Waimea, Hawaii Island
What: Scenic paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) country
Where: Upcountry, east of the Kohala Coast
- More Info: Average temp: 62° in winter, 67° in summer
Travel east, inland from the volcanic Kohala Coast to discover Waimea (also called Kamuela), which is unlike any other place on Hawaii Island. Known as paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) country this historic area full of rolling, green pastures is still home to cattle, cowboys and ranches.
Waimea is a place where stop signs read “Whoa,” instead of “Stop.” This is the home of Kahua Ranch a working sheep and cattle ranch that allows you to learn about the paniolo lifestyle. Here you can explore the scenic landscapes of Waimea by horseback or ATV. Then visit An Evening at Kahua Ranch to fully experience the best of Waimea’s cowboy country.
But there is more to Waimea than just paniolo. This area is now home to a thriving community. You’ll find one of Hawaii Island’s finest chefs at Merriman’s Restaurant. Peter Merriman is three-time finalist in the prestigious James Beard Awards for Best Chef and is one of the founding members of Hawaii Regional Cuisine. You can also find the Kahilu Theatre here, a 490-seat cultural mecca on Hawaii Island featuring performances by renowned musicians, dancers and artists.
To explore the road less traveled, the Kohala Mountain Road (Highway 250) leads north from Waimea to the charming town of Hawi. Most visitors miss this beautiful drive, but it’s a scenic way to get from Waimea to Hawi and the stunning Pololu Valley Lookout, which showcases breathtaking coastal views of the Hamakua Coast. But before you go, spend a day or two experiencing the great bed and breakfasts, shopping, culture and activities of Waimea.