Arts and Culture

Redefining Kona Cafe Culture – Iwa Arts & Cafe

Located in the little historic town called Honalo on the way to Kealakekua Bay is the Iwa Arts & Café, welcoming artists and café lovers alike to its unique and creative space. The café is named after the Iwa bird (pronounced ee-vah) that symbolizes flight and exploration, which correlates to their philosophy of being open to new possibilities.

The warm and welcoming atmosphere encourages locals, travelers, and families to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee and freshly baked bread and pastries while utilizing the space to get creative, or simply relax and soak in the beautiful local art featured throughout the café’s gallery.

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of visiting the Iwa Arts & Café and enjoying coffee and my favorite avocado toast with owners Anne Catlin and John Matsushita to learn more about the unique café, its rich history, and the connection it brings to the community.

One of the most unique features of the café is that the building has been in the same family since the 1880s, originally founded by the late Henry Weeks; carpenter, canoe builder, blacksmith, and ferrier. Anne and John do a fantastic job at honoring and preserving this Hawaiian history of the property in several ways. For instance, they plan to restore the old tools of the original owner and convert the shed located in the backyard of the cafe back into its original purpose for blacksmithing and woodworking.

The owners are committed to continuing this legacy, however, the community is their real passion and inspiration for the café. Iwa Arts & Café holds weekly events for the community to come and enjoy live music, art workshops, children’s workshops, and other special events such as “Art on the Porch” held every Saturday of the month.

“It is a place that is supportive of artists and art in all of its forms,” says John. “The café is a collaboration with part of the intention being that we are always evolving according to what everyone [staff, community, and friends] brings into the mix.” The space is now becoming somewhat of a refuge for community members, families especially, to relax and fellowship with each other in a creative place.

If you are ever in the area, you should make a point to stop by this cute café and grab a specialty coffee from one of the friendly baristas or pick up a sweet locally made gift to bring home to your friends and family. Just some of the reasons why Iwa Café is one of my new favorite local places to visit here on the Big Island.

Photography by Emma Moore

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