It takes a “Big Island” to hold Parker Ranch.
Parker Ranch, founded in 1847, is one of our nation’s older and more historic ranches and, at approximately 135,000 acres, is counted among the larger ranches in the United States.
Located in the cool, country town of Waimea (heading north from the Kohala Coast), Parker Ranch transports visitors back to Hawaii’s paniolo (cowboy) days. It’s where you can watch rodeos, go horseback riding or, with a nod to modern-day ingenuity, hop aboard an All-Terrain Vehicle and explore the ranchlands.
Parker Ranch’s story begins in 1809, when a 19-year-old sailor named John Parker jumped ship and became acquainted with King Kamehameha. Parker became the first man in Hawaii to be allowed to slay some of the thousands of cattle that roamed the island’s plains and valleys. (Five head of cattle had been given to Kamehameha by British Captain George Vancouver; in time, the cattle population spread out of control.)
Due mostly to Parker’s efforts, beef replaced sandalwood as the Big Island’s chief export. His wealth and influence grew, and in 1815 he married the daughter of a high-ranking chief. The couple had two sons and a daughter, thus starting the Parker family dynasty in Hawaii.
The ranch itself was founded in 1847. In 1992, following the death of Richard Smart, the ranch’s last owner, Parker Ranch was left in a trust to benefit the Waimea community.
Things To Do
Museum & Visitor Center
Today, Parker Ranch includes the Parker Ranch Museum & Visitor Center, which provides an informative introduction to the ranch and its history. Antique ranching tools, historic photos and a video are among the museum’s highlights. Just a short drive away are two historic homes: Mana Hale was built by Parker in 1847 as the original family home. Puuopelu, Richard Smart’s residence, has a large collection of fine art collected from around the world.
Also worth a visit is the Parker Ranch Store, which is stocked with ranch logo wear, accessories, souvenirs, Parker Ranch Kona Coffee and more.
Visitors at Parker Ranch can participate in a variety of activities, including horseback riding, ATV adventures, carriage rides and even hunting.