Searching For Historic Charm on the Big Island? Check Out Waimea Town.
Experience Waimea - the Historic Hawaiian Ranching Community with Farm Products, Hardy Eats & Craft Beer
We all love the beach, but we can only take so much sun. When you go to a place like the Big Island, you may think that the only draw, away from the Kona Coast, is Hawaii Volcanoes Nation Park. Make no mistake, the Nation Park is not to be missed, but it's an all-day affair. For those staying on the Kohala Coast, it's about 100 miles to the park.
The town of Waimea is an easy drive from the Kohala Coast, which means you can spend the morning on the sand and drive up to the town and its green hills for the afternoon.
From the resorts along the Kohala Coast (Hualalai, Waikoloa, Mauna Lani and Mauna Kea), on the west cost of the Big Island, you will climb some 2,600 ft. on Route 19 and notice a definitive change in the environment.
While the landscape on the lower elevations is definitely dry, up above, on the way to Mauna Kea, you will see wide stretches of green. Though it is only around 13 miles from the balmy Mauna Kea Resort area, it is a world away.
As you climb higher, the emerald hills come into focus and there is a distinctive Hawaiian country vibe, with antique farm houses landscaped with flowers and plants that feel somehow more Central Coast California than Hawaii. This is one of the miracles and charms of the Big Island of Hawaii.
This Hawaiian country town is oozing history and boasts a unique Americana all its own. The historic Parker ranch started with a few cows brought to the Islands in the late 1700s. The cows multiplied and ultimately, an entrepeneurial man named John Palmer Parker, who arrived during the reign of Kamehameha I, eventually started the ranch that would become one of the largest in the U.S.
With cattle came the need for cowboys. The official story is that King Kamehameha III invited highly skilled Spanish-Mexican horsemen from California to teach the trade to the people of Hawaii, and, like that, the Paniolo or Paniola was born. They have had a huge impact on the Big Island. The feel of Waimea is that of a ranching community, and you may even see spurs and boots at Starbucks!
One farmstead, the Anna Ranch, which was settled in 1845 and is now open to visitors. It was founded in 1848 and is a grand example of the historic homes in the area.
Waimea is also the gateway to one of America's largest cattle ranches, Parker Ranch.
Historic Parker Ranch
Some may be surprised to learn Waimea and the Big Island are home to one of the largest working ranches in the United States. Parker Ranch was founded in 1847, earlier than many ranches in the US West, and covers some 250,000 acres.
Ranching culture absolutely dominates the area and is visible in historic buildings and in new constructions, built to reflect town's cowboy pedigree. Those wishing to ride horses will find stables in Waimea.
Cattle on the Park Ranch.
Ranching Museum in Waimea, Hawaii
However, for most vacation home renters on this part of the Big Island, Waimea is a wonderful place to stock up on farm-fresh products. There are many working farms here and there is a farmers market on Saturdays where you can find locally produced crops like lettuce, ginger and tropical fruits. Of course, if you prefer to eat out, there are also several charming restaurants in town serving locally produced fare, as well as shopping centers with banks, supermarkets and drug stores.
Farmers Market at Waimea, Hawaii.
Staying In An Architectural Gem
As one of Hawaii's leading vacation rental companies, would be remiss if we didn't mention at least one excellent place to stay up in this gorgeous up-country town. As it happens, one of Hawaii's most unique and architecturally significant homes is located on the way to historic old Waimea town from the Mauna Kea Resort: the Frank Lloyd Wright Big Island Villa, aka “The Frank Lloyd Wright House."
As an lover of classic architecture, this home is a stunner. Besides its obvious charms architecturally, it has views down the slopes to the ocean below.
This home is the only house in Hawaii to receive official recognition from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which is noted on the plaque placed by the entrance. A wonderful experience for any Frank Lloyd Wright fan, the home boasts fabulous views of the surrounding volcano peaks and a lava-rock outdoor Jacuzzi.
Built into the hillside, the Frank Lloyd Wright Big Island Villa has a crescent moon shape with large floor-to-ceiling windows, which allow guests to experience the dramatic landscape when inside the home and cool mountain breezes to flow freely throughout its upper flowers, eliminating the need for AC.
The villa features all of the built-in, custom-designed furniture familiar to any Frank Lloyd Wright home. Also, the home is reasonably priced, because it’s not located in the resort areas, which are in higher demand. While you are not on the beach, you are surrounded by incredible scenery and get to enjoy a very special property. There are three bedrooms capable of accommodating six guests.
Waikiloa Village - Cute & Convenient
Also, lower down on the slopes, between Mauna Kea Resort and the Waikoloa Resort areas, you will find Waikoloa Village. This little town has a convenient shopping center with a supermarket offering all of the usual items along with some unique island favorites liked smoked ahi (tuna)!
When renting a vacation home on the Kohala Coast, be sure to explore Waimea and take advantage of the local products and the country life that is throwback to another era.