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Tip: This town on the Big Island is also known as "Kamuela."

Waimea: Like Aspen without the Snow or Sonoma without the Grapes

By Team

waimea kamuela

Photo courtesy of Sean Munson.

Poke around a trendy cowboy town, which is centered around a 150,000-acre cattle ranch. Parker Ranch, one of the largest cattle ranches in the nation, dominates life in the community. Waimea, however, is certainly far from being a dusty replica of the 19th century cowboy town it once was. It’s an opulent destination with a lot more to do than sit on a rail and watch a cowboy rope cattle. There are a number of visitor attractions, plenty of high-end shops and excellent restaurants. Waimea is like Aspen without the snow or Sonoma without the grapes. Centrally located in a gorgeous surround, Waimea is the place to go if you’re looking for cowboy chic.

Waimea or Kamuela?

waimea kamuela

Photo courtesy of Blake Handley.

There is some confusion about what to call this town. Is it Waimea or Kamuela? There are two other towns in Hawaiʻi called Waimea.  They are Waimea on the island of Kauaʻi and Waimea on the island of Oʻahu. The postal service and many others simplify things by called Waimea on the Big Island Kamuela.  Maybe this town should have been called Parker after John Palmer Parker, who in the mid 1800s established Parker Ranch. If you’d like to explore the rich history of Waimea, you can delve into the town’s heritage at the Parker Ranch Museum & Visitor Center.

A Great Place to Live and Visit

waimea kamuela

Photo courtesy of Ed Sargent.

Waimea is a great place to live and visit.  There is plenty of sunshine year round while the higher altitude creates a certain crispness in the air.  Visitors and residents enjoy a mountain retreat atmosphere while being less than a 30 minute drive from South Kohala’s golden coast which boasts some of the best beaches.  Besides having a great climate, Waimea is home to some of the finest restaurants on the island.  Merriman’s Waimea is a wonderful flagship restaurant that has been a fixture in Waimea for over 20 years.  The Kahilu Theatre, another community fixture, is a flourishing performing arts center. There are art galleries, boutiques, wonderful little cafes, paniolo (cowboy)-inspired collections, as well as some of the most beautiful homes and neighborhoods in Hawaii. The Waimea Park, an elaborate wooden playground adjoining the baseball field, sits in the middle of town and is a great place to stop with the family.  A bit of local trivia:  Waimea is the only town that can claim the bragging rights of having two of the top three private schools in Hawaiʻi.  Those schools are Hawaiʻi Preparatory Academy and Parker School.

Parker Ranch Center

waimea kamuela

Photo courtesy of Blake Handley.

Parker Ranch Center offers a mixture of unique specialty shops, restaurants and activities on Mamalahoa Hwy. 19 in the heart of Waimea. You can find gifts and souvenirs that have an upcountry, rural style. They speak of wide-open spaces, colorful cottage gardens and cool nights. Hungry? A wide variety of dining choices offers everything from hearty, local-style plate lunches to healthy, fresh vegan fare and Asian specialties to American favorites. With its convenient location, inviting, award-winning architecture and novel, native landscaping, Parker Ranch Center “rounds up the best” for visitors and residents.


waimea or kamuela

Photo courtesy of gail.

Paniolo-inspired Waimea continues to emphasize the Islands’ early ranching culture.  Parker Ranch Historic Homes offers a glimpse into Hawaiʻi’s these early ranching influences.  However, even if you are just passing through, you can’t miss the wide open ranch lands and beautiful pastures.

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