Remember Surge Soda as a Kid? It's probably the drink your parents never wanted you to have
Manoa (& Kakaako)
Whether they're making espresso drinks like macchiatos or pour-over cups, this coffeehouse amps up its caffeine game with individually filtered, brewed-to-order cups of joe, because pre-made coffee doesn’t exist here. Bonus: pour-over coffee lovers have a plethora of Stumptown roasts to ponder in addition to a Hawaiian coffee-of-the-day. The cups take about five minutes to brew, but the result is a cleaner, richer flavor that’s sure to turn you into a coffee snob... if you’re not one already. Stop by the original location to pair your caffeine fix with a breakfast & lunch menu shaped from local ingredients. And if you're on the go, the homemade baked goods are an excellent accompaniment.
Downtown (& other locations)
At first glance, this coffee shop’s rotating sassy emoticon coffee sleeves might seem like the best part of the whole experience. Come on, who doesn’t find a little bit of joy toting around a cup with a slanted-lipped emoji announcing “today was a meh kind of day"? They're basically made for Instagram. But besides its crafty mug sleeves, this coffee bar pumps out smooth, handcrafted orders of Verve coffee beans or custom-roasted Slayer espresso from a spacey-looking steam-powered machine to create a perfectly brewed cup. After a sip of a warm house blend or a cold-brewed iced coffee, it’s enough to want to turn your emoticon frown upside-down.
In this tiny coffee bar located on the ground floor of the Pioneer Plaza Building in downtown Honolulu, you’ll find only 100% locally grown coffee, sourced from farms across the islands. This micro roaster offers up Thai lattes, maple white mochas, iced caramel cappuccinos with housemade caramel sauce, and also classic cups of black coffee, if you keep it simple. Pair your selection with homemade treats like a matcha green tea torte and consider your morning or mid-day exhaustion cured.
After Brue Bar vacated its pop-up spot at Paiko, it left a coffee-shaped hole in the botanical boutique, one that could only be filled by this Australian-style coffee shop. Get your java buzz the Down-Under way, with a Long Black (think super-strong Americano) or a Flat White (like a latte, but with less foam). If a liquid breakfast or lunch isn’t enough to get you moving, the café is home to some pretty eye-pleasing and delicious snacks, like loaded avocado toasts and matcha chia seed pudding layered with fruits and edible flowers. And although "arvo" is Aussie slang for “afternoon,” this joint offers a caffeinated pick-me-up in the mornings, also.
Waikiki (& Downtown)
Sure, its flagship store began in tourist-powered Waikiki, but the family-owned coffee shop knows its beans, as well as its customer service. Dapper, bow tie-wearing baristas whip, grind, brew, and pour signature blends made exclusively from locally grown beans. Those looking to satisfy a sweet fix can find liquid happiness with a Kai Latte, served with mac-nut whipped cream and a chocolate-covered mac nut topping, while coffee purists can relish pour-over coffee or a smooth 12-hour cold brew. For those looking to avoid the Waikiki traffic, a new Downtown location opened a few weeks ago, offering up with the same island flavors.
Downtown (& other locations)
One of the godfathers of coffee on the islands, this coffee company has been roasting high-quality local coffee since 1992, when Honolulu’s coffee scene was nearly non-existent. What began as a small kiosk in Downtown Honolulu has expanded to include stores on Hawaii Island, Maui, Guam, Japan, and China, all serving the same ripe coffee cherries hand-plucked from its Kona coffee farm. Last year, the company opened the Honolulu Coffee Experience Center, which combines an educational coffee museum with a piazza-style café. But at any location, you can find everything from hot, 100% Kona French press coffee, to delicately designed latte art, to signature drinks like an iced Nutty Hawaiian. This coffee chain remains one of the best places in Honolulu to grab a consistently delicious cup.
The cozy café, located just a couple blocks from the University of Hawaii, is not only a comfortable study spot for the kids, but a specialty coffee house utilizing organic, fair-trade beans. Frappés and iced drinks are on the menu, but the shop’s crowning glory is its hot lattes, with a golden caramel-colored crema, often the canvas for some truly lovely espresso art.
Kaimuki (& other locations)
Once a food truck that toted its beans and brews from curbside to curbside, this independently owned local coffee shop put down not one, but three brick-and-mortar roots in Honolulu. Find classic cups like cortados, lattes, Americanos, and espresso, sourced from local and mainland roasters. Add house-made syrups like lavender or macadamia nut for a customized pour, and be thankful you don’t have to hunt down its truck anymore to get a daily caffeine buzz.
1. Morning Glass Coffee + Cafe2955 E Manoa Rd, Honolulu
2. Brue Bar119 Merchant St Ste 101, Honolulu
3. Downtown Coffee900 Fort Street Mall Ste 100, Honolulu
4. ARVO675 Auahi St, Honolulu
5. Kai Coffee Hawaii2424 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu
6. Honolulu Coffee Company1001 Bishop St, Honolulu
7. Glazers Coffee2700 S King St, #D101, Honolulu
8. The Curb3538 Waialae Ave, Honolulu
Pre-made coffee doesn't exist in this breezy Manoa Rd coffeeshop—whether they're making espresso drinks like macchiatos or pour-over cups, this coffeehouse does individually filtered, brewed-to-order cups of joe every time. Patrons can choose between a plethora of Stumptown roasts or a Hawaiian coffee-of-the-day for their cup, which takes about five minutes to brew. Breakfast and lunch are available with a changing list of decadent specials and dishes sourced from local island ingredients, like their Kalei eggs which are fresh every day. Bakery treats are available for people on-the-go, but with plentiful seating inside and out on the front patio, why would you rush?
This sleek, sophisticated coffee bar pumps out handcrafted orders of Verve coffee beans or custom-roasted Slayer espresso all day for thirsty customers. Using a space age vacuum-powered machine for individual cups, each brew from Brue is smooth, creamy, perfectly balanced, and fun to watch come together. A bustling downtown cafe serves commuters and students with coffee and tea to go, while loungers take advantage of the large tables and window seating for a relaxed cup. There's no food at Brue so it's not ideal for all-day studying, but the downtown location makes it easy to grab a post-coffee snack elsewhere.
In this tiny coffee bar located on the ground floor of the Pioneer Plaza Building in downtown Honolulu, you’ll find only 100% locally grown coffee, sourced from farms across the islands. The staff of friendly locals will be only too happy to tell you about the farms and their excellent coffees, and they'll probably learn your name while they're at it. The small space doesn't encourage long stays, but that doesn't mean there aren't any regulars at this local favorite stop. In-house made baked goods pair excellently with the brewed coffee, or you can step it up with one of their creamy specialty espresso drinks.
This modern and casual coffee shop in the Kakaako district offers up Australian-style coffee drinks paired with healthy Hawaiian and Aussie treats. The house special is a down under creation called a "long black"—a double shot of espresso over hot water, like an Americano but stronger. Vegemite makes multiple appearances on the menu here, giving a salty umami twist to breakfast staples like avocado toast. Bright and clean, it's not so much cozy as Instagram-friendly, but the drinks are strong and the food perks you up without weighing you down.
The flagship store of this family-owned coffeeshop is in tourist-powered Waikiki, but it's worth it to fight through the crowds for some of these lattes. In this hip, modern space dapper bow tie-wearing baristas whip, grind, brew, and pour signature blends made exclusively from locally grown beans. The signature drink here is a Kai Latte, which marries island beans with macadamia nut whipped cream and chocolate-covered macadamia nuts on top. For purists, Kai Coffee makes pour-overs, Aeropress pots, and french presses from your choice of bean as well as a 12-hour cold brew. A selection of bakery treats from local bakers are also available.
One of the godfathers of coffee on the islands, Honolulu Coffee has been roasting high-quality local beans since 1992. What began as a small kiosk in Downtown Honolulu has since majorly expanded to become a mini chain throughout the islands (and with an outpost in Japan) all serving the same ripe coffee cherries hand-plucked from its Kona coffee farm. Patrons can taste the coffee variety of their choice in a pour-over or a french press, or try one of the chain's signature espresso drinks topped with delicate latte art. They're well known for a drink called the "Nutty Hawaiian" which combines both local coconut and macadamia for a sweet, complex drink either hot or cold. Their pastries are baked daily in-house for peak freshness, and choices change seasonally.
Glazers Coffee is a cozy little spot located just a few blocks from the University of Hawaii, meaning it's almost always full of buzzing students in need of their next caffeine fix. It's worth to make the trek here, though, for some of the island's best espresso drinks. Not only are the beans organic and fair trade (so you don't have to feel guilty drinking them), but the resulting lattes/cappuccinos etc. come decorated with some truly exceptional espresso art. If coffee isn't your thing, Glazers also makes a line of frappes and fruity shakes in their space inspired by the tradition of Seattle coffeehouses. Warm and welcoming, this shop encourages customers to treat the space as a second living room—so make yourself comfortable.
The Curb started life as a food truck that toted its beans and brews from curbside to curbside, but this independently owned coffee shop has since expanded to multiple brick-and-mortar locations around Honolulu. At any location customers can find classic espresso drinks like cortados and lattes made with beans sourced from local roasters or Stumptown, as well as Japanese-style iced coffee. House-made syrups like lavender or macadamia nut can customize the drinks, and house-made baked goods will help your stomach deal with all the extra caffeine.