The South Kohala district encompasses the sun-struck shoreline of the Big Island's northwestern coast and reaches upland (mauka) to Waimea’s cool green pastures. Near the ocean, volcano goddess Pele’s work is a dramatic lavascape, studded here and there by kipuka (small vegetated oases surrounded by lava flows). Today, as in ancient times, this area offers a valued portal to the sea where you can still see Kamehameha the Great’s shoreline fishponds all along the Kohala Coast.
During the 1960's bold land developers spent millions to create additional kipuka along the shoreline. These oases are the Mauna Kea, Mauna Lani and Waikoloa oceanfront resorts of the Kohala Coast. The resort culture, in turn, inspired development of luxury real estate options in the nearby areas: custom homes, villas, condominiums and vacation residences.
Tucked in among the Kohala Coast resorts is the tiny, low-key beachfront community of Puako. Once a fishing hamlet reachable only by boat, Puako embraces an appealing mix of high-end custom homes and vacation rentals as well as plantation-style beach shacks and modest cottages. The palpable contentment enjoyed by this diverse little enclave is the result of the live-and-let-live facet of aloha, evidenced when neighbors meet to talk story on the front porch of M’s Puako General Store, the only store in town.
Six miles upland from the shoreline, Waikoloa Village (as opposed to coastal Waikoloa Resort) is a relatively new subdivision developed over the last 35 years. Originally intended as affordable housing for resort workers, Waikoloa has grown into an interesting convergence of young working families, “snowbirds” (part-time residents from the mainland), recent transplants, baby boomer retirees and kama’āina(meaning "old-timers") who enjoy the warm weather (in spite of sometimes blustery winds). With several condominium complexes, a shopping center and an active Community Association, Waikoloa Village is conveniently located between Waimea and Kailua-Kona. Homeowners in the Village also have access to nearby tennis and golf amenities.
On the high, cool plain to the north and east is the captivating cowboy town of Waimea, also known as Kamuela. "Waimea" translates to "red water," and every Hawaiian Island has at least one place called Waimea. When the 20th century Post Office needed a zip code, it was designated Kamuela, or Samuel, for a member of the Parker family.
Prized throughout Hawaiian history as a rich source of fresh water and good soil, Waimea is the headquarters of Parker Ranch, at one time the world’s largest privately-owned cattle operation.
Although you see symbols of urban America in the town’s main shopping area (including a Starbucks), the essential character of Waimea is an appealing balance of cowboy-rustic and cultivated sophistication. Here, you will find highly-regarded private schools, a contemporary hospital, headquarters for multiple astronomy observatories, fine restaurants, art galleries and the Kahilu Theatre, a performing arts center, all located in close proximity to a rodeo arena, acres of farms and grazing cattle on vast ranches.