Waimea / Kamuela
The history of Waimea, since the early days of Hawaii’s contact with Europeans is closely linked to cattle. Captain George Vancouver presented King Kamehameha I with 5 longhorn cattle in 1793. The king ordered that his cattle be allowed to roam free and that killing the animals was kapu or forbidden. Over the next 20 years the aggressive longhorn cattle reproduced into the thousands, and became an increasing problem for small farms and gardens.
In 1812, John Parker came to the Islands with a piece of cutting edge technology, a new American made musket. The King gave Parker permission to not only shoot the cattle but also exclusive rights to produce meat and hides for local and foreign consumption. Cattle quickly replaced sandalwood as the chief export of the islands and John Parker became a wealthy and important man.
Parker settled into his new home and learned to speak Hawaiian, adopted Hawaiian ways and in 1816 married the granddaughter of King Kamehameha I. The Parker ties to Hawaiian royalty, wise business decisions and good fortune launched a dynasty that has continued to expand the ranch.
The unique Hawaiian paniolo cowboy culture grew out of the influence of imported Spanish (español) South American vaqueros, hired to teach local ranch workers how to ride and rope. Over the years the owners and management of the ranch have also contributed a great deal to the community of Waimea, funding schools, a hospital and most recently, a new district park.
Waimea or Kamuela ?
The name Waimea, is a Hawaiian word meaning red water. As the water is filtered through the fern forests of the Kohala Mountains, it takes on a reddish tint. There are many Waimeas on the island of Hawaii and on other islands as well. Adding to the confusion, Waimea historically referred not only to the town but to the strip of land extending from the highlands to the sea, known to Hawaiians as an ahupua’a. When the U.S. postal service requested a more definitive designation, the king suggested Kamuela, after a respected local official. The name Kamuela is on the post office to this day but the name has never really stuck with residents who will always know this area as Waimea.
Small Town with a Big Town Feel
The fact that Waimea has 3 shopping malls but only 2 traffic signals, is very telling about the pace and style of life that Waimea residents enjoy. The town has experienced a lot of growth in recent years but still enjoys a relaxed, small town pace. There is plenty to see and do in Waimea and it is becoming an increasingly popular destination for mainland transplants to the Big Island.