Kanaka Kava

Discover the Benefits of Kava at the Chill Kanaka Kava
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Chill out with great food and kava drinks at Kanaka Kava’s outdoor bar. You’ll find a friendly, laid-back atmosphere where you can have housemade kava and traditional Hawaiian dishes.

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

If you want to visit a spot in Kona for housemade kava drinks where locals hang out, visit Kanaka Kava. This bar serves up healthy kava drinks and traditional Hawaiian gathering foods in a chill atmosphere at its walk-up outdoor cafe.

Kava, also known as awa in Hawaii, is a shrub in the pepper family. When ground and added to water, kava roots produce a bitter, medicinal drink. Traditionally, people have drunk kava for both medicinal and ceremonial purposes. This drink connected people with each other and with the gods as a sacred offering.

The first sample of kava is a unique experience. You will taste the bitter, earthiness of the kava. Many people report tingling or numbness inside their mouths or on their tongues. After you finish your drink, you will likely feel the full effects of kava’s relaxation capability for both your body and mind. This last effect of kava is the main reason the drink is a popular option today for those who want to relax.

For those new to kava, the bitterness of the pure drink may be too much to enjoy. However, Kanaka Kava also serves kava mixed with juices to make it easier to drink for first-time drinkers and those who prefer a little sweetness in their drinks.

The relaxation capability of kava draws many locals to this outdoor bar to chill out at the end of a long day. Single visitors report spending more time than they intended here because the friendly nature of the diners and staff made it a great place to meet people and make friends.

While kava is the major item served by Kanaka Kava, you can also get traditional Hawaiian gathering foods. Pupu platters give you a sampling of several items. Lau lau plates give you taro-wrapped pork and fish with two sides. Other options on the menu include poi and squid luau. If you come to Kanaka Kava just for the drinks, make sure to sample at least one food item for a traditional taste of Hawaii. The food and drinks use as many local ingredients as possible from Kanaka Kava’s farm in Hamakua.

Taste at least one of the following popular items from Kanaka Kava when you visit:

Squid Luau  
The Squid Luau, whether you order it separately or with the Pupu Platter, is a treat that you shouldn’t miss if you enjoy seafood. This dish includes taro leaves and squid. If you order it a la carte, make sure to add garlic bread to your order and enjoy the two together. This pairing is highly recommended by staff and visitors to Kanaka Kava.

Haupia Sweet Potato Pie
The vibrantly bright Haupia Sweet Potato Pie has a purple layer of sweet potatoes with a haupia (coconut) custard on top. This not-too-sweet pie is the perfect conclusion to your meal. Don’t expect the same type of one-note cloying sweetness that orange sweet potato pies served on the mainland have. This pie carefully balances freshness with sweetness, so you have full flavor in every bite.

Pupu Platter
Try a little of everything with the Pupu Platter. This sampler includes lomi salmon (chopped fresh salmon with salt), poi (taro root paste), kalua pork (smoked pork), uala (Hawaiian sweet potatoes), and squid luau. These dishes frequently appear at luaus as celebratory samplers meant to be shared. The Pupu Platter easily can feed two hungry people, especially because you can order two sides. Try the garlic bread and salad, as many visitors do, to properly pair with the dishes on the platter.

Don’t limit yourself to kava when you visit Kanaka Kava. Try some of the traditional foods served at this laid-back Kona bar. You’ll find yourself enjoying ono food and great, friendly folks who dine and work at this spot.

Insider Tips:
-This walk-up bar can be easy to miss. Look for it on the side of the building with small tables out front.
-Follow Kanaka Kava on social media to find out about upcoming live events.
-You may need to wait for a self-seat table during busier times.
-Drink your kava before you eat to get the full effects of this relaxing beverage and drink it before the powder separates and settles to the bottom.