Posts tagged with "Big Island travel"

Kona Coffee Fest

360 Magazine’s Culture Editor, Tom Wilmer shares highlights of the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival on the Big Island of Hawaii November 1st through November 10th.

Celebrating its 49th year, the ten-day affair is Hawaii’s oldest food festival. Of course the legendary Kona coffee is the anchor, but music, art, crafts, dance and farm tours are integral aspects of the event.

The festival is an affair that locals savor and look forward to all year, with months of behind-the-scenes advance planning. A popular event with the locals, chefs, and consumers alike is the KTA Super Store’s Kona Coffee Recipe Contest.

There are festivals around the world that are crafted primarily for the tourist, but this is one of those special events that’s propelled by passionate islanders–and visitors are instantly welcomed in to the fold and quickly feel the Aloha of being a member of the island family.

The festival kicks-off November 1st with a sunset Lantern Parade strolling down Alii Drive in the heart of historic Kailua Village.

A sampler of other cool events include a coffee and arts stroll though Holualoa Town, cultural activities and demonstrations with local artists at the Donkey Mill Art Center, and the Miss Kona Coffee Scholarship Competition at the Aloha Theater—and those are just samplers from one day in the festival line up.


Did you know there are more than 600 Kona Coffee estate-producers within the Kona District—and if it ain’t grown in Kona District-it ain’t Kona Coffee.

Coffee has been a part of Hawaii’s agricultural fabric for more than 200 years. It was the immigrants, many who were looking for an alternative to working in the sugarcane fields, who propelled the coffee industry on the Big Island and throughout the State of Hawaii.

Symbolic of Hawaii’s multi-cultural roots, the pioneering coffee workers and planters’ roots read like a page from the United Nations—China, Portugal, Korea, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Japan, Hawaiians and Europeans—and today fifth and sixth generation coffee farmers continue the tradition.


The Festival honors the historic cultural roots with living-history farm tours, coffee picking and other hands-on farm experiences, a Kona Coffee 101 Seminar, and the Kona Historical Society’s Annual Farm Fest.

Greenwell Farms is hosting a “seed to cup” tour that includes a close-up look at the harvesting, process, and of course tasting Greenwell’s 100% award-winning Kona Coffee.


For the coffee purest, be sure to mark your calendar to experience the Kona Coffee Cupping Competition. A panel of judges from around the world will conduct side-by-side blind tastings of more than 50 entries.

Grand Finale—a Taste of Kona at the Sheraton

An evening of culinary delights featuring local Island Chefs and a fabulous silent auction. Music and dancing under the stars with award-winning Kahulanui- a nine piece Hawaiian Swing Band from the Big Island of Hawaii.

Certified cupping judges who have spent three days scoring Kona’s top farms in the prestigious Kona Coffee Cupping Competition will be on-hand to discuss results. Tickets are $50 general and $80 VIP (includes table seating) and can be purchased online at and search The Grand Finale… A Taste of Kona! Come meet the winners from the Kona Coffee cupping contest and the Kona Coffee recipe contest at the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay.

Click here to listen to KCBX/NPR ONE Podcast interview with Festival Board President Valerie Corcoran.

Big Island’s Bright Side

360 Magazine Culture Editor Tom Wilmer reports from the Big Island of Hawaii

The reason the 4,000-square-mile island of Hawaii is fondly dubbed the “Big Island” is because it’s the size of Connecticut—it’s so big, all of the other Hawaiian Islands would fit within the boundary of the island.

The island’s recent volcanic activity has impacted the economy due to substantial cancellations by vacationers. But there are major resort destinations far from the adverse effects of the lava flows and attendant air pollution.

For example, the Kohala Coast—with a large enclave of homes, condos, and resorts—is situated approximately 100 miles from the East Rift Zone.

Join the conversation with three islanders as they share their thoughts about the positive aspects of island life today. Simon Amos is the hotel manager at the Hilton Waikoloa Village; Vicky Kometani works at the historic Mauna Kea Resort in the heart of the Kohala Coast; and Laura Aquino is with Island Events based in Kona.

Mauna Kea’s beach is one of Hawaii’s most exotic


Many local businesses island-wide are experiencing a downturn in business, and some workers have had their hours cut back or been laid off due to the decrease in tourism.

International news reports have been surgically focused on the Kīlauea volcano’s East Rift Zone volcanic eruptions and seismic activity—leaving many people with the false impression that the entire island is a disaster zone.

Big Island Hawaii’s Kohala Coast sunset

Paradoxically, Volcanoes National Park has been the island’s number one tourist draw for decades.

150 years ago, 31 year-old Mark Twain put the island’s volcanism on the world map when he came to the island specifically to experience and write about the island’s volcanic activity as a correspondent for the Sacramento Union newspaper in 1866.

Helicopter flightseeing companies, such as Paradise Helicopters, cater to tourists and locals alike signing up for over-flights of the volcano. Adventurous tourists and locals are hopeful that a viewing platform will open in the near future for up-close observation of the flows.

Volcanism and its attendant vog (volcanic fog) have been an intermittent part of island life for more than 30 years. Vog is definitely an issue in the Kona Kailua area, but most days up the coast along the Kohala Coast the sky is often bright blue and clear.

The Journey of Hilton Waikoloa’s Simon Amos

360 Magazine’s Culture Editor Tom Wilmer reports from the Hilton Waikoloa Village

More often than not, the coolest stories about upscale hotels and resorts are often untold. While resorts are quick to tout their alluring amenities such as a new spa, or rebranded restaurant, they too often take for granted the unsung, behind the scenes transformative environmental initiatives implemented by management teams.

A classic example is the litany of game changing environmental initiatives spurred by 42 year-old Simon Amos, Hotel Manager at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on Hawaii’s Big Island.

Amos and his associates at the Hilton were the first mega resort in the entire Hawaiian Islands’ tourism industry to ban plastic straws.

Amos noted that more than 800,000 plastic straws were eliminated from the waste stream by switching to a compostable alternative.

Simon Amos’s white board hit list of sustainability initiatives for 2018 at the Hilton Waikoloa Village

Another industry game changer was when Amos and his associates decided to install water bottle refilling stations around the Hilton property–mitigating the wasteful use of individual, disposable water bottles—eliminating as many as 250,000 plastic bottles from the waste stream annually.

Complimentary refillable water containers save hundreds of thousands of plastic bottles from the waste stream

Equally engaging but again not the stuff that a marketing firm would likely select for a glossy advert in a travel magazine is the incredible life journey of a hotel manager such as Simon Amos.


The hospitality industry started coursing through Amos’s veins as a 13 year-old in England when he was washing dishes and bussing tables.

Earning a National Diploma in Hotel and Catering from Hasting College of Arts and Technology, Amos’s early career path included the honor of serving Queen Elizabeth, a stint as assistant food and beverage manager at the iconic Hilton Park Lane, and working at the Cumberland, and Cadogan hotels in London.

He also worked a as headwaiter aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2, training in food and beverage at the Ritz in London, and working at the fabled Lancaster in Paris. His term at Hilton’s flagship property the Park Lane in London led Amos to accept a position with Hilton Hotels & Resorts in China where he served for five years. He started in food & beverage before accepting the role as  Hilton Beijing’s Operations Manager.

During Simon Amos’s tenure at the Hilton Beijing was creating a special off-site catered dinner for 1,000 guests at the Great Wall of China

A Hilton Beijing Pole Competition instituted by Simon Amos was so successful that it went for five seasons

Simon Amos instituted a super popular Black Tie Charity Brawl during his tenure at the Hilton Beijing featuring eight U.S. fighters matched against eight Chinese

Amos departed China five years ago to work at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island of Hawaii, commencing with a position in food & beverage before assuming the duties as Hotel Manager.

Cherished time off for Simon Amos at the Hilton Waikoloa Village includes deep sea fishing expeditions along the Kona Coast

Amos retains a lifelong passion to source and showcase local culinary offerings, along with a never-ending quest to implement environmental solutions and initiatives at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, even though it’s not the stuff that typically makes the cover of The Sunday Times Travel Magazine or Condé Nast Traveler.