Exploring Parker Ranch, Kamuela

Parker Ranch
Parker Ranch

The enormous estates of the Parker Ranch, which stretch from the northwest coast of Hawaii to the mountains of Kohala, give an unusual impression of the island. The Parker Ranch in Waimea, located on road 19, has an area of 355 sq.miles, about 9% of Hawaii's total area. From small beginnings in 1847, it has grown to become the largest cattle ranch in the United States. It is now run by the sixth generation of the Parker family.

Since the 1960s, particularly in areas of the estate close to the coast where land is not rich enough to support cattle rearing, tourism and shopping have been developed. A considerable number of hotels and apartment buildings have been constructed here.

Some of the Hawaiian cowboys, who still work today on the Parker Ranch, are direct descendants of the vaqueros brought over by Parker from Mexico in 1830 to help capture the wild cattle. As there was no Hawaiian equivalent, they became known as paniolos after the word espanol (meaning Spanish). Rodeos and other events take place here on Kamehameha Day (June 11th) and on American Independence Day (July 4th) as well as at other times.

Since 1988, the whole ranch has been open to visitors, who can enjoy a tour. Tours include a visit to the family cemetery, the Puukalani stables, John Parker's house (reconstructed by Smart with its original furniture from the second half of the 19th century) and the elegant modern house, Puuopelu, which houses Smart's considerable collection of French and Venetian art, pieces of Chinese jade and rare glassware. About 100 paintings are also on display here, including works by Degas, Renoir, Pissarro, de Vlaminck and Dufy.

Parker Ranch Visitor Center & Museum

Much of the Parker family history is covered in the Parker Ranch Visitor Center whose exhibits include family portraits, old Bibles, antique clothes, implements, weapons, a printing press and much more. One room is devoted to the career of Duke Kahanamoku who enjoyed several Olympic successes in swimming.

An extension to the center houses a small cinema in which a short film is shown, depicting the history and environment of the Parker Ranch, and its projected future.

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