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When one comes to the Big Island, it’s because they’ve heard of the active volcanoes, that it’s a great place for snorkeling and overall, an “outdoorsman’s playground.” But one place on the Big Island that keeps visitors entranced is the simplicity of Kamuela.Waimea town is nestled between the Kohala Mountain range and Mauna Kea.
Kamuela, otherwise known as Waimea, is a homey upcountry town on the north side of the Big Island. Part of South Kohala, Waimea invites all those who pass through its rolling green hills, which rests on the base of the Kohala Mountains, to take time to relax and unwind.
There are other communities with the same name on other islands: Waimea on Kaua’i and Waimea Bay on O’ahu. The postal service needed a name that would be locative of the Big Island’s Waimea, so it was settled on Kamuela. “Kamuela,“ which is the Hawaiian for Samuel, was selected, honoring a prominent resident, Samuel Palmer Parker. “South Kohala” was adopted for the larger geographical region.
It is the original name, “Waimea,” however, has remained the heart-bound and designate for the town and surrounding area. The literal meaning of Waimea, wai being water, and mea being reddish or reddish water, refers to the tint of the streams after filtering through the hapu’u forests in the Kohala mountains.Kamuela also has fantastic skies during the winter months.
Waimea’s rich history started with the arrival of Europeans in the 1820’s. The native population in Waimea at the time had dwindled to slightly more than 2,000. Fields were striped of sandalwood as Hawaiians harvested the fragrant wood for trade. In place of the trees became hundreds of acres of grazing fields and cattle. Samuel Palmer Parker began the United States’ biggest private ranch: Parker Ranch. Cattle became a booming industry. There became a need to have caretakers look after the thousands of head of cattle. Vaqueros, Spanish cowboys, came to train Hawaiians on how to ranch and the Hawaiian Cowboy, the Paniolo was born. The Hawaiian Style Cafe is a favorite spot for locals and visitors.
Waimea now has a population of 7,500 and still growing. Farmers and ranchers are joined by educators, employees of a string of seven world class hotels and nine golf courses, astronomers and technicians from two major telescope facilities, clergy from 14 or more religious groups and health professionals for the North Hawaii Community Hospital, Lucy Henriques Medical Center and various dental and doctors’ offices. The town hosts realtors, contractors, architects, bankers and entrepreneurs. Kahilu Theater anchors a cultural center for artisans and craftsmen. The expansive Hawaiian Homes Land attracts a substantial number of native Hawaiians.
Welcome to Waimea, a country that is truly kept country.
KAMUELA, HAWAII • Northern upcountry town on Big Island • www.kamuela.com