Time travel to the 1900s at Big Island's Kona Coffee Living History Farm

Find out how Hawaii coffee-growing families lived at this hands-on museum.

First planted in 1828 by missionary Samuel Ruggles, Kona coffee has achieved international renown. Known for its smooth, rich flavor, it’s now grown on about 600 farms, ranging from less than an acre to 40 acres in size. Most of the farms lie between the cool 800- and 2,500-foot elevations of Mauna Loa volcano, and are family owned and operated.

The Kona Coffee Living History Farm is on land first homesteaded in 1900. It provides a glimpse of what daily life was like for its original owner, Japanese immigrant Daisaku Uchida, and his family, circa 1925 to 1945. The Kona Historical Society now owns and oversees the 5½-acre farm, which welcomes visitors for self-guided tours four days a week.

As part of the farm’s “living history” program, docents dressed in period attire talk about the buildings and demonstrate traditional crafts, agricultural activities and everyday chores. All of them grew up in Kona as members of coffee-growing families, and they pepper their narrations with personal stories.

Displayed in the farmhouse and on the grounds are numerous artifacts donated by the Uchidas and other local families, including a kudo (wood-burning stove), a hagama (rice cooker), a tansu (dresser), a yanagi kori (wicker suitcase), a charcoal- heated iron, a vintage treadle sewing machine and ceilings made of rice bags. Take a close look at the hoshidana (drying platform), which has a rolling roof. When the sun was shining, workers would pull back the roof so the coffee beans spread on the platform beneath it would dry. This took three days to two weeks, depending on weather conditions. On rainy days, they closed the roof to prevent the beans from getting wet and spoiling.

During your visit, you can also try your hand at making musubi (rice balls); stroll through the coffee and macadamia nut orchards; pick ripe coffee cherries during the harvest season (which usually runs from September through December); say hello to Charlie, the resident donkey; and buy bags of freshly roasted coffee to take home (this is still a working farm).

Kona Coffee Living History Farm

The Kona Coffee Living History Farm is at 82-6199 Mamalahoa Highway, Kealakekua, Big Island. Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday (please arrive by 1 p.m. to allow enough time for a full tour). Admission is $15 for adults, $9 for college students with ID and $5 for youth ages 7-17. KHS members and children age 7 and younger are admitted free. (808) 323-2006; www.konahistorical.org.

A version of this story appeared in the Spring/Summer 2012 print issue of Huakai, a bi-annual publication published by aio Media in partnership with Starwood Properties.