Ka’u Coffee Festival’s Brewed-Up Schedule

April 21, 2016, 3:25 PM HST
* Updated September 8, 11:31 AM
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Award-winning grower Bull Kailiawa checks his coffee. Kau Coffee Festival file photo by Geneveve Fyvie.

This year, the Ka’u Coffee Festival will mark its eighth festival season, running from May 13 through May 22.

The 10-day festival will showcase award-winning coffee coming out of the southern Big Island town and also include a wide range of activities for coffee lovers young and old.

“The festival highlights the efforts of our hard-working Ka‘u coffee producers, and also offers unique activities that showcase the heritage District of Ka‘u.” said Chris Manfredi, the 2016 festival organizer. “Many events are only available during the festival.”

Festival goers will have the opportunity to participate in a new activity this year: the Lobsterpalooza. On Sunday, May 15, a picnic on the lawn at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach will feature Kona Cold Lobster and charbroiled Spencer Steak. Tickets to the Lobsterpalooza are available online.

In addition to the new activity, the annual Ka’u Coffee Recipe Contest will offer almost $2,000 in cash prizes. Adult and student contestants will face-off in pupu, entrée, and dessert categories on Saturday, May 14 at the Ka’u Coffee Mill. Entertainment and a visit from Miss Ka’u Coffee will take place, along with coffee sampling and a tour of Ka’u Coffee Mill. The event is free to attend, and the contest entry is also free with an entry deadline of May 9. 


The free Ka’u Coffee Festival Ho’olaule’a will take place on Saturday, May 21. The event will take place both inside and outside of the Pahala Community Center. Attendees can learn the secret to brewing the “perfect cup of coffee” at the Ka‘u Coffee Experience, where coffee professionals prepare Ka‘u coffee a variety of ways: hario pour-over, french press, toddy cold-brew, chemex, and clever, plus prepared espresso beverages.


Outside of the center, those in attendance can talk story with coffee farmers and other local vendors and artisans at tented booths, many with free sampling. “Broke da mouth” local food booths serving hot plate lunches, fresh baked goods, and ethnic, local-style treats by local community organizations are also on the schedule.

The festival is supported by the County of Hawai‘i Department of Research & Development, Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture, and numerous local sponsors. Most events are free while others carry a nominal fee.

Full Ka’u Coffee Festival Schedule:


Friday, May 13: Pa‘ina & Open House at historic Pahala Plantation House, featuring music, hula, food, and house tours from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Located at the corner of Maile and Pikake in Pahala. The event is free, but donations will be accepted for the Miss Ka‘u Coffee Scholarship Fund.

Saturday, May 14: The free Ka‘u Coffee Recipe Contest will be held at 11 a.m. at the Ka‘u Coffee Mill. Entries made with Ka‘u coffee are accepted in pupu, entree, and dessert categories. Free coffee tasting, entertainment, and tours. Find contest entry information on the Ka’u Coffee Mill website.

Saturday, May 14: The annual Miss Ka‘u Coffee Pageant will showcase the crowning of Miss Ka‘u Coffee, Jr. Miss Ka’u Coffee, and Miss Ka’u Coffee Peaberry. Contestants compete in talent, speech, and evening wear, while participating in Miss Popularity, Miss Congeniality, and Miss Photogenic contests. Winners will receive scholarships. The doors open 6 p.m. at the Ka‘u Coffee Mill. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door.

Wednesday, May 18 and Thursday, May 19: Explore flume systems of the sugarcane era and development of hydroelectric power on a Ka‘u Mountain Water System Hike in the Wood Valley rainforest from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event is limited to 30 individuals and is $45, which includes lunch.

Friday, May 20: Enjoy Coffee & Cattle Day beginning at 10 a.m. at Aikane Plantation Coffee farm. Learn how descendants of Ka‘u’s first coffee farmer integrate coffee with other agriculture. A $25 fee includes an all-you can eat buffet.

Friday, May 20: Observe the heavens from the summit of Makanau at Ka‘u Star Gazing from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Enjoy a presentation on the history of Makanau, a summit sunset, and the night sky via a guided laser beam tour of the stars. Tickets are $45 with refreshments and shuttle transportation.

Saturday, May 21: Tantalize your taste buds at the free 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ka‘u Coffee Festival Ho‘olaule‘a, with a full day of local music, hula, food booths, local crafts, keiki activities, educational displays, coffee tastings, and farm/mill tours headquartered inside and out of the Pahala Community Center.

Sunday, May 22: Learn about the coffee industry at the Ka‘u Coffee College at Pahala Community Center. The Coffee College hosts educational seminars by local and journeymen coffee industry experts and a reverse trade mission. This is a free event, but donations will be accepted.

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