I always see them wrapped in plastic and in the refrigerator case at the store. Do they really need all this protection from the outside world? Seems like american overkill??
I have seen them for sale at the Indian supermarket, and also at my local vegetable stand, unrefrigerated. But in both cases, some had mold spots on the outside, which I guess may not have an effect on the inside contents.
In stores where they are kept refrigerated, the coconut water tasted fresher. I would recommend refrigeration.
Random fact: a chef friend of mine told me never to buy those white-husked, young coconuts because they are treated with formaldahyde, which leaks into the coconut water inside. But then I found this article debunking that as a myth: http://www.basilandspice.com/journal/matt-amsden-tells-the-truth-about-thai-coconuts-and-formalde.html.
I must say that it did scare me away from buying those...I usually go for the organic bottled kind that has no additives, but the flavor is not as good as straight from the coconut.
Total agreement with Anita. They really need to be kept in a cool place. And I have found it more cost effective to buy by the case and share with friends than purchasing simply one at a time.
Both the plastic wrap and refrigeration help preserve the partially-dehusked coconut and its water. The alternative would be selling them with the entire husk on and then nobody would buy them. Or canning / bottling the water which would be less "green" than the plastic wrap.
If there's mold on the outside, it's quite possible mold is growing on the inside as well. Even when fresh off the tree, you can sometimes find mold inside. Not a good thing.
storing the coconuts in a cool dry spot is enough to keep them in good shape.. Too long and the water inside decreases and the nut tends to become fibrous & acquire a dominant coconut oil flavor. I've not seen a direct correlation between those black moldy spots outside & the quality with in. In fact I've had a fair share of rotten ones that have a perfectly clean shell. They go bad very quickly once they're opened. make sure you refrigerate the halves immediately. Better yet, scrape the meat off, run it through a food processor to shred them (unless you have one of those coconut scrapers) & freeze.
Coconuts crack fairly easily and, having done so, leak water which permeates the husk, promoting the growth of mold. So, while mold spots on the outside of partially-husked 'nut is not a certain indication of anything wrong within, I'd look before I took a drink. As a matter of fact, I always look first -- too many bad experiences, even fresh off my own trees. Moldy coconut water is nasty!
Dole specifies a storage temperature of 2-4 degrees Celsius for their product.