Waimea, Hawaii County, Hawaii

Coordinates: 20°1′13″N 155°40′4″W / 20.02028°N 155.66778°W / 20.02028; -155.66778
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Waimea, Hawaii
Some cattle pastures just outside Waimea, August 2007
Some cattle pastures just outside Waimea, August 2007
Location in Hawaii County and the state of Hawaii
Location in Hawaii County and the state of Hawaii
Waimea is located in Hawaii
Location in Hawaii
Coordinates: 20°1′13″N 155°40′4″W / 20.02028°N 155.66778°W / 20.02028; -155.66778
CountryUnited States
 • Total39.42 sq mi (102.11 km2)
 • Land39.38 sq mi (102.01 km2)
 • Water0.04 sq mi (0.10 km2)
2,670 ft (810 m)
 • Total9,904
 • Density251.47/sq mi (97.09/km2)
Time zoneUTC-10 (Hawaii-Aleutian)
ZIP code
Area code808
FIPS code15-78500
GNIS feature ID2414164

Waimea is a landlocked census-designated place (CDP) in Hawaii County, Hawaii, United States. The population was 7,028 at the 2000 census and 9,212 at the 2010 census.[2] Since each U.S. state cannot have more than one post office of the same name, and there is a post office in Waimea, Kauai County, the official U.S. Post Office designation for Waimea is Kamuela, although this name is only used by the post office, not by locals or the local government.[3] The name Waimea means reddish water.

Waimea is the center for ranching activities and paniolo culture. The Parker Ranch in and around Waimea is the largest privately owned cattle ranch in the United States, and the annual Fourth of July rodeo is a major event. The Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival, held annually in the first week of February, has recently become another major event of the town.[4] In the center of town are the Isaacs Art Center, the Wishard Gallery, Paniolo Heritage Center at Pukalani Stables, and the Gallery of Great Things, all featuring Hawaiian art.

Waimea is home to the headquarters of two astronomical observatories located on Mauna Kea, the W. M. Keck Observatory and the Canada–France–Hawaii Telescope. It is also headquarters of the International Lunar Observatory Association.[5]

Waimea also is the home of Hawaii Preparatory Academy and Parker School, two of the top independent schools in Hawaii.[6]


Native Hawaiian[edit]

It is believed that the watershed area of the Kohala mountains once supported several thousand native Hawaiians, who practiced subsistence agriculture, made kapa, and thatched dwellings. As the Europeans arrived in the area, most of the sandalwood (Santalum ellipticum) forests were harvested and the land became ideal for grazing animals. California longhorn cattle were given as a gift to Hawaiian King Kamehameha I by British Captain George Vancouver in 1793.[7] In 1809, John Palmer Parker arrived to the area after jumping ship and over time became employed by the king to hunt and tame the population of cattle, which at this point had grown out of control. In 1815 Parker married Kipikane, the daughter of a high-ranking chief, and as a family developed what is now Parker Ranch, the largest ranch in the area.[8]

Waimea's post office name "Kamuela" is the Hawaiian name for "Samuel", after Samuel Parker (1853–1920), the grandson of John Parker.[9][10] It is sometimes claimed that the post office is named for former Hawaiʻi Island politician Samuel Mahuka Spencer, suggesting he was a Postmaster for the facility, but there are no records that indicate he ever held that position. What seems plausible (and is supported by documentation within the records of the US Board of Geographic Names) is the story that the Kamuela Post Office was named for Samuel “Kamuela” Parker, grandson of John Parker (founder of the Parker Ranch.)[11]


The early 19th century also saw the arrival from the Viceroyalties of New Spain and Río de la Plata of the horse and Spanish vaqueros ("cowboys"), bringing the traditional Euro-Latin culture of riding and roping skills. The king hired these vaqueros to teach Hawaiians herding and ranching skills, and by 1836 the island had working cowboys. As the Hawaiian culture and Latin vaquero cultured commingled, a unique breed of cowboy emerged, the paniolo.[12]

World War II[edit]

During World War II, beef and vegetable prices increased, and farmers returned to cultivate maize, beets, cabbage and a variety of other green vegetables. Farm and ranchland acreage increased from 75 in 1939 to 518 in 1946.[13] Waimea saw many soldiers during this time who built a large temporary tent city, Camp Tarawa. When the war was over and the military had left, Waimea had an entertainment center, now Kahilu Theatre, and an airstrip, now Waimea-Kohala Airport.


Waimea is located in the northern part of the island of Hawaii at 20°1′26″N 155°38′50″W / 20.02389°N 155.64722°W / 20.02389; -155.64722 (20.023926, -155.647357),[14] at an elevation of 2,676 feet (816 m) above sea level. It sits at the southern foot of Kohala, the oldest volcano on the island, and it is near the northwestern base of Mauna Kea, the highest volcano.

Hawaii Route 19 passes through the community, leading southeast 56 miles (90 km) to Hilo and southwest 43 miles (69 km) to Kailua-Kona via a route close to the shore. Hawaii Route 190 leads south from Waimea and provides a shorter inland route to Kailua-Kona of 39 miles (63 km).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the Waimea CDP has a total area of 39.3 square miles (101.9 km2), of which 39.3 square miles (101.8 km2) are land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km2), or 0.10%, are water.[2]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[15]
Building that says Kamuela Hawaii 96743
The post office for Waimea, but named Kamuela, June 2009

As of the census[16] of 2000, there were 7,028 people, 2,371 households, and 1,782 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 181.4 inhabitants per square mile (70.0/km2). There were 2,589 housing units at an average density of 66.8 per square mile (25.8/km2). The racial makeup of the CDP was 30.65% White, 0.33% Black or African American, 0.17% Native American, 20.29% Asian, 15.61% Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, 0.73% from other races, and 32.23% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 7.80% of the population.

There were 2,371 households, out of which 39.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.6% were married couples living together, 13.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.8% were non-families. 18.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 5.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.95 and the average family size was 3.36.

In the CDP the population was spread out, with 29.7% under the age of 18, 7.1% from 18 to 24, 28.1% from 25 to 44, 25.0% from 45 to 64, and 10.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 97.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.0 males.

The median income for a household in the CDP was $51,150, and the median income for a family was $55,822. Males had a median income of $36,710 versus $27,217 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $20,773. About 4.2% of families and 6.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.7% of those under age 18 and 5.4% of those age 65 or over.


Waimea displays a warm summer Mediterranean Climate (Köppen climate classification Csb). The town sits at the transition between the wet and dry sides of the Big Island, and its weather therefore often changes dramatically over less than a mile.

Climate data for Waimea
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 72.6
Average low °F (°C) 50.4
Average rainfall inches (mm) 4.74
Source: http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/cgi-bin/cliMAIN.pl?hi3077


The relatively quiet town becomes animated when the Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival[17] is held on the first weekend of February. The rodeo and Horse Races are held at Parker Ranch[18] on July 4 each year.

Notable Residents[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved December 18, 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Waimea CDP (Hawaii County), Hawaii". American Factfinder. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved June 7, 2017.[dead link]
  3. ^ "Waimea (Or Kamuela) On The Big Island: Why Is Waimea Also Called Kamuela?". Love Big Island. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  4. ^ 22nd annual Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival on Hawaii Island, Feb. 7
  5. ^ "ILOA Hawai'i – To the Galaxy, Moon and Every Place In-Between".
  6. ^ "2022 Best Private High Schools in Hawaii". Niche. Retrieved 2022-09-11.
  7. ^ Bergin, Billy (2004). Loyal to the Land: The Legendary Parker Ranch, 750-1950. University of Hawaii Press. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-8248-2692-5.
  8. ^ "Waimea (Kamuela) Big Island of Hawaii - Brief History". 2012-03-17. Archived from the original on 2012-03-17. Retrieved 2022-09-11.
  9. ^ Mary Kawena Pukui, Samuel Hoyt Elbert and Esther T. Mookini (2004). "lookup of Kamuela ". in Place Names of Hawai'i. Ulukau, the Hawaiian Electronic Library, University of Hawaii Press. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
  10. ^ Lloyd J. Soehren (2010). "lookup of Kamuela ". in Hawaiian Place Names. Ulukau, the Hawaiian Electronic Library. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
  11. ^ "What's in a name?". 8 November 2019.
  12. ^ "A Short Guide to Waimea on Hawaii's Big Island". Archived from the original on 2008-07-19. Retrieved 2008-08-31.
  13. ^ "Waimea (Kamuela) Big Island of Hawaii - Brief History". kamuela.com. Archived from the original on 15 May 2017.
  14. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  15. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  16. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  17. ^ "Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival | Big Island Now".

External links[edit]

Media related to Waimea, Hawaii County, Hawaii at Wikimedia Commons