Do you love coffee? Do you like to travel?
If you said yes to both questions, you’d be thrilled to know that you can combine the two by visiting a coffee plantation.
Visiting a coffee plantation is an eye-opening experience. It’s a chance to see the world’s best coffee in each stage of production. Not only that, you’ll be able to sample these high-quality coffees yourself and bring some beans home to commemorate your trip.
Perhaps best of all, it’s a way to broaden your cultural horizons. It’s a chance to come into contact with people living a completely different lifestyle and discover the distinctive identity of a nation. When you visit a coffee-growing country, it’s truly a life-altering journey.
Below is a guide to the best coffee plantation tours in all the major coffee-growing regions of the world. You’ll also find some helpful information on other neat things to do on your trip, such as entertainment, shopping, outdoor activities, and historical landmarks.
All set for your ultimate coffee lover’s vacation? Great! Let’s take off!
A Note on Hawaii and the Kilauea Volcanic Eruption
Before we begin, I’d like to take a moment to address the situation in Hawaii regarding the eruption of Mt. Kilauea going on as of this writing. Naturally, if you’re planning on visiting Hawaii right now or in the near future, you might have some concerns about current conditions. Here’s what I’ve found:
On May 17th, 2018, the Hawaii Tourism Authority stated that “there is absolutely no reason for visitors planning a trip to the Hawaiian Islands to change or alter their leisure or business travel plans.” It goes on to say that all of Hawaii’s major airports are operating normally, as are the state’s major accommodations, activities, and attractions, except those in the area affected by the volcano.
So, as far as the experts are concerned, traveling to Hawaii is a go. I’ve provided this information so you can make your best judgment as to whether to visit Hawaii now or postpone your trip to when the eruption has settled down.
Our odyssey begins in the birthplace of coffee: East Africa. Coffee isn’t just a primary source of income in East Africa; it’s a way of life. Touring a coffee plantation in East Africa gives you an inside look at the continued importance of coffee in this region as well as many memorable experiences.
• Ethiopia. Ethiopia is the cradle of coffee cultivation. Many legends surround the discovery of coffee here, and coffee has been the backbone of Ethiopian society for centuries. Ethiopian devotion to coffee is deeply sacred, rooted in the importance of human relationships and interconnectedness.
At the centerpiece of the country’s coffee culture is the Ethiopian coffee ceremony, an elaborate ritual that takes place three times a day in most parts of Ethiopia. It is a special time of bonding for the village communities. It’s also a significant component of hospitality and therefore essential when Ethiopians invite visitors to their homes. If you have the good fortune to witness an authentic coffee ceremony on your trip to Ethiopia, it’s a near-spiritual experience that will open up your soul.
Coffee plantations to visit in Ethiopia can be found in the Kaffa, Sidama, Yirgacheffe, Limmu, Harrar, and Jimma. The peak harvest season is generally from November to February. Companies offering coffee tours in Ethiopia include Intrepid Travel, FANOS Ethiopia, Eyayaw Tours Ethiopia, and East Africa Eco Tour.
While you’re in the area, why not visit one of Ethiopia’s ancient monasteries or cathedrals? Or take a trek to the gorgeous Blue Nile Falls or Simien Mountains National Park? Ethiopia offers excellent nature parks, biking, and hiking tours as well as museums, markets, art galleries, and places to eat.
Seated on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Moshi is the Tanzanian capital of the coffee industry. Budget Safari Tanzania offers hands-on experience at a small coffee farm where you can participate in growing and harvesting coffee beans yourself. Adventures Within Reach provides a 3-hour tour of a Moshi plantation that includes a tasty lunch and a trip to the local market.
Another central coffee-growing region in Tanzania is Arusha, where you can find some of the largest coffee farms in East Africa. A tour created by Wild Things Safaris lets you try out the traditional machinery and equipment still used in coffee growing today.
No visit to Tanzania is complete without a climb up the magnificent Kilimanjaro or exciting safaris at Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater. Enjoy a relaxing lounge on the beach at Zanzibar, sample the Indian-influence cuisine, and buy an exquisite piece of kanga cloth as a souvenir.
The central Highlands of Kenya is home to Fairview Estate. Perched more than 5700 feet above sea level, the Riara River and its associated streams irrigate this sprawling farm, which boasts high-quality coffee that is a trademark of the Kenyan brand. Lush greenery and a glorious waterfall round out the natural surroundings of this must-see coffee destination.
Another not-to-miss spot is the Karen Blixen Coffee Garden and Cottages. If you’ve read Blixen’s memoir Out of Africa or seen the film, this will be a particular place to visit. Not only will a guide show you around the sunny estate and museum, but you’ll also have the chance to sample some great coffee and yummy food in a beautiful natural setting.
Kenya features some of the coolest safaris and wildlife conservancies in Africa. Sites include Maasai Mara National Reserve, Samburu Reserve, and Mt. Kenya National Park. Check out the endangered Rothschild giraffes at Giraffe Manor or the elephants at Kitum Cave. Outdoor activities include hiking, biking, boat tours, scuba diving, surfing, and balloon rides. The capital of Nairobi offers a fabulous nightlife with numerous clubs and bars, and markets offering one-of-a-kind souvenirs abound.
Community-based travel agency Mountain Gorilla Coffee Tours are dedicated to helping the local community of the Kisoro region of Uganda through sustainable tourism and development. They feature tours of 9 or 12 days including not only a visit to coffee plantation, but also excursions to wildlife sanctuaries featuring gorillas, rhinos, lions, chimps, and other exotic animals. Other places to check out include Bulansuku Coffee Farm Estates and 1000 Cups Coffee House.
In Rwanda, the Huye Mountain Coffee tour offers an affordable three-hour trip for just $50 a person. Another tour along scenic Lake Kivu allows you to witness a complete “crop-to-cup” experience at a lovely lakefront setting. While you’re visiting, take a side trip to Volcanoes National Park. You can also take classes in traditional Rwandan drumming, dance, and cooking.
The mountainous regions of South and Central America and the volcanic soils of Hawaii and the Caribbean produce a wide variety of coffees with interesting variations in acidity and body. Here, you’ll find great-tasting coffees in exotic locales and extraordinary cultural adventures.
Hawaii is the home of Kona coffee, one of the world’s most excellent coffee varieties. Among the biggest coffee farms on the Big Island of Hawaii, Mountain Thunder near Kailua-Kona is a must-see with free tours every hour on the hour and samplings of its award-winning coffee.
Another not-to-be-missed location is Kona Coffee Living History Farm, the only one of its kind on the nation. In addition to a walk among the coffee trees, performers wear traditional clothing and re-enact the daily lives of their ancestors. Other sites worth a visit include:
• Kona Joe
• Koa Coffee Plantation
• Hula Daddy
• Ka’u Coffee Mill
For an even more exciting coffee lover’s adventure, the annual Kona Coffee Festival offers a deeper gaze into Hawaii’s coffee crop as well as traditional dance, music, parades, and food.
On the other Hawaiian islands, you can take tours at Waialua Estate on Oahu, Ka’anapali Estate on Maui, and Molokai Coffee Plantation on Molokai. Of course, Hawaii features some of the most amazing beaches in the world as well as its beloved hula dances and luaus.
Finca El Pacifico in the Huatulco region of Mexico is an organic coffee plantation that features greenhouses with coffee seedlings in addition to a tour of the grounds (no pun intended). Huatulco also boasts fabulous beaches, water sports, golf courses, art museums, and sites of historical interest.
The Blue Mountain Peak in Jamaica rises more than 7000 feet above sea level. Its high altitude and fertile volcanic soil create a smooth cup of coffee that is among the most highly prized on Earth. At Alex Twyman’s Old Blue Mountain Coffee Estate, you’ll find fantastic coffee and breathtaking scenery. You can take in even more of the mountain with hiking trails and bike tours. Also worth checking out are Jamaica’s lovely beaches and the Bob Marley Museum.
In Costa Rica, the coastal village of Puerto Viejo features small coffee farms to visit. If you have a sweet tooth, Caribeans Coffee and Chocolate has a factory that makes decadent chocolate in addition to great coffee.
The western Highlands of Guatemala is the hub of that country’s coffee trade. Filadelfia Coffee Resort has a favorite coffee tour along with paintball, bird watching, mountain biking, and mule rides. As Green As It Gets provides a coffee tour with a glimpse into the daily life of a Guatemalan coffee farmer. For an encounter with the ancient culture of the Maya civilization, try Tours Atitlan’s through the villages near Lake Atitlan.
The traditional process of making Ataco coffee can be seen at El Salvador’s El Carmen Hotel and Coffee Resort. El Salvador Custom Tours offers a coffee and cocoa trip, and Puerto Barillas Marina & Lodge offers a coffee and flower route with stunning views of the mountains, volcanoes, villages and markets, and adventures like mountain biking, horseback riding, zip-lining, and ATV tours.
For coffee tours in Nicaragua, Hacienda El Progreso at Café Las Flores includes zip lines and treks up the slopes of the magnificent Mombacho volcano in addition to the coffee farm itself. Matagalpa Tours offers excursions lasting from a few hours to two days as well as nature hikes and sustainable farm tours.
Boquete, Panama, features one of the rarest and most sought-after coffees in the world, Geisha coffee. The volcanic soil and mountain air make Boquete perfect for growing fine, high-quality coffee like no other. Farms to visit in Boquete include Finca La Valentina, Hacienda Esmeralda, Finca Dos Jefes, and Café Ruiz, where you can discover the unique wonders of Geisha coffee for yourself.
Colombia is the world’s third-largest producer of coffee behind Brazil and Vietnam. Experiencia Cafetera’s WakeCup Tour and Hacienda Venecia offer some of the most in-depth coffee tours anywhere amid charming villages and lush forest surroundings. For the diehard coffee fan, the ultimate experience is the Parque Nacional del Café, a coffee theme park (yes, you read that right) with coffee food vendors, exhibits, museums, and thrilling rides.
The Campinas Coffee Plantation Tour is a full-day trip where you’ll learn all about the history of Brazilian coffee, which dates back to the 18th century. Turismo Nuevo Mundo offers a trip to the Imperial Coffee Valley, where you’ll see not only coffee but also a preserved 19th-century farmhouse complete with antique furniture and works of art.
Cuzco in the Peruvian rainforest is the site of some small coffee farms that you can visit. Levanta Lima Coffee Tours gives you a close-up view of the agricultural and scientific processes of making a great cup of coffee as well as some tasty snacks to enjoy with your samples.
You might think of Asia as a tea-drinking region, but the continent produces strong, robust coffees with earthy flavors and herbal tones. The major coffee-producing countries of Asia treat visitors to incredible sights and sound and vibrant cultural exchanges unlike anything elsewhere.
Karnataka in South India is the center of the country’s coffee industry. Coorg, known as “India’s Coffee District,” is home to Tata Coffee’s Plantation Trails and also Silver Brook Estate, which feature convenient homestay lodgings. Other places to visit include MSP Coffee and Glenrock Estates in Tamil Nadu and Wayanad in Kerala.
Dalat in the central Highlands of Vietnam is known for its beautiful mountain scenery as well as its thriving coffee culture. Coffee tours here include La Viet, K’Ho Coffee, and Cau Dat. Most Vietnamese coffee farms are eco-friendly and support the local population.
The Doi Chaang coffee company in the Golden Triangle of Thailand features an open-air design coffee house and a museum dedicated to the history of Thai coffee production. In Chiang Mai, the Lahu people run the Suan Lahu coffee plantation, where they also grow fruit-bearing trees such as lychees, avocados, and lemon trees. As if that weren’t enough, Suan Lahu lets you get up close to farm animals like chickens and pigs and work right on the farm.
Sumatra is Indonesia’s largest producer of coffee and has several coffee plantations to visit. Kaliklatak in East Java is a coffee plantation with peaceful gardens and a laid-back atmosphere. Viator offers a sunrise hiking and coffee tour on Mount Batu on Bali as well as tours of Bali’s astounding temples and other architecture.
Whew! That was a lot of ground to cover, but hopefully, by now you’ve got a pretty good sense of how many impressive coffee plantations you can go to. Visiting a coffee plantation is indeed an eye-opening experience guaranteed to broaden your coffee horizons as well as your taste for adventure.
Are you ready for the trip of a lifetime? Then what are you waiting for? Book your visit to a coffee plantation today and have a real coffee lover’s vacation! Bon voyage!
Heather McNamara is a freelance writer who creates smart copy for smart readers. For her, the history and culture of coffee are a source of fascination, and consuming it (in considerable quantities) is a significant part of her creative process. When she’s not working, she enjoys reading, handicrafts, learning languages, and teasing her rescue dog for not having thumbs.