Waimea Things to Do
Things to Do near Waimea Town on Big Island
Waimea is one of the Big Island’s most well-known inland destinations, offering visitors a change from the coastal views to the green landscapes of paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) country. The scenery is often said to be stunning, due to the rolling hills and dark skies that make up the town’s nearby landscape.
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Directions to Waimea
Waimea is located on the northern end of the Big Island, just south of the oldest volcano on the island, Kohala, and at the base of Mauna Kea, the highest volcano on the Big Island. Both Hawaii Route 19 and Hawaii Route 190 connect Waimea to the rest of the island, making it easy to reach the town from anywhere. The best airport to plan your flight around is the Hilo International Airport, which is southwest of Waimea.
When leaving Waimea, be sure to check out the white sand beaches that are a mere 20 minutes from the town at the north Kohala and Kona coast. You may even be able to participate in some whale watching! While planning your trip, add Hawi to your itinerary and take the less-traveled and more scenic Kohala Mountain Road (Highway 250), which allows you to travel directly over the mountainous region.
A Brief History of Waimea
The inland region of Waimea has been home to paniolos for many years, allowing cattle to dot the hillside for centuries. The year 1793 marked the occasion when a herd of five cattle was first gifted to Kamehameha the Great. Following this, in 1832, Mexican vaqueros traveled to teach the Hawaiians how to herd the cattle.
Waimea is mainly known for its cowboy culture, offering activities such as rodeos and horseback riding so that visitors can experience aspects of the ranching lifestyle. Now, the cowboy culture continues to influence the lifestyle in Waimea, which visitors can experience at various ranches such as Kahua Ranch and Parker Ranch.
When visiting Waimea, expect warm summers and dramatic weather changes as a result of the town’s location between the wet and dry sides of the Big Island. Despite being on a tropical island, the town doesn’t experience a large amount of precipitation, a benefit from existing on the boundary of wet and dry regions.
We recommend dressing for a wide variety of activities, as the town is known to be a great place to take part in hiking and horseback riding. Horseback riding is particularly popular as the area is home to many horses because of the town’s history as a Hawaiian cowboy and ranching area.
Waimea is also home to the International Lunar Observatory Association, as a result of the many ideal dark sky reserves in the surrounding areas. Just an hour away is the popular W. M. Keck Observatory as well. There’s even a free stargazing program just outside of the town! Head halfway up Mauna Kea, one of the nearby volcanoes, to visit the Onizuka Visitor Center to peer into one of the many telescopes.
Among the many activities available in and around Waimea, here are our top picks that we recommend you include in your trip plans.
Learn about Hawaiian cowboys at the Parker Ranch, once the largest ranches in the United States. Activities that visitors can take part in include rodeos and horse races, hunting tours, and a self-guided tour of the historic homes on site. These historic homes are particularly interesting as many heirlooms, works of art, and other artifacts line the rooms. This tour is also entirely free!
To get to Parker Ranch, begin in the heart of Waimea, and head south on Hawaii Belt Road (Highway 190). Turn left onto Hokuloa UCC, and then turn left again to arrive at your destination.
Waimea Homestead Farmers’ Market
The Waimea Homestead Farmers’ Market is located in the Waimea Middle & Elementary School Playground every Saturday from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m., offering island fruits and vegetables to make a delicious meal. If you’re looking for something else; don’t worry! There are plenty of treats to pick up, including jams, beef jerky, and handmade gifts.
To get to the market starting at Waimea Park, head southeast on Lindsey Road toward Kapiolani Road. Turn left to stay on Lindsey Road, then right on Hawaii Belt Road. Just one more left lands you exactly where you want to be. Enjoy!
Isaacs Art Center Museum and Gallery
The Isaacs Art Center Museum and Gallery exist to promote island art in its many forms, from woodwork to oil paintings to statues. Pacific art is also found at the gallery, staying true to the center’s island roots. Experience or even take home a piece of Hawaiian art and culture by stepping inside the center to browse and admire its wide collection.
Isaacs Art Center Museum and Gallery is located in the heart of Waimea next to Waimea Park. Heading southeast on Lindsey Road, take a sharp right onto Kawaihae Road to arrive at your destination, which is on the right.
Anna Ranch Heritage Center
The Anna Ranch Heritage Center is a preservation of a family ranch that was grown at the hands of "The First Lady of Ranching" in Hawaii. Though Anna didn't initially acquire the ranch, she took over the ranch and made her mark with cutting-edge ranching practices and new breeds of cattle.
The National Historic Site is located in the town of Waimea, 110 acres of green rolling hills in the middle of prime ranching country. To get there, begin by heading north of Highway 190, turning left onto Kawaihae Road. Within minutes, your destination will be on the right.
There are plenty of things to do and see in the town of Waimea. Though the town is a few minutes inland from the beach, a wide variety of activities exist that are bound to keep your entire family busy. Whether you’re interested in history, art, or adventure, Waimea has something for you!