Text by Brittany Lyte | Image by Meagan Suzuki
On a recent morning, the hiking trails that spill into the red bowl of Kaua‘i’s Waimea Canyon were socked in by silvery clouds threatening rain. An hour postponement of the day’s adventures seemed wise: Weather patterns often pass swiftly over the summit, revealing what appears to be the makings of a monsoon as a mere moody blip between blue skies. In moments like this, when the sky turns grey, sightseers are drawn to Little Fish Coffee like moths to light, settling into the coffee bar’s line to wait out the incoming torrent with aid from a piping-hot espresso drink.
The coffee bar, which opened in September 2016 at rustic Kōke‘e Lodge, offers visitors to Waimea Canyon and Kōke‘e state parks hand-brewed local coffee, loose-leaf teas, and fresh fruit smoothies at an elevation of 3,600 feet. While secluded in the upper reaches of Kaua‘i’s spectacularly craggy hinterlands, you can now enjoy pure Kona coffee, a latte seasoned with cayenne pepper and honey, or a plantation iced tea, which is a tangy blend of liliko’i tea and pineapple juice.
This is the second outlet for Little Fish Coffee, which opened its first location on Kaua‘i in the small town of Hanapepē in 2011. There, owner Ethan Page remodeled the space with his own two hands, and recruited his mom to bake pastries like sticky buns and croissants. His mother-in-law works the counter, ringing up drinks like the Midnight Marauder, which is four shots of espresso plus sweetened condensed milk.
Whether travelers are headed to Waimea to start the drive along the canyon, or awaiting a hike at the end of the road, Little Fish Coffee’s outposts offer not only bold, locally sourced caffeine, but also cozy ambiences in which to enjoy thoughtfully crafted drinks. Hanapepē’s location has small tables and art on the walls, while the Kōke‘e coffee bar has a small sitting room with wooden chairs and couches that host backpackers sipping chai as they chart treks on paper maps.
When the clouds break and the trails beckon, hikers fold up their maps and hit the road. Though the espresso machine’s low gurgle emanates a sense of homey comfort, Kaua‘i’s most spectacular views are right outside.