Kona Coffee Living History Farm

Kona Coffee Living History Museum – Travel Through Time At This Outdoor Museum
Local Expert's Rating:
5.0 / 5
The Bottom Line:

A trip to the Big Island’s West Coast will transport you back to the 1920s at this outdoor museum located in the village of Captain Cook. Costumed interpreters offer information about life on a coffee farm during the early 20th century while demonstrating activities typical of the time. This is a great way to learn some important history in a fun, engaging, and family-friendly environment.

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

Kona coffee is a popular coffee variety enjoyed by customers worldwide. But did you know that all Kona coffee is grown on the slopes of two mountains on the Island of Hawaii? Every Kona coffee bean on the planet comes from Kailua-Kona, on the Big Island’s West Coast.  It gets its unique flavor profile from a combination of the volcanic soil, tropical climate, and high elevation that can only be found here.

This is just one of the many informational facts and tidbits you might learn when visiting the Kona Coffee Living History Museum, located in the village of Captain Cook, on Hawaii’s West Coast. This lush farm opens to the public at limited times during the week to give visitors a glimpse into what life might have been like at a place like this during the 1920s.

Kona Coffee Living History Museum is the only living coffee farm in America, so your experience is guaranteed to be unique. A nostalgic, old-fashioned vibe fills the air from the minute you enter the farm. Stepping on the property feels a bit like stepping back in time, from the lush green surroundings to the century-old farmhouse, to the guides dressed in traditional garb.

As you roam the property (all tours are self-guided, and visitors are encouraged to wander freely) you will encounter “costumed interpreters.” These well-trained historians take on the personality and wardrobe of a coffee farm worker from this era. From them, in stories and snippets, you will piece together the story of Kona’s coffee pioneers and their role in the history of the Hawaiian coffee trade during the early 20th century.

The sweet spot for Kona coffee came between World War I, and the Great Depression; roughly 1918-1929. The war caused an increase in demand for coffee on the American mainland. A catastrophic frost that killed Brazilian coffee crops opened the door for Hawaiian coffee farms to increase their sales to mainlanders. Farms like this one experienced a period of high output and high profitability through most of the 1920s until they were stifled by the onset of the Depression. This is the time period the museum experience focuses on.

When observing and interacting with the costumed interpreters, you may see them working on traditional crafts of the time, toiling away at agriculture tasks that were essential to keep the farm up and running or completing everyday chores and tasks common to the era. Much of the story of this period revolves around the Japanese immigrants who worked the lands and kept these farms functioning, and their experiences are highlighted throughout the farm. At the farmhouse, which is the original 1920 structure, a guide teaches about the daily routine of Japanese families who lived here.

As an added bonus, there are opportunities to not only see history but to taste it. Regular coffee bean roasting demonstrations provide a chance to taste different types of coffee beans, and sometimes guests are treated to a taste of freshly harvested macadamia nuts, too. Yum!

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Kids will love the immersive, educational outdoor experience, for sure, but so will adults. The Kona Historical Society, which runs this attraction, does an excellent job of providing content that is both informational and attentive, appealing equally to the youngest and oldest visitors to the farm. This unique, memorable experience is one we recommend everyone take in during their time on the Big Island.

Insider Tips:
-Children under 7 can visit for free, and kids 7-17 can enter for a reduced rate. There is also a discount for Hawaii residents.
-The farm is open at very limited times. Be sure to call ahead and check to make sure they’re welcoming visitors on the day you’d like to visit.
-Most guests can cover the property in about an hour. However, if you’d like a chance to really explore the entire experience, we’d recommend setting aside two hours.