We eventually leave our air conditioned room and cruise down Ali'i Drive. We make a stop in a small commercial section for breakfast (me) and shopping (Lucie.) The Internet cafe (Surf Dogs) that was here has closed sometime in the last fifteen and a half months since we last visited, but I make do with the new joint, Ali'i Buzz -- their breakfast wrap of cream cheese, eggs, and turkey bacon is decent, but the poor girl behind the counter is new and unused to the coffee equipment, and doesn't have enough supplies to make a triple mocha, so I have to downgrade to a double. After breakfast, I peruse the small Country Samurai Coffee store I've seen before but never entered and pick up some of their beans. Lucie's trip into Island Silversmith is fruitless, but her trip into Sarongs "R" Us (which Lucie swears is NOT the actual name, but this is my blog, so there) is good, so we're both mostly appeased by the stop.
After breakfast, brew, and clothing blue, we head up Palani Road to our favorite first stop of every coffee tour, Mountain Thunder. This is our third visit here, and it's been getting more crowded and busy every time we come. This is a good thing for founder Trent A. Bateman, of the Mountain Thunder Coffee Farm Batemans, and his family; but we kind of miss the last couple of times where we were able to get complete privacy or personal service from Trent himself. That's fine, though; we entertain ourselves by trying out some of their coffee and watching TV clips about the farm (Dirty Jobs, Food Network's All American Festivals, and several Hawai'i-based foodie shows) and buy several bags of beans and other gifts, and sign up for their new Roastmaster Tour for a few days from now.
From Mountain Thunder, we backtrack slightly to the (and I really *do* love saying this name) Mamalahoa Highway and hit our next planned stop, Hula Daddy. The view of Kailua-Kona from their balcony is as amazing as it was last time, but unfortunately it's about three weeks away from when the coffee cherries will be ripe and ready for picking, so they don't have too much in the way of coffee for sale. We still pick up one bag of their premium bean, Kona Sweet, a cool Hawaiian print burlap bag, and some other nifty goodies, and we continue down the Mamalahoa.
We wave at Ueshima Coffee Company as we drive past, but we've got a "roastmaster tour" arranged for tomorrow so we delay our stop until then and we continue past. We also pass by Old Poi Factory road, which leads to Buddha's Cup Coffee, but it's getting near lunchtime and we're in the mood for a bite to eat, so we postpone our reunion with Pancho for another day, and head to Kona Joe for their great combination of clean restrooms, awesome espresso smoothies, and great coffee. Their espresso smoothie is just as awesome as I remember it being, and the huge honking banana muffin that Lucie gets is nicely sweet, dense, and moist, and staves off our hunger enough to hit their gift shop where we buy (wanna guess? Wanna guess? Rhymes with "koffee"...) coffee, some various kitchen foodstuffs, and some coffee before heading further down Mamalahoa to Big Jake's Island Barbecue for lunch.
We buy a pulled pork sandwich and a brisket sandwich, and split each to have some variety. The sauce is sweet and smoky, and the protein is tasty (Lucie prefers the pulled pork while I kind of dig the brisket), and the cold bottles of water really hit the spot. From there, we cruise further down the road and relive our We Don't Know Where the Heck We're Going experience from last trip -- except that this time I do know where I'm going, and don't even need to look at directions -- and visit Kona Lisa Coffee.
It's still as great an experience as last time, and we chat with both Mary and her husband Ron (we met Mary last time, but this is our first time meeting Ron) about coffee, life, and retirement in Hawai'i. They're both friendly and talkative, and they still have some coffee that they'd just roasted a couple of days ago, so we say hello to their cats and their new dog, buy a few bags of medium roast coffee, and leave them to their work.
We stop by the Kona Coast Macadamia Nut shop, but we've just missed them closing for the day; we make plans to hit them again later on our stay here. We also stop by Sacred Grounds as we head back up the Mamalahoa toward Kona, but they're still closed... we'd heard they they'd opened back up, but Ron and Mary had told us that they didn't have insurance back when they'd had the fire (it's a combination pottery store and coffee farm, and the pottery studio kiln was above the coffee area, which turned out to be a bad idea) and apparently their insider knowledge is more accurate than something we'd read about online... who knew?! Also on the way back, we stop by the site of Sam Choy's new restaurant, Kai Lanai. It was expected to open already, but the construction crew is on Big Island schedule, so they're still working on it as we drive past. It looks really cool, and we're both big fans of Sam, so we just shrug and remind ourselves that nothing hurries on the Big Island, and we'll make plans to stop by here the next time we go on vacation.
We continue back to Kailua-Kona, find a parking place along Ali'i Drive, and make our last planned stop for the day at Kona Henna Studios. I've been working on a small doodle off and on for a couple of months now, and I'm eager to see how it looks in real life; and Lucie really enjoyed the hibiscus pattern she got last time and wants to have something similar. My tribal San Jose Sharks logo looks awesome when it's finally applied, and I couldn't be more please with it. Lucie get a hibiscus pattern on one foot and a stylized manta ray on the other. They both look great as well -- our henna artist this time around has over a decade of experience in Henna, and is amazingly fast and precise with the applicator.
We return to our hotel room (you're not supposed to walk barefoot through the hotel lobby area either, but nobody says anything) have some simple food (including a pretty darn tasty deep fried fast food fruit pie) for dinner, lounge around until our henna has been on for the recommended amount of time, and then shower and go to bed; stained, suntanned, fed, and still slightly caffeinated.