A Little History of Waimea (or Kamuela) – Upcountry on the Big Island

As you drive uphill from the lava fields along the Kohala Coast on The Big Island of Hawaii, the topography gradually changes until you reach the green foliage and lush landscape that surrounds the town of Waimea. This is home to the vast pasture lands of the surrounding Parker Ranch whose long and colorful history dates back to 1809. John Palmer Parker, a sailor from Massachusetts, landed on the islands and was befriended by King Kamehameha I. He eventually married a daughter of a high-ranking Hawaiian chief, and the sailor-turned-cowboy set out to domesticate herds of wild cattle that were roaming the slopes of Mauna Kea.

In 1847, he purchased lands that became known as Parker Ranch. The ranch, more than 160 years old, continues to raise cattle and has expanded to include a number of visitor activities. Now a charitable trust, Parker Ranch helps support schools, hospitals and other organizations in Waimea. To read more visit http://parkerranch.com/legacy/history-of/modern-history/

Present Day Waimea

The town of Waimea, is known for its laid-back feeling and sense of aloha. At 2600 feet elevation, Waimea has a cooler climate than the coast. In 2008, Dan Buettner wrote “The Blue Zones” a best-selling book that looks at places where people live longer and presumably happier……. Buettner surmised that the keys to longevity are exercising naturally, shedding stress, eating more plant-based foods, drinking alcohol regularly in moderation, and having a sense of fellowship and purpose. Waimea is the embodiment of this philosophy. As you explore the town and it’s surrounding beauty you can’t help but feel the spirit that has attracted visitors and residents to this special community and its 13,800-foot mountain hovering in the distance.

Although Buettner’s emphasis on longevity-giving greens is certainly a consideration for a healthier lifestyle, meat is still a large part of Waimea’s history and current culinary wave. Parker Ranch still raises cattle on 130,000 acres and Kahua Ranch raises beef and lamb above the town at the 8,200-foot level. You can satisfy your taste buds with Hamakua mushrooms, Waipio taro, as well as Big Island pasture-raised beef, red veal, and Wagyu beef. There’s also no shortage of island fish including mahi-mahi and of course ahi tuna. Whether cooking at home or dining out, Waimea has plenty of tasty adventures to explore and speaking of exploring, don’t miss the Wednesday and Saturday Farmer’s markets around town where you’ll find an abundance of local produce and other tasty treats.

So come and wander the upcountry town of Waimea on The Big Island of Hawaii. It’s beauty and unique history are a part of the fabric of Hawaii. The people are open, generous, and eager to share their local lore so don’t miss this part of our tropical paradise and who knows, you might just choose to stay and enhance your own quality of life. Aloha.




Photo by Bob Linsdell

Photo by bkang83