8, 2020 - 2:26 pm

Thanks for reading and taking the time to let us know when in Lahaina, where to find great coffee. I like your website a latte! For sure will stop by and talk story……about coffee, of course 🙂 Aloha!

Richard July 26, 2021 - 12:20 am

Every time we’re in Maui, we stop for coffee with you — a few times a week!

Mnvska July 10, 2020 - 8:00 pm

On Kauai it’s Java Kai all da way in Kapa’a. They roast some Molokai beans that have a texture like mud and taste like the most delicious coffee flavored dirt you ever had. I’ve never had a cup of strong black coffee like it. So rich and dark and smooth. No sour at all. Broke it fo sure.

Shelli July 10, 2020 - 8:19 pm

Thanks for giving them a shout out! Coffee menu is fun and they serve food and smoothies too. Sounds like the coffee is strong enough to propel a swim from Kauai to Oahu!

TM July 21, 2020 - 4:40 pm

I visited Oahu last year and visited as many local coffeehouses as I could. I tried a an espresso, kona and medium roast drip from each place and overall HCC came out on top. I didn’t try all of their flavors, but Lokahi was my favorite. I would love to order their coffee online however their higher end flavors are a lot pricier than I imagined. Cheers!

Shelli July 21, 2020 - 4:43 pm

You’re my kind of coffee fan, TM. Yes, HCC does rank above the others, I agree. Thanks for reading. Cheers and Aloha to you.

Derek June 23, 2021 - 11:57 am

“After all, it’s the only state in the U.S. where coffee is grown”

Frinj Coffee are growing in California.

TM January 20, 2022 - 7:48 pm

Over the past year and a half I’ve tried a bunch of different Kona coffee companies that sell online. HCC Lokahi is still one of my favorites, but in my opinion the only other brand I would consider buying again (mainly because of shipping fees) is Koa Coffee. I’ve tried all of their medium roast products except for the decaf. They are all rich/bold flavors but if I had to pick one it would be the Estate. Stay safe!

Shelli January 20, 2022 - 8:30 pm

Great to know, TM. Thanks for adding to the coffee conversation. True, HCC is still one of my favorites as well.

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