Hawai'i 2.0, Day 6: Livin' la Vida Mocha

Another bright new day on the Big Island, and it's the day of the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival parade. Partly by plan and partly by plan -- err, luck, we just so happen to be on the Big Island during the coffee festival, where everyone celebrates all things Kona. And as they say: when in Kona, do what the Konans do (only not as barbarian-y.)

And as it turns out, the parade starts right outside our hotel, so we grab a seat on the rock wall, backs to the crashing ocean, and watch the parade go by. We stand and show proper respect to the Pearl Harbor veterans in the Army jeep; we say "awwwww" at the young girl crowned Little Miss Coffee Blossom 2009; we wave at the Hispanic float in support of the Mexican workers who pick the coffee cherries from the trees and prep the beans before roasting; we even listen politely to the bagpiper from the Shriners club who I'll diplomatically say was probably the very best bagpiper on the Big Island that day who was participating in a parade and wearing a kilt.
The parade finishes moving past our vantage point on their way to the final festival location, and Lucie and I decide to go grab a quick breakfast before we head over there, to avoid the traffic (traffic on the Big Island, LOL) so we groove on down the Mamalahoa Highway and have breakfast at the little cafe at Kona Joe. I go for a simple cheese omelet, Lucie goes for a simple bacon-eggs-and-toast combo, and I have two espresso smoothies, one of the best coffee drinks I've ever had, which I still remember fondly from two and a half years ago on our first trip, and which are every bit as good as I remember. Yum!

We make the obligatory stop at the gift store where we buy gifts for family, coffee for ourselves, and then some coffee for ourselves; then it's off to the Kona Coffee Festival. We find a parking space surprisingly close by, wander through the stalls, and then realize we spent almost all of our cash at Kona Joe's when we could have used plastic, and almost none of the vendors here take plastic... and there's no ATM nearby. Arrrgh!

We spend our last few precious dollars buying cold water and a plate of Filipino food, take a seat in the open-air auditorium and listen to the live music for a while, and take a gander at the ikebana displays and the handmade leis that were entered into the contests.  The grand prize lei is [of course] a coffee themed number with unripe coffee cherries, ripe red coffee cherries, dried but unprocessed beans in parchment, processed but unroasted green beans, and roasted beans at what looks to be a full city roast; one strand of each wrapped around each other. It's a very nice display, a true and loving homage to Kona coffee, and it gives me a little bit of a caffeine high just taking its picture. Me likey.

We do find a few vendors who are set up take credit, so we buy what we can (I pick up some sterling silver coffee bean earrings), get business cards where we can't buy, and drink more cold water. After the rainy days on Oahu, the massive amount of sun we're getting on the Big Island seems almost brutal, but it's part of being in Hawai'i so we'll take it and be happy. Hot, sweaty, and reddened, but happy.

After we get done with the coffee festival, we decide to continue on up the Kohala coast and see how far we can go. There's a statue of King Kamehameha up at the very tip of the island in Hawi, but the rental car we have isn't very good at mountain inclines (which is unfortunately not the best thing in Hawai'i, but it's a convertible which is a must) so we just decide to see how far we end up going; no pressure. We realized our last time here that this is the best and most relaxing attitude to have, and one that's shared by many on the Big Island.

But first, I want more coffee. We make a quick stop at the Kona Coffee & Tea Company store, I get an iced mocha and Lucie gets a piece of mac nut pie for later, we buy some gifts for family, coffee for ourselves, and then some coffee for ourselves, and we continue on up the road. We pass the Kona airport, we pass by the white beaches and expensive resorts, we pass by the beginning of Saddle Road (which would take us up toward the summit of Mauna Kea if 1) our poor underpowered car could handle the road, 2) the road wasn't forbidden by almost every car rental company on the island, or 3) we survived the trip, which on the Saddle Road is always in doubt), and we make it to Spencer Beach before we stop to stretch our legs. Spencer beach was closed about this time last year due to sightings of 14-foot tiger sharks, but today it's shark-free (as far as we know) and welcoming. We dip our feet in the water and enjoy the view for a bit before we continue on. We stop at a roadside orchid stand in Kawaihae, and get some shave ice at the shave ice stall just a bit further up the road. Plants that need specialized watering and refreshments made of frozen syrupy water are odd to have in the driest city on the Big Island (less than 10 inches of rain annually, compared to over 240 inches annually north of Hilo) but we don't question; we just enjoy the pretty colors and fruity flavors.

It's getting late the road only gets steeper from here, so we decide to head back to our hotel for dinner and the sunset. We end up just missing the sunset (I get sidetracked and stop at a discount fabric store where I get fabric for some Hawaiian shirts) but we enjoy a nice dinner at Don the Beachcomber's and some tropical drinks at the mai tai bar (a mango daiquiri and a mai tai -- it is a mai tai bar, after all) and a dish of Kona coffee ice cream for dessert. Coffee ice cream might not be the smartest thing for someone to have before bedtime, but I am no mere low-caffeine-tolerance mortal. I am mighty.

And several hours later, the jitters go away and I'm able to fall asleep.

Coffee consumption: a can of Royal Mills iced coffee, 2 espresso smoothies, a large iced mocha, and two scoops of Kona coffee ice cream.


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