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Guide To North Hawaii

Updated on June 1, 2015
Parker Ranch, Hawaii
Parker Ranch, Hawaii

Parker Ranch

The Parker Ranch is the second largest cattle ranch in the United States. It all began when British sailor and discoverer George Vancouver came to the Big Island and brought cattle with him as a gift to King Kamehameha in 1793. The king was honored and put the animals under a kapu, which ensured their survival. For the next 2 decades the cattle reproduced rapidly and soon became a nuisance. John Palmer Parker, a young man from Massachusetts, who was friends with the king, saw an opportunity and started to supply the arriving ships with fresh beef. Soon the cattle trade became important as more and more ships arrived to hunt whales. In 1815 Parker married the granddaughter of the king and inherited a lot of land, where he was allowed to raise his own cattle herds. He convinced the king to import skilled labor from California, Mexico and Spain who should teach Hawaiian workers how to handle cattle professionally. The Hawaiian paniolo (cowboy) was born. Even today you can encounter the original Hawaiian paniolo, who does his grocery shopping on a horse.To enjoy true country living, stay at the Waimea Lodge for a few nights.

In 1847 John Palmer Parker officially established the Parker Ranch on land granted by King Kamehameha III.  


Kamuela or Waimea is the only village close to the expansive Parker Ranch.The largest privately owned ranch in the United States covers 225,000 acres.Some 50,000 head of cattle are grazing within the boundaries of 700 miles of fence. 27 paniolos are still working on horses to patrol the area, along with countless other workers. The beef is processed in Hawaii, and much of it is exported.

Every year on July 4th, the Parker Ranch organizes a big rodeo festival. The festival includes bull riders from across the state, as well as rawhide races, roping, mugging and children’s horse rides. For more information on this event please call (808) 885 7311.

Waimea has a big shopping center and good restaurants. The Parker Shopping Center also includes the Parker Museum and the Parker Ranch Visitor Center. In addition Waimea offers the interesting Kamuela Museum and the Imiola Church.Surrounded by endless pastures with grazing cattle and beautiful views of the Kohala Coast the drive through this windswept land is a great experience.

Waimea Sights 

Parker Museum and Visitor Center

The museum and the visitor center are located in the Parker Shopping Center. It is open daily from 9.00am to 5.00 PM and exhibits Hawaiiana and mementos of six generations of the Parker family. John Palmer Parker arrived at the island in 1808. He sailed all the way from Massachusetts at the age of 19. He soon became friends with Kamehameha the Great and married the granddaughter of the king in 1815.

Photographs, old clothing, weapons, an old ladder press and a 15 minute video document the 150 year history of the Parker Ranch and the Kamehamehas are shown. One part of the museum is dedicated to the Hawaiian Olympic swimming champion Kahanamoku, who brought surfing to the world. You can also tour the two historic homes of the family. Paintings from famous artists like Degas, Renoir, and Chagall are still decorating the homes. The 2 homes are located a short drive to the south part of Waimea.

Imiola Church

Waimea’s landmark for over a century has been the Imiola Church,which was built in 1857 by the missionary Lorenzo Lyons. He gained popularity by writing articles for the local papers and composing Hawaiian songs and hyms. The church choir still sings in both Hawaiian and English. You can tour the church for free. It is located on ‘church row’ street, a few minutes past the shopping center.

Kamuela Museum

The museum is tiny, but definitely worth a visit. It was founded by Albert and Harriet Solomon, who collected Hawaiian artifacts. The family run museum has a unique atmosphere, and often the owner takes you through the rooms and explains everything to you. The museum is open daily from 8.00am to 5.00pm and admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children.

Waipi'o Valley

The Waipi'o Valley is a huge valley at the end of the Hamakua Coast. An overlook at the end of the road allows a great view of most of the valley and its fields. This is where you want to park your car and really enjoy for a while. In fact, the valley has gained a lot of popularity with hikers and nature lovers. If you want to spent some more time than just a picture stop, Waipio Wayside or the great Honokaa Plantation or any of the other B&B's around Honokaa. Take a wagon tour of the valley, or if you want to get adventurous, stay at the famous tree house inside the valley.

Waipio was and still is considered a sacred valley by the Hawaiians. The fertile valley was cultivated with taro and populated with more than 10,000 farmers. A great number of fish were held in numerous fresh water ponds. The conditions were paradise like, until the same devastating tsunami that hit Hilo struck the valley as well, and forced many of the farmers out. Today the entire valley is lush with vegetation and a black sand beach invites the visitor. There is even a great waterfall you can stand under to freshen up after the long hike down.

The road into the valley looks well maintained and every now and then locals and residents have a great laugh, when a rent-a-car makes it down this extremely steep road. The only way up this road is on the hook of the most powerful tow-truck on the entire island, and the price tag ( $ 700 ) will really mess with your day. So bring some water and your best shoes, or take the tour with the 4*4 and wagon.

Hamakula Coast

The Hamakua Coast stretches from the Waipio Valley down to the Akaka Falls near Hilo. The coast is the home of sugar cane, macadamia nuts , cascading mountain streams and deep and lush valleys. It is also called the "Scotch Coast", because many Scotch immigrants worked as managers on the various sugar plantations. No road intrudes into the lush, tropical valleys, except into Waipio Valley.

If you enjoy nature at its finest however, here are some of the Hamakua Coast gems, and , well, another reason to spend at least one or two nights in one of Hilo's Hotels or great B&B's.

Panaewa Rainforest Zoo

The zoo is open daily and admission is free. It is located on the Road to the Volcanoes National Park.The zoo features over 50 different animal species and is the only open rainforest zoo in the United States.

Nani Mau Gardens

The garden is located in Hilo and covers over 20 acres. It features tropical flowers and trees, and pools and waterfalls. The garden is very popular for weddings and other special occasions.

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden will take your breath away. Located in the Ono Mea Bay, this huge park is home to a vast collection of tropical -plants and trees, birds and animals. Beautifully landscaped and built to excite and educate the visitor, this may very well be the highlight of your visit to Hilo.

This masterpiece of a garden is located 8.5 miles north of Hilo town.Located in "a garden in a valley on the ocean" in the famous Ono Mea Bay (Hawaiian for "best place" ).The garden is a museum of living plants that attracts photographers, gardeners, botanists, scientists and nature lovers from all over the world. The Garden's collection of tropical plants is international in scope. Over 2000 species representing more than 125 families and 750 genera are found in this one-of-a-kind garden. The 40-acre valley is a natural greenhouse, protected from tradewinds and blessed with the most fertile volcanic soil. Some of the Garden's enormous mango and coconut palm trees are over 100 years old. Tropical plants that struggle to grow in homes and gardens all across America reach gigantic proportions here.A great pit-stop into Hawaii's flora and fauna.

The Garden is now a place of preservation for many endangered species brought from all over the world by Dan Lutkenhouse, who purchased the land in 1977 and began planting with his helpers. On his travels to Africa, Australia, Indonesia, Madagascar and Bali as well as many other places he collected rare species and brought them home to Hawaii.

The garden can be visited daily, Information under 964-5233.Fee.

Akaka Falls - only 20 Minutes away from Hilo town you can find the largest tallest waterfall that can be accessed on foot with a short stroll through a lush forest. The waterfall cascades 420 feet over a volcanic cliff into a pool. The smell of heliconia, ginger, and orchids lingers everywhere. Depending on recent rainfall, the waterfall can change into a powerful torrent.

Rainbow Falls - a few minutes drive west of Hilo you will pass one of the most beautiful waterfalls. The Rainbow Falls are easy to visit, and a stop early in the morning is going to explain its name. If the light is just right, dramatic rainbows shimmer on the mists of the fall.


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