The quaint farming and ranching town of Kamuela rests on the southern slopes of the Kohala volcano, on the north side of the Big Island of Hawaii. Due to its elevation of over 2,600 feet above sea level, this charming and scenic area enjoys average temperatures in the 60s throughout the year. Locals generally refer to the town by its original name, Waimea, which means “reddish water” in Hawaiian and makes reference to streams flowing in from the north.
In an attempt to avoid confusion with other areas named Waimea on the islands of Oahu and Kauai, the town became known as Kamuela for postal service purposes. This Hawaiian version of Samuel was chosen to honor Samuel Parker, the primarily native-Hawaiian grandson of the founder of Parker Ranch. As one of the oldest and largest cattle operations in the U.S., Parker Ranch continues to provide the town with a paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) influence.
Today, visitors seeking a dose of history have the option of touring the two Victorian-era homes on Parker Ranch, or exploring 16th-century petroglyphs just west of the town. Waimea’s rolling hills also make it an ideal setting not only for horseback riding, but for hiking in areas such as the Kohala Forest Reserve. A nearby rainforest, waterfall, and river create opportunities for more hiking adventures, as well as water activities like kayaking.
Within Waimea town proper, restaurant choices range from salads, burgers, and tacos at the Big Island Brewhaus to fine dining at the acclaimed Merriman’s Big Island. The Waimea Center includes not only restaurants, but clothing stores and gift shops; while the Parker Ranch Center has casual dining, a Starbucks, a grocery store, and banks; and Parker Square has boutiques and the Waimea General Store. Four farmers’ markets also operate in town over the course of the week.
Visitors to Waimea may also enjoy browsing its art galleries during their stay. The Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival offers a celebration of Japanese culture and traditions for those visiting in early February, while an annual rodeo takes place at Parker Ranch each year around the Fourth of July. This lovely Big Island town is well worth a detour off the beaten paths of Kailua-Kona and Hilo!