Welcome to Kamuela

Timeless beauty and ample tranquility define this “upcountry” gem

A large part of the Big Island’s allure rests in the fact that it possesses an abundance of distinct regions and climates. The picturesque town of Kamuela — or Waimea, as it’s technically called — underscores this concept. Resting 2,670 above sea level on the lush, mist-tipped slopes of Mauna Kea, Kamuela’s crisp weather and verdant pastures offer residents and visitors ultimate peace and seclusion. And yet, the former paniolo (or Hawaiian cowboy) town thrives with a modern sensibility. First-rate restaurants, boutique retailers, splendid entertainment, and outdoor pleasures can all be found in this gorgeous, rural hamlet.

What to Love

  • A rich sense of history and unending rodeo charm
  • Unique and rugged beauty
  • A wealth of hiking and horseback riding trails
  • Superb, temperate weather with cooler temps
  • Minutes away from magnificent beaches

Local lifestyle

Parker Ranch — one of the oldest and largest cattle ranches in the nation — has dominated life in Kamuela since its inception in 1847. Ranchers and farmers have relished the country life in this region for centuries, but one needn’t work in agriculture to savor the peaceful pace Kamuela provides. Families, professionals, retirees, and anyone who appreciates a connection with the ‘aina (or land) are drawn to Kamuela and give the community-driven town its warmth and personality.

Dining, Shopping & Entertainment

Kamuela may have more of an intimate, elegant bed-and-breakfast vibe than the glamorous resort communities that pepper the Kona coastline, but that doesn’t mean it has a shortage of world-class restaurants. The unmatched skills of Peter Merriman — one of the pioneers of Hawaii Regional Cuisine — are on full, luscious display at his flagship Kamuela restaurant. Here, 90% of Merriman’s menu is locally sourced, resulting in farm-to-table fare bursting with freshness and seasonal flair. Their three-course, prix-fixe menu abounds with winners such as Yokoyama farm beet and fennel salad with Hawaii Island chevre, Lehua taro cakes with Hirabara Farm Swiss chard, and pineapple macadamia nut bread butting with butter rum sauce. Locally-harvested produce also governs the menu at Red Water Cafe, where you’ll be treated to dishes ranging from kiawe smoked dry aged pork with Hamakua mushrooms and lilikoi chicken with kabocha pumpkin.

Casual venues are just as popular in Kamuela. Waimea Coffee Company’s warm, cozy atmosphere renders it a magnet for artists and hipsters, while acclaimed chef Edwin Goto’s Village Burger features choice, impeccably-sourced meats, vegetarian options (such as taro and Hamakua mushroom burgers), hand-cut French fries with wasabi or parmesan, and thick, delicious milkshakes, all of which are prepared with island-sourced ingredients.

The artisan experience at Village Burger extends to Kamuela’s cluster of shops and markets. The region’s superb agricultural conditions — including the most coveted soil in Hawaii — translate to exceptional fruits and vegetables, which can be found in abundance at Waimea Town Market at Parker Ranch School and the Kamuela Farmers Market at Pukalani Stables. Both markets are revered for the close connections purveyors enjoy with local farmers and their patrons, and each offers a wonderful array of market eats, tropical flowers, handcrafted artisan wares, and the island’s signature and unforgettable coffee.

Things to Do

Kamuela’s remote location and miles of unsullied land render it a hiker’s paradise, while fans of watersports only need to take a quick drive to arrive at one of the island’s marvelous beaches. Locals and visitors relish performances by island and international musicians at Kahilu Theatre — a stunning, intimate venue nestled in the heart of paniolo country.

Speaking of paniolos: Kamuela is also well-known for its annual Fourth of July rodeo at Parker Ranch. The 50-plus-year-old community event celebrates the region’s distinguished ranching culture and deep agricultural ties with live music, horse races, roping competitions, and petting zoos, all of which highlights Kamuela’s tight-knit, welcoming ethos.

Such warmth is also abundantly felt during Kamuela’s annual Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival. The lovely event honors the centuries-old Japanese tradition of hanami viewing and celebrates the abundance of cherry blossom trees that grow on Kamuela’s Church Row. People from across the Hawaiian archipelago (and even the world) attend the fete to witness the trees in all their glory, dine on Japanese and Hawaiian cuisine, listen to live music, and learn about the profound connection between Japan and Hawaii.
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