Waimea, Trendy Hawaiian Cowboy Town

By Karen Rose

hawaii island big island

Waimea, also known as Kamuela, Hawaii Island. Photo: Len Yokoyama.

At an elevation of nearly 3000 feet, Hawaiʻi Islandʻs Waimea (also known as Kamuela) is famous for its paniolo (cowboy) culture, rodeos, and rolling green hills. From horseback riding to live theatre, from farmers markets to delicious Hawaiian cuisine, this quaint Big Island town is one youʻll want to add to your travel itinerary. Dotted with herds of grazing cattle and cactus-lined fences, it’s time to saddle up your pony and take a tour of big sky country.

Paniolo Country

waimea kamuela big island hawaii island

The Hawaiian Cowboy Monument. It depicts Ikua Purdy, 1908 World Champion roper and 2000 inductee into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. Photo: Jimmy Emmerson.

The Parker Ranch on the Island of Hawaiʻi was once the largest ranch in the United States. With a history steeped in cowboy culture, guests can visit Anna Ranch and take a historic tour where they’ll learn the history of ranching on Hawaiʻi Island, which dates back to the time of King Kamehameha I. Take a drive through the beautiful Kohala Mountains up to Kahua Ranch, a working sheep and cattle ranch for a day of horseback riding and ATV riding before dining on a western style meal and country dancing to live music. Check out the Paniolo Hall of Fame at the Heritage Center at Pukalani Stables. On display at the center is a collection of beautifully crafted saddles, whips, bridles and spurs.

Farmer’s Markets

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Fresh produce and flowers for sale. Photo courtesy of ClarkRealty via flickr.

There are three farmerʻs markets in Waimea—two on Saturdays and a mid-week market on Wednesdays at the Pukalani Stables. Delicious local produce, homemade jams, honey, baked goods, soaps and grass-fed beef are among the few items available for purchase. Be sure and try a gourmet grilled-cheese sandwich available at Wednesday’s market.

Cuisine

waimea kamuela big island hawaii island

Lunch at Merriman’s. Photo: Rosa Say.

Some of Hawaiʻi Island’s finest chefs call Waimea their home. Peter Merriman of Merriman’s Restaurant is a three-time finalist in the prestigious James Beard Awards for Best Chef. The Red Water Cafe is another local favorite. In the evening stop by Big Island Brewhaus for some micro-brew and delicious Mexican Food. The brewery has won over 30 national and international awards for its tasty brew. If burgers are your thing, you don’t want to miss Village Burger located at the Parker Ranch Center. It was voted one of the top burgers in the country by Trip Advisor.

Kahilu Theatre

waimea kamuela big island hawaii island

Kahilu Theatre. Photo: TedxKamuela.

Last but not least, check out the performance calendar for Kahilu Theatre – a stunning 490 seat performing arts venue recently remodeled and brought back to life by the supportive, thriving community. The theatre features performances by nationally renowned dancers, musicians and other performing artists. There’s clearly more to Waimea than cowboys and rodeos. Come see for yourself!

Note from the editor:

waimea kamuela big island hawaii island

The abandoned cattle barn behind Kahilu Theater in Waimea. Still part of Parker Ranch, at one time this was a bustle of activity – and dust. Photo: Rosa Say.

There is some confusion about what to call this town. Is it Waimea or Kamuela? There are two other towns in Hawaiʻi called Waimea, so the postal service and many others call it Kamuela. Maybe it should have been called Parker after John Palmer Parker who established Parker Ranch in the mid 1800s.

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