Kona is the gentle giant of Hawai’i, trading on its lush geography, quiet beaches, wealth of outdoor activities and, most famously, its internationally coveted coffee beans. There is no doubt it provides the perfect setting for family travel among those who want to unplug and reconnect with nature for the entirety of their visit.
While there are hotels catering to those families and a good variety of coffee plantation tours geared for older foodies, Buddha’s Sanctuary found a way to blend some of Kona’s greatest assets in a way people of all ages can savor. The family-owned plantation, which produces five coffee labels along with teas, rum cakes and chocolate confections, soars 2,400 feet above sea level and covers 50 acres nestled in the Ohia Forest. The journey to the site itself is part of the fun, requiring visitors to drive up roads that give way to spectacular views.
Tours of this cup of paradise, some free of charge, include family walking tours around the main gate as well as more extensive, nature-focused jaunts into the sanctuary where horses, goats, dogs, cats and parrots roam around as if they own the place (and they kind of do). Other on-site programs allow kids opportunities to play with the animals, pick coffee beans and learn how coffee is grown, harvested and roasted. Adults and teens, meanwhile, will enjoy coffee samples and the quiet, clutter- and tourist trap-free setting.
Buddha’s Sanctuary is also infusing a touch of 21st-century science into the coffee cultivation process thanks to Christine Coleman (granddaughter of California wine scion Julio Gallo, who purchased the estate in 2003). As an agricultural expert, Coleman discovered placing beans inside a Blu Room with UV-B brings about a cleaner, less acidic taste in brewed coffees. Guests are allowed to relax inside the estate’s Blu Room, as the effects of UV-B light have been found to benefit humans in treating or alleviating a variety of health-related issues. A Blu Gro greenhouse is now in use for growing disease-resistant coffee plants with an optimal growth rate.
For an extra fee, one-hour and half-hour driving tours offer a safari-like experience via 4×4 Jeep, covering the property’s 80 acres — like a jaunt through a real life Jurassic Park with its forest of exotic trees and plants, minus the dinosaurs. One-hour tours include five farm samplings of coffees, teas and rum cakes and run $40 for adults and $10 for kids 6–12 (free for kids under 6). Thirty-minute tours (with two coffee samples) run $20 for adults and $10 for kids. Tours of any length may also incorporate opportunities to try some of the year-round bounty of tropical fruits, including tangerines, star fruit and avocados.
It’s been nearly 40 years since Mauna Loa Volcano on the Big Island of Hawai’i erupted, but things suddenly changed late in the night of Nov. 27, when the sleeping giant came to life. This eruption, occurring inside Volcanoes National Park in the center of the island, has sent lava flowing in what is known as the “northeast rift zone.”
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