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Cacao & Coffee Farm Tours?

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Cacao & Coffee Farm Tours?

Hi guys! We'll be in Kona August 13-19 and be busy the 13th/14th with a wedding, but free the rest of our time there. We're staying at the Waikoloa Village Hilton and planned to rent a car for two or three days to drive around and look at beaches, tours, farms, etc. Will it be easy to rent a car while at the Waikoloa Village, or should we plan to get a ride back towards KOA airport to rent one?

Through a small bit of research I've decided we'll definitely do a coffee tour and on the fence regarding the cacao farm tour.

-Which coffee tours would you recommend? I'm leaning towards Hula Daddy unless someone here has better advice?

-Are the cacao farm tours worth the time/effort? Where would you recommend? Since we're really on the fence on this one, it'd be better if the cacao tour was free....it would certainly make the decision easier.

Big Island, Hawaii
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1. Re: Cacao & Coffee Farm Tours?

So I know it's confusing because of the Hilton name but the Hilton is actually in Waikoloa Beach - Waikoloa Village is a community about six miles up the mountain. Just so you don't get confused by maps :-)

You should rent a car at the airport. I would actually want one the entire time I'm there but if you can get a ride back to KOA then that's ok - you just don't want to be relying on very expensive cabs. I would definitely rent a car the entire time you're not busy with wedding stuff.

I really can't recommend the Hula Daddy tours or coffee, and I know Greenwell is informative and well done, but I'm really grumpy with them about their stance on labeling and blends. I would look at going to other, smaller family farms. You can get some options listed on the Kona Coffee Farmers Association website here:

konacoffeefarmers.org/tour-a-kona-coffee-far…

Our resident Kona coffee expert, wahineokawaa, I'm sure will chime in with some specific suggestions. In the past she's recommended Lions Gate and Holualoa Kona Coffee Comoany, both of which I also recommend. One of my favorite Kona coffees is Buddah's Cup and I go to the farm most years to buy coffee for holiday gifts. They do tours and tastings by appointment.

I know nothing about cacao farm tours but wahineokawaa had a good reply about them in this topic:

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g29217-i268-k61300…

Edited: 30 July 2014, 22:08
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2. Re: Cacao & Coffee Farm Tours?

very cool. I wasn't sure if it was easy to rent a car from our place(as we can get a ride from KOA to Hilton from a friend already there, and save 3 days of rental) or if we should just pony up and have one the full time from the second we arrive at KOA until we leave.

Edited: 30 July 2014, 22:24
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3. Re: Cacao & Coffee Farm Tours?

The other coffee tour we thought about was at Konalua which I believe is self guided. I just want to make sure we get a fun experience that really is interesting....and has great coffee :) We're from Portland Oregon so we know how to drink some coffee! :)

Big Island, Hawaii
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4. Re: Cacao & Coffee Farm Tours?

I would pony up and get one the whole time. It actually may make more economic sense too even with the parking fee because longer term rentals are usually cheaper than 2-3 day rentals. Honestly too - even with wedding events you may want a car around if you have any free time - that hotel isn't the best place to be stuck at. The food is not great and really expensive and it's overrun with children and in general doesn't feel much like Hawaii. It's kind of a weird place IMO, I guess mainly because it's so out of step in particular with the Big Island which isn't a big resort kind of island at all. Also there's no beach there. So having a car gives you freedom if you start feeling trapped.

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5. Re: Cacao & Coffee Farm Tours?

Definitely good to know. I've cancelled the idea of a cacao tour due to the fact that it's not native to the area, and that alone is pretty lame (although I do love chocolate).

We're going to continue with a coffee tour -- maybe even TWO?

On the rental car deal, we plan to hit the southern most part of the US for jumping, black sand and green sand beach and do the night manta ray swim with splashers. As of now, renting a car the whole time sounds like the best plan .... will we get a better deal booking now (through which site) or as soon as we get to the airport? and is a 4wd necessary to get to black/green sand beaches?

Also can you give me an idea of how long (time wise) it takes to get from Hilton Waikoloa Village to the southern tip of the island? I'm having a tough time wrapping my head around is since I've been to Oahu twice and am used to being able to drive around the whole island in a couple hours LOL

**To clarify, we're not IN the wedding, just attending as a guest on Thursday the 14th.

Edited: 30 July 2014, 23:01
Big Island, Hawaii
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6. Re: Cacao & Coffee Farm Tours?

By "jumping" I hope you don't mean off of cliffs at Ka Lae. Really dumb idea. We residents get a little tetchy when our taxpayer dollars have to be spent rescuing people from there. Also you don't want to die on vacation. That would be a bummer. :-D

So here's the deal. You can't take any rental 4wd here where you would need one as all the major rental companies prohibit driving them off-road. In addition, even the mostly paved road to Ka Lae is now prohibited by the rental companies in part because of breakins when people were leaving them there to hike to Papakolea (you can't drive there, it's both trespassing and not even a standard rental 4wd could make it on that road without likely serious damage).

Colored sand gets hyped by certain guidebooks and I think it's silly. The green sand at Papakolea isn't even all that green (photos you've seen have likely been "enhanced"), it's not a swimmable beach, and the hike is long and hot at 2.5 miles each way. Some locals giving rides for a fee in large lifted vehicles are operating illegally, trespassing, and tearing up the ecosystem.

There are black sand beaches everywhere around the island, including five minutes from your hotel - driving more than four hours roundtrip to get to one way in the south just because that's where all the tour buses stop isn't a good use of time IMO.

You have very limited time and there are tons of things to do within a half hour of your hotel. I'd focus on those. Hiking Waipio and Pololu, visiting the very cool shark heiau at Puukoholoa and human sacrifice heiau at Mo'okini, plus the birthplace of King Kamehameha beyond that at Kapakai Kokoiki, visiting all the island's best beaches within about a ten minute radius, the excellent shore snorkeling nearby, are all activities that will fill up your very limited time super fast.

I do not recommend Splasher's as they participate in the unethical (and illegal IMO) wim with dolphins tours. Jack's is the best outfit IMO.

Edited: 30 July 2014, 23:15
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7. Re: Cacao & Coffee Farm Tours?

geez I'm starting to realize you've shot down every single thing we've researched that has been known as cool. What, in your opinion, should we do while we're there?

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8. Re: Cacao & Coffee Farm Tours?

I didn't shoot down your manta ray or coffee farm tour idea, just gave you different ideas for providers.

I also said "Hiking Waipio and Pololu, visiting the very cool shark heiau at Puukoholoa and human sacrifice heiau at Mo'okini, plus the birthplace of King Kamehameha beyond that at Kapakai Kokoiki, visiting all the island's best beaches within about a ten minute radius, the excellent shore snorkeling nearby, are all activities that will fill up your very limited time super fast."

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9. Re: Cacao & Coffee Farm Tours?

Well, to be fair to Shea, I was also horrified at the places your research was pointing you other than the farm tours.

There's no reason to skip cacao -- coffee is not endemic to Hawai'i and neither are Mac nuts or vanilla or papayas or mangos or pineapples -- no reason to single out poor cacao. ;-)

I only know of the Hawaiian Chocolate Factory. I haven't been because it's not convenient to where I live. It's up Kaloko Drive.

Wahine has and can recommend smaller coffee farms and knows the coffee growing scene inside out.

Shea did give you alternatives, lots of them.

You should price out the car options. In general, the rental offices at hotels (Hilton has one) specialize in high daily rates, as opposed to better rates to be had at the airport. You just need to get quotes and compare the costs. Hawaii Discount Car Rental or Costco (if member) are two of the best. A car agency site will let you sect an off airport site to get a quote.

There is a lot of great stuff within 15 minutes from the Hilton, so unless you are totally involved with wedding those days, having a car would be a bonus.

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10. Re: Cacao & Coffee Farm Tours?

I'm not familiar with "Konalua" coffee, and didn't know about any self-guided tours of coffee estates. Part of the reason to do a tour of a small coffee farm is to meet the farmer and hear his or her stories about their passion for their coffee - you know, develop a personal relationship. The Kona Farmer's Alliance web link that Shea provided is a great resource for finding out about the smaller, lesser-known producers - who often produce much better coffee than the larger farms.

The chocolate farm tour is fun - it doesn't take long and will give you some cool insights about how chocolate is produced. If you love chocolate, why not? As KK said, while you're correct that chocolate isn't native to Hawaii, neither is coffee, nor any of the fruits she mentioned - nor even coconut palms, which many consider to be an iconic Hawaiian plant.

You can check with the Kona Cacao Association for more ideas about learning about the developing cacao industry on Hawaii Island: http://www.konacacaoassociation.com

The thing you might keep in mind while trying to assess whether the things that guidebooks say are "cool" actually are worthwhile for you, is that guidebook writers for the most part just copy and rephrase what other travel writer have written about. A huge percentage of them have never even visited the places they write about! So while all the guidebooks go on and on about the black sand beach at Punalu'u and the honu there, the truth is that there are black sand beaches all over Hawaii and also honu to be seen everywhere.

Rather than checking places off a list some guidebook writer came up with, the best way you can possibly connect with our island is to give yourself time to connect with a few special places that call to you. There are many very beautiful, sacred areas close to where you will be staying - you can make the most of the opportunity by just allowing enough time to relax and feel the rhythm of that part of the island.

Edited: 31 July 2014, 01:37