Whenever I can, I love eating like the locals, but finding that spot when you’re traveling can be difficult. Sometimes a bit of research can be key, and other times it’s just dumb luck.
This Thanksgiving, I was fortunate to get away for a few days with my family. With the kids in school now, there are really only a few weeks we can get away during the school year. And while Thanksgiving has been a constant for our families for years now, we decided to jump ship and take the time to travel.
This trip took us to Oahu. Specifically, the resort area of Ko’ Olina. Located on the Southwest side of the island, Ko ‘Olina is a bit drier than the east of the island, and boasts some sweet waves, but nothing like the famed North Shore.
On the research front – it was all about MonkeyPod. A tasty spot right inside the resort area. And.. There may or may not be another write-up coming about their pizza.
But what I hadn’t researched coming in was where we were going to find some unique coffee. I mean there’s a small local chain called Vintage Island, and don’t get me wrong, their coffee was good, but it wasn’t what I was looking to ‘write home about.’ And frankly, with a pizza review already banked, I wasn’t really looking that hard anymore for coffee.
Nevertheless, coffee found us. On our last day on the island, we planned to drive up to the North Shore. Check out the shops, check out the waves, and get the kids all sugared up on Halwaile’s (SP) famed shaved ice.
On the drive up we had been casually looking for a spot to stop for coffee. At this point more of a ‘need’ than a ‘want’ – so I figured we’d probably end up at a Starbucks. But along the way, we passed the small inland town of Wahiawa. Through a short, ‘downtownish’ section there was a small brick building with big letters across the top – COFFEE. Getting a bit closer I could read the sign on the window, “Surfer Coffee”. And there it is, let’s stop there.
First things first. It’s a small little area and being on the main strip parking was not ideal. Next door to the shop was a little ramen house, which had some open spots. “Parking for these businesses – all others will be towed.’ Hmmm… Clearly, the ramen house was closed, I can literally see chains on the doors, should I chance it?? Of Course. We’ll be in and out and no one’s even home at the ramen joint.
My weary traveling partner, on the other hand, she’s a bit more of a rule follower. Not impressed with my choice of parking. But again, we’ll be quick. Maybe.
At the front door of the coffee shop, there is an entire reader board dedicated to telling you where (and where not to park). And inside the shop are multiple signs reminding you of the same. And yes, the ramen house seems to be quite tow-happy according to the literature.
Now they got me spooked. Grab the car and figure out a series of one way to get back to the street parking, which is approved, and luckily score a spot right out front.
Step one on this little endeavor – follow the signs. Do not park at the ramen house or you will get towed! 😂
Back to the good stuff. 2 steps into the shop and I knew we found the spot I wasn’t even looking for. Classic surf prints covered the walls like a Shenanigans. Headshots of famous local surfers, killer waves shots, and vintage surf comp posters too. Plus some surfer boards here and there too.
It was also clear right away they had a distinct swag style too. Dulled pastel postcards simply said ‘Coffee, Coffee, Coffee’ and their logo wears which consisted of just the name and some line waves. All of which clearly was designed to appeal to the sticker lover in me.
It’s a loud shop. Not like screaming children loud, but more like a social spot. With hard brick walls and hard with still welcoming wooden tables and chairs, the sound definitely moved around. It’s a place you come to meet friends, not to study for the SATs.
The crew was about what I was expecting to find. The lady at the register was sporting a foot (or more of dreads) clean, and professional though, you know, business dreads. And the younger guy behind her slinging drinks had the curly top, mullet fade. Not sure if that’s what they call it, but you know what I’m saying right? Hip stuff.
The chalkboard menu was pretty hip too, up behind the counter adorned with palm trees and surf art on the sides. The menu was a bit surprising at first. Espresso, drip, macchiatos.. it was all the classic stuff. No macadamia nut this or coconut that. Hmm.. I mean I’m not mad at that, just unexpected I guess.
But alas, located up near the register was the ‘Underground Menu”. Not super hidden, nor super underground, but this was the one I thought I’d find.
We went for 2. The Cocomora – with coconut and white chocolate. And the White Wash, a macadamia nut, white chocolate cold brew. Iced of coursed. Both were absolutely delicious. The Cocomora was perfect for someone looking for that sweet kick in their morning coffee and White Wash offered a nice flavor but still let the coffee shine through.
And if you really liked the coffee itself, and I did, don’t stress you can get it on the mainland. No Surfer Coffee doesn’t export. Rather they import. Direct from Stumptown in Portland.
So if I ever gift you a bag of Stumptown and tell you it’s from Hawaii, that’s not entirely wrong. 🤷♂️ It’s very much mostly wrong.. but maybe not.
Back to the shop.. Spending some time here, we learned a few other neat facts about the place. First was that the coffee shop was actually started by full time volunteers. A group of locals opened up the shop in a fairly shady part of town, hoping to help rejuvenate the area. That was back in 2011, and coming through now, I’d defiantly say they did great in getting the area cleaned up, I wouldn’t have thought twice about coming through.
A second interesting fact about the place was that the building was actually damaged in the attack on Pearl Harbor. What a lot of folks don’t know if that the attack on Pearl Harbor actually started with bombings of many of the airfields on the island, a move to prevent the US from a counter attack after the Japanese planes started attacking the harbor. This building was close enough to that action to have taken damage, forcing the original business to have to close up to restore.
Overall, 10/10 recommend. It might not be a destination spot, but Surfer Coffee was the perfect pit stop along the journey.
And if you find yourself there soon enough, maybe you’ll find some TWS stickers hidden amongst the Surfer Coffee Stickers up by the register. If you do, I don’t know how they got there. 😎