The road to Waimea | Photo by John Kotylak via Trover
The road to Waimea | Photo by John Kotylak via Trover

Waimea is east of the Kohala coast and famous for its scenic countryside and unique paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys) culture. The town is full of rolling, green pastures where you’ll find ranches with cowboys and cattle – even the stop signs read “Whoa.” Beyond the valleys, you’ll find waterfall hikes and black sand beaches that you can’t miss on a trip to Waimea.

In case you were wondering, the name of the town is Waimea; but since there are multiple places with the same name in Hawaii, the official U.S. Post Office name is Kamuela. I’ll use Waimea in this blog post, though.

Visit the Parker Ranch

The Parker Ranch was once the largest ranch in the United States and is still among the biggest. The ranch and its paniolos carry on the traditions formed over its 160-year history, hosting events, raising cattle, and organizing horseback riding and hunting excursions.

See the Petroglyphs

There are two petroglyph fields just west of Waimea – some of which date back to the 16th century. At the Puako Petroglyph Park just further north, you’ll find more than a thousand carvings beautifully preserved in lava rocks. This field of petroglyphs is easily accessed from the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows jut south of Puako.

Dine at Merriman’s Restaurant

things to do in waimea, merrimans restaurant
Photo via Agy Kagawa via Trover

Peter Merriman is one of the founding members of Hawaii Regional Cuisine, so when you eat at Merriman’s Restaurant, you’re getting a true taste of Hawaii from one of the islands’ finest chefs. The menu is inventive and serves locally sourced produce, meat, and fish. One of the best parts of Merriman’s is the view: you’ll have a fabulous mountainside view.

Explore the Outdoors

Big Island beaches are different from those of other Hawaiian islands: some have black sand, some are made of coral, and one even has green sand. You’ll find the Samuel M. Spencer Beach Park just a short drive away from Waimea. It’s protected by an offshore reef and has barbecue and camping facilities, making it a great family day out. For a beautiful coastal hike, head over to Waipi’o Valley, a place of great historical significance to the Hawaiian people.

Gaze at the Stars

Astronomy buffs will love Waimea for its light-pollution-free evenings and world-class telescopes at the 13,796-foot summit of Mauna Kea. Mauna Kea is a sacred place to Hawaiians – it’s where their gods live – so be respectful if you decide to make the journey. Aim to reach the summit before sunset: You’ll be rewarded with an explosion of color over the snowy peaks. Once night falls, you’ll be able to use the observatory’s telescopes to see the constellations.

Shop at the Farmers Markets

Waimea has three lively farmers markets, the biggest of which are the Waimea Town Market (open Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to noon) and the Waimea Homestead Farmers Market (open Saturday from 7 a.m. to noon). You’ll find a couple dozen vendors selling local preserves, flowers, goat cheese, and fresh bread. It’s a great place to mingle with locals over breakfast and to find delicious edible souvenirs.

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