Parker Ranch | Big Island

Parker Ranch is located between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes on The Big Island in the town of Waimea that lies within the Kohala region. It is approximately 55 miles if you are traveling from the main cities of Kona or Hilo. Don’t be confused if you hear people refer to Waimea as Kamuela. For mailing purposes, Waimea is known as Kamuela, because according to the United States government, a US post office can’t have the same name as another town in the same state. The name Kamuela comes from one of the Parker decedents, Samuel Parker, for the name Kamuela is Hawaiian for Samuel. Samuel was the son of Parker Ranch founder, John Palmer Parker.

Parker Ranch is the largest active cattle ranch that is privately owned in the entire United States. It approximately totals 250,000 acres stretching from an elevation of 8,000 feet to sea level. It stretches across lush green pasture lands and dry barren areas, to commercial properties, industrial properties, as well as residential properties. It is the pure definition of what Waimea was, what it has become, and what it will be in the future with the dreams begun by the Parker family.

Due to the elevation of Waimea at 2,670 feet, you will notice if traveling from the east side of the island, the weather becomes colder, wetter, and foggy. It is like going from the warm sunshine to a wintery climate in a matter of a little over an hour. As you travel through the heart of Waimea, and continue towards sea level it gets hotter in temperature and much dryer as you head towards the west. It is an astonishing feeling to experience the cold of winter and the warmth of summer in a matter of minutes.

History and Present

Parker Ranch was established in 1847 by John Palmer Parker. What started out as one acre has now grown into the thousands of acres, which now sits in a private trust. Since the ownership of a cattle ranch by Parker, lands were continuously accumulated and then passed down from generation to generation until the last descendent of the Parker family, Richard Smart. Richard Smart left Parker Ranch, family homes, European furniture, and one of the greatest art collections to the Parker Ranch Trust. The chosen beneficiaries of the trust are North Hawaii Community Hospital, Parker School Trust Corporation, Hawaii Community Foundation’s Richard Smart Fund, and Hawaii Preparatory Academy. These beneficiaries are required to fulfill the wishes of Richard Smart to support the Waimea local community with healthcare, education, preservation of the Hawaiian culture, and growth to support the area. Parker Ranch Trust had, and still has, great influence in the Waimea community. Even with the death of Richard Smart, what he foresaw as the need to keep Waimea traditional in its culture through proper development for sustainability continues. Much of the pasture land was rezoned for this purpose, so the community could grow and prosper, but much of the land is still used to provide Hawaii with Angus and Charolaise beef.

Parker Ranch Homes Tour

A famous Parker Ranch tour is of the Parker family two traditional homes dating back to when the ranch was first established in 1847. The historic ranch homes were setup for visitors to tour in order to share the Hawaiian culture and history with others and future generations. Visitors are allowed to take a self-guided tour of the homes and gardens after viewing a short 20 minute video on the history of the Parker family. Mana Hale, in Hawaiian meaning “house of spirit”, was built by John Palmer Parker when Parker Ranch was established in 1847. It was moved from its original location by Richard Smart, board by board to where it stands today in its original form with its original décor and European furnishings mixed with Hawaiian culture, as John Palmer Parker was married to the granddaughter of King Kamehameha I. On the same site is the Puuopelu home, which was originally owned by John Parker III. This is where Richard Smart lived and established one of the greatest art collections. The home still has its old charm, decorated with heirloom furniture, figurines passed down in his family, and chandeliers.

Parker Ranch Horseback Riding and Hunting Tour

Parker Ranch has a Cowboys of Hawaii tour that includes horseback riding through open pasture land that stops at the historical ranch home, Mana Hale, and the Parker Ranch Store. The tour operates from Monday through Saturday at either 8:15 a.m. or 12:15 p.m. Hunting tours are also held on Parker Ranch open lands with wild turkey, bird, and big game hunting. Everyone is guaranteed to have a kill during the hunting tours that can be scheduled for either a half or whole day. Reservations are required. Guides are provided in two hour sessions and will help care for your kill. Transportation, snacks, and beverages are made available to hunters.

Parker Ranch Shopping Center

The Parker Ranch Store located in the Parker Ranch Shopping Center is a great place to visit to embrace the paniolo (Hawaiian word for cowboy that is commonly used throughout Hawaii) lifestyle of ancient Hawaii. It sells items that transport you back in time with its décor, selling paniolo clothing and accessories, locally grown coffee, local music CDs, and a variety of locally made souvenirs. Also located in the Parker Ranch Shopping Center is the Parker Ranch Visitor Center and Museum that is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p. m. The museum has more of the artifacts from ancient Hawaii and from the Parker family, as well as the history of the Parker family lineage. The shopping center has restrooms, grocery stores, coffee shops, a food court, and small local shops where you can purchase items made in Hawaii.