Founded in 1847, the Parker Ranch in Waimea (Kamuela) is not only one of the oldest and most historic ranches in the United States, it is also noted as the country's largest privately-owned cattle enterprise. It covers thousands of acres across the island and is a lasting testament to the pioneering contributions of Hawaiian cowboys - the so-called "Paniolo'' - to the culture and growth of the state.
John Parker was only nineteen years old when he jumped ship and landed on the Big Island of Hawaii in 1809, just five years after the first horses arrived here. In time, he developed a friendship with King Kamehameha I, who employed him to bring a herd of wild cattle under control. Parker later married Kipikane, the daughter of a Hawaiian chief, in 1815, and they had three children - a daughter and two sons.
As the Parker family and their property grew, so did the community of Waimea. By 1832, skilled Latin American vaqueros (cowboys) had arrived to work the cattle ranches and within a few years Hawaii had its own working cowboys. Soon there were blacksmiths, craftsmen, sawyers and tanners plying their trades here.
Although many ranches failed in the 19th century, the Parker Ranch survived and thrived, with domesticated longhorns and Herefords as the primary livestock. During World War Two, the military moved onto the Parker land and set up a huge tent city, Camp Tarawa. In the post-War ear, the ranch headquarters was improved, a Visitor Center was constructed, and a museum, a restaurant and a saddle shop were added.
Today, the Parker Ranch provides visitors with opportunities to learn about the history and culture of Hawaii and the Paniolo. There are horseback riding tours and All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) tours that take groups through pastureland and past the dormant Mauna Kea volcano. The ranch is also home to an annual Fourth of July Rodeo and the official Paniolo Hall ofFame.
The cost for trail rides is $79.00 per person for each of the two rides offered at 8:15am and 12:15pm Monday through Saturday. Each ride lasts about two hours and begins at the Blacksmith Shop on Pukalani Road. Prices are subject to change and do not include Hawaii state tax.
Hunting is also permitted on the ranch, and guides are available. The game season is year-round, and pointing dogs can be provided. Besides hunting for such game birds as pheasant, wild turkeys and sand grouse, big game hunting is also possible. There is a 14-point limit on bird hunting and a charge "per kill'' on big game, ranging from $525 for a meat pig to $3,500 for a two-day "Grand Slam'' that includes harvesting all three permitted big game species - Polynesian Boar, Wild Goat and Wild Cattle.
Shopping in the Parker Ranch Store for souvenirs is an essential part of any visit. Among items available are Hawaiian-style beef jerky, Kona coffee and local teas, as well as a variety of local music CDs, island lotions, handcrafted jewelry and upcountry Paniolo apparel.
The Parker Ranch Center is located at 67-1185 Mamalahoa Highway, Suite E126
Kamuela, HI 96743. The ranch headquarters is at 67-1435 Mamalahoa Highway, just off State Route 190 near the Highway 19 intersection in Kamuela.