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Nestled on the northwest side of the Big Island of Hawaii lies the paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) town of Waimea. If you’re looking for a laidback destination surrounded by natural beauty, Waimea is an ideal spot to visit or live.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Waimea, also known as Kamuela, is located on the island of Hawaii, in the northwestern region of the island in the district of South Kohala at an elevation of 2,670 feet above sea level.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about where Waimea, Hawaii is located including details on the town itself as well as the island and district it calls home. We’ll also highlight what makes Waimea such a special place along with things to see and do during a visit.

Overview and History of Waimea, Hawaii

Waimea, also known as Kamuela, is a census-designated place on the island of Hawai’i in the Hawaiian Islands. It is located on the northwestern side of the island, at an elevation of about 2,670 feet above sea level.

Waimea has a rich history. The area was originally inhabited by Native Hawaiians who used the lands for farming and raising livestock. When western settlers arrived in the 1800s, Waimea became an important center for ranching and agriculture due to its favorable climate and open grasslands.

In the early 19th century, American and European immigrants began establishing large cattle ranches in Waimea to supply beef and hides to whaling ships that frequented the islands. This ushered in the paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) culture that remains an important part of the town’s heritage today.

Early Settlement and Ranching Era

The first western settlers to arrive in Waimea were Spanish explorers in 1793, led by Captain George Vancouver. They were followed by missionaries, traders and whalers throughout the early 1800s. Many of these newcomers were impressed by Waimea’s mild climate and productive soil, leading them to establish farms and ranches in the area.

By the mid-1800s, Waimea had become the center of Hawai’i’s thriving ranching industry. Wealthy ranchers like John Palmer Parker and his nephew Samuel Parker shaped the development of the town and used their fortunes to construct many historic buildings that still stand today.

Modern History and Developments

After statehood in 1959, Waimea experienced steady growth and development. The Parker Ranch remains an important driver of the local economy, but Waimea has also diversified into astronomy, technology and tourism related industries.

Various high-tech companies have facilities in the area due to Waimea’s high elevation and clear night skies.

In modern times, Waimea serves as the main hub for commerce and services on the northern side of Hawaiʻi island. Ranches and homesteads scatter the landscape around the town which supports a population of over 9000 residents.

Waimea offers a unique blend of native Hawaiian culture alongside paniolo heritage and contemporary amenities.

Geography and Location Details

Waimea is Located on the Island of Hawaii

Waimea, also known as Kamuela, is situated on the northwest side of the Island of Hawaii, the largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago. Known as the “Big Island”, Hawaii is appxoximately 4,028 square miles in size and accounts for over 60% of the total land mass of the entire state.

Waimea lies inland, nestled between the Kohala Mountains to the north and the Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes to the south. It sits at approx. 2,670 feet above sea level, providing cooler temperatures that make Waimea an oasis from the hot coastal areas.

Waimea Sits in the South Kohala District

The district of South Kohala spans the northwest area of Hawaii Island. It runs from the town of Kawaihae in the north to the Waikoloa Resort area in the south, encompassing a coastline famous for its beaches as well as an inland agricultural region anchored by Waimea.

In addition to its central town, South Kohala includes the communities of Puako, Waikoloa Village, Waikii, Haliimaile, and Pauoa. The region has a rich history as the former seat of power of the island’s monarch, King Kamehameha, who unified the Hawaiian islands in 1810.

Elevation and Coordinates of Waimea

Waimea lies at approx. 19.96° N, 155.66° W in the geographic coordinate system. Its official elevation is 2,670 feet above sea level per the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Due to its inland location and high elevation, Waimea enjoys cooler temperatures than coastal Hawaii. Its average high temp is 78°F compared to coastal Kailua Kona which averages 84°F. Overnight lows frequently drop into the 50s (°F), making Waimea seem downright chilly by Hawaiian standards!

Climate and Weather Patterns in Waimea

Waimea, located on the northwest side of the Big Island of Hawaii, is known for its mild and relatively cool climate compared to the rest of the islands. Here’s an overview of the typical weather patterns and climate you can expect in this mountain town.


With an elevation of about 2,670 feet above sea level, Waimea enjoys pleasant daytime highs averaging in the mid 70s to low 80s Fahrenheit throughout the year. The climate is relatively consistent, with only around a 10 degree difference between the warmest and coolest months.

The overnight lows can get quite chilly in the winter months, with averages dipping down into the low 50s F. A light jacket is recommended after dark!


Waimea receives a moderate amount of rainfall, increased by the orographic lifting effect (moist air pushed upwards by the mountains). The average yearly rainfall is about 50 inches.

Rain showers tend to be brief but heavy, giving way to sunny skies again soon after. The winter months from November to March see the most frequent rainfall.


Trade winds from the northeast are typical, keeping conditions relatively breezy throughout the day. Wind speeds average around 10 to 15 mph.

The breezes moderate during the night and early morning hours before picking up intensity again in the late morning and afternoon.

Unique Attributes and Characteristics

Panolio Heritage

Waimea has a rich cultural history as part of the ancient Hawaiian district of Puna. The area was once home to native Hawaiians who farmed the fertile land and fished the bountiful oceans. Important archaeological sites in Waimea provide a glimpse into this Panolio heritage, such as heiau (temples) and fishponds that date back centuries.

Cattle Ranching

Cattle ranching has played a major role in Waimea’s development. Introduced in the late 18th century, cattle thrived in the area’s grassy upland plains. Today, Waimea is home to some of Hawaii’s largest working ranches.

These sprawling properties help preserve the paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) culture and sweeping pastoral landscapes for which Waimea is renowned.

Agriculture Industry

Beyond ranching, Waimea supports diverse commercial agriculture such as vegetables, fruits, coffee and more. The combination of high elevation, cool temperatures, rich soil and abundance of sunshine makes Waimea an ideal location to grow crops.

Farmers can harvest four times as many vegetables here compared to other parts of Hawaii.

Unique Elevation

One of Waimea’s most distinguishing features is its elevation. At approximately 2,670 feet above sea level, it has a cooler subtropical highland climate that stands out from Hawaii’s stereotypical tropical environments. On average, temperatures range from the mid-40s to low 80s Fahrenheit.

Some even call Waimea “The Coolest Place to Be in Hawaii.” This refreshing weather pleasantly surprises visitors and residents alike.

Things to See and Do in Waimea

Explore Waimea Nature Trails

Waimea is surrounded by gorgeous nature, so be sure to check out some of the incredible hiking trails during your visit. The Waipi’o Valley Lookout Trail offers breathtaking views of the valley and waterfall below, while the Waima Falls Trail takes you to a hidden waterfall oasis.

For sweeping vistas of the Kohala Mountains and Windward coast, head to Pu’u o ‘Umi Natural Area Reserve. With over 25 miles of trails, you’ll find plenty of opportunities for scenic hikes in Waimea’s great outdoors.

Attend a Rodeo

Waimea is the heart of paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) country, so you can’t miss the excitement of a rodeo during your stay. The annual Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival Rodeo held each Labor Day weekend draws contenders from all islands to compete in roping, riding, and wrestling events.

Or stop by Parker Ranch’s arena any weekend to catch locals practicing their skills. With bull riding, calf roping, barrel racing and more, Waimea’s rodeos capture the spirit of the American West infused with Hawaiian tradition.

Shop Local Stores and Boutiques

Waimea town offers a delightful mix of shops and boutiques to explore. Find premium local food products like grass-fed beef, coffee, and chocolate at Waimea General Store. Peruse the craft gallery at Waimea Arts and Crafts, which features over 100 Hawaii artisans.

Or browse trendy fashions, gifts, and homewares at shops like Paradise Found, Designing Wahine, and the Greenhouse. Don’t miss checking out the Thursday farmers market held each week behind Parker Ranch Center from 7am-noon.

Visit Nearby Beaches, Waterfalls and Parks

Though Waimea itself sits upcountry surrounded by pastures and mountains, incredible beaches, waterfalls and lush valleys lie just a short drive away. Picturesque Hapuna Beach offers white sand and calm waters perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

The awe-inspiring Akaka Falls plunges over 400 feet into an emerald gorge. And scenic coastal spots like Mauna Kea State Recreation Area and Spencer Beach Park boast dramatic seascapes and views. With so many beautiful vistas and outdoor attractions just minutes outside town, you’ll want to explore Waimea’s surrounding treasures.


With its paniolo history, beautiful natural surroundings, mild climate and small town charm, Waimea is a one-of-a-kind destination on Hawaii’s Big Island. Located at over 2,600 feet in elevation on the slopes of Kohala Mountain, it offers a cooler alternative to the island’s coastal towns.

Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, shopping and dining or simply wanting to relax in nature, Waimea has something for everyone. The next time your travels take you to the Big Island, be sure to spend some time getting to know this lovely upcountry town.

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