By Mari Taketa
Looking for a one-of-a-kind brew? Try one of these coffee shops.
Iced caramel latte or slow-roasted North Shore espresso? Belgian waffles or macarons? Sunny poolside seating or a cozy cafe atmosphere? Waikiki’s indie coffee houses are a diverse breed, set apart from the ubiquitous mega-chains (we won’t name names) you’ll find across the islands. These six feature all kinds of unique offerings and special touches.
With five locations in Waikiki, you might consider Kimo Bean a chain— but it’s all homegrown, founded right here in Hawai‘i in 1993. All the coffee is from beans handpicked on Kona, Maui, Moloka‘i and Kaua‘i. Go early for the best-selling Cappuccino with Cookies ‘n’ Cream Freeze— and don’t pass up the homemade Belgian waffles.
HONOLULU COFFEE CO.
One-hundred-percent Kona, Kona blend, Kona peaberry and Lava Roast: At Honolulu Coffee, it’s all about the bean. Each location is staffed by expert baristas (one, Pete Licata, took second plate in the 2011 World Barista Championship in Colombia) and features an array of the company’s famed macarons.
MT. KA‘ALA COFFEE CO.
1777 Ala Moana Blvd.
It’s beans from an orchard on O‘ahu’s North Shore that you’re tasting here, harvested in Waialua and slow-roasted in the shadows of Mount Ka‘ala. Roastmaster John Alvarez’s specialized process produces a smooth, sweet taste. On a hot day, try his Mocha Freeze—a chocolatey espresso blended with vanilla ice cream—either in the shop or in the adjacent courtyard.
KOKOA BAR BY RICARD CHOCOLAT
The Queen Kapiolani Hotel
150 Kapahulu Ave.
The recently opened Kokoa Bar specializes in artisan chocolates made on-site. Say ooh-la-la to ballotins, bon bons and espresso-infused popcorn enrobed in bittersweet cocoa. You can even sign up for bean-to-bar, chocolate-making classes featuring chocolate from Big Island cacao beans. Coffee drinks feature Hawai‘i’s Lion’s Coffee; try the cappuccino with a shot of caramel or vanilla.
PEET’S COFFEE & TEA
2255 Kalakaua Ave.
This is the only spot in Hawai‘i where you can score Peet’s, the Berkeley, California-born coffee brand that helped pioneer the tradition of superior beans, smaller batches and a darker roasting style— and at the Sheraton, you’ll find both a curbside kiosk and a bigger poolside location. Tip: Try the breakfast sandwiches.
Royal Hawaiian Center
2301 Kalakaua Ave.
(808) 926-KONA (5662)
Kona coffee beans, roasted daily: Coffee doesn’t get any fresher than this. And with lanai seating overlooking Royal Hawaiian Center, the atmosphere breathes Waikiki. Island Vintage’s acai bowls get just about as many raves as the coffee, but if you really want to feel tropical, order the iced macadamia nut coffee.