Cattle Country


POSTED: Sunday, February 01, 2009

When Reba McEntire, the “;Queen of Country,”; visited Waimea last summer, she felt right at home at Parker Ranch. Learning about the Big Island's most famous family was one of the highlights of her trip.




Cattle Country Tour

        » Meet at: Parker Ranch Store, Parker Ranch Center, Waimea, Big Island

» Days offered: 9:30 a.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Check in 15 minutes before departure.


» Cost: $140 per person, including a sandwich, salad, soft drinks, green tea and bottled water. Ask about the charter discount, which requires buying all six seats in the van.


» Call: 885-7655 on the Big Island or toll-free (877) 885-7999 from the other islands


» E-mail: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


» Web site: www.parkerranch.com


» Notes: There's a two-person minimum to operate the tour, which goes on rugged, off-road areas not suitable for those with neck or back problems. Participants should be able to hike on uneven, grassy and rocky terrain. Waimea is known for its cool, wet weather, so bring a light jacket or a sweatshirt. Wear long pants, closed-toe shoes, sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat. Hawaii state law requires all children younger than 8 to be restrained in a federally approved safety seat. Car seats are not provided, so please bring your own if needed for your kids.




Other ranch activities

        You can experience the back-road portion of the Cattle Country Tour on the 90-minute Mana Road Tour, which operates Tuesday through Saturday. Cost is $75 per person. The group and guide determine the time.

Mana Hale and Puuopelu also can be toured separately. They're open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Admission is $10 per adult, $6 for children 4 through 11, and $8 for seniors 60 and older. A $25 family pass is available for parents and their children.


Puuopelu can be booked for weddings and other private functions. For information, call 885-5433.


Guided two-hour horseback rides are scheduled at 8:15 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. daily. Riders must be at least 7, and there's a 250-pound weight limit. Cost is $79 per person.


Two-hour ATV tours depart at 8:15 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. daily. Participants must be at least 16. Cost is $95 per person.


Big-game hunting for wild pig, goat and cattle can be arranged daily, year-round. You also can hunt upland bird species in season, including wild turkeys, pheasants and quail.


Prices begin at $525 per animal, per hunter for big game; bird hunts are $475 for a half-day and $750 for a full day per hunter. Required hunting licenses are additional.


Call 885-7655 on the Big Island or toll-free (877) 885-7999 from the other islands to book all activities except the historic-homes tour, which doesn't require reservations.



“;The Parkers' history intrigued her; she thought it would make a great movie,”; recalled Anthony Roberts, operations manager for the ranch's Visitor Division. “;She loved the wide-open spaces of the ranch, which she hadn't expected to see during her visit to Hawaii.”;

At Mana Hale and Puuopelu, the historic Parker homes, five paniolo (cowboys) surprised the country music star with a medley of Hawaiian cowboy songs.

“;She was tickled pink,and I really enjoyed meeting her,”; Roberts said. “;My wife said I had a smile on my face for a week!”;

Take Parker Ranch's four-hour Cattle Country Tour, and you'll also gain new respect and appreciation for the dynamic family who wrote an important chapter of Waimea's history.

First stop is the Parker Ranch Family Estate: Historic Homes and Gardens. In 1862, Englishman John Notley built a 7,000-square-foot home on a scenic knoll surrounded by a lake, expansive meadows and greenery, including lavender and rose bushes, ironwood trees and a 143-foot Cook Island pine tree.

John Palmer Parker II purchased the estate in 1879 and dubbed it Puuopelu. It served as the home of five generations of Parkers. Richard Palmer Smart, its last resident, filled its spacious rooms and halls with art and antiques collected from his many travels abroad.

Personal belongings of other family members also are on view, including musical instruments, Bibles, walking sticks and koa chests.

THE ORIGINAL two-story, two-bedroom Mana Hale was built in 1847 as the home of ranch founder John Palmer Parker. Its all-koa interior was removed in the mid-1980s and reinstalled in a replica of the house that's adjacent to Puuopelu. Among the items displayed there are a bed built by John Palmer Parker and Hawaiian quilts, poi pounders and wooden calabashes collected by the family over the years.

Next, the tour heads toward the mountains on a rugged one-lane path called Mana Road to areas that aren't otherwise accessible to the public. Built of dirt and gravel long before any foreigners arrived in the islands, the road winds 45 miles around the eastern and northern flanks of Mauna Kea volcano.

Sights include the original Mana Hale; Wahine Kea Corral, used for the ranch's cattle-breeding program; Dairy Fence Station, the primary shipping center for Parker Ranch beef; Makahalau, a century-old “;paniolo station”; that serves as the cowpokes' “;office”; on the range; and the cemetery where five generations of Parkers have been laid to rest, including John Palmer Parker.

The tour then returns to Waimea town, where ranch operations are explained.

One highlight here is Pukalani Stables, where the saddle shop, blacksmith's shed and veterinarian's office were once located.

A few horses are still corralled behind the stables, and the breaking pen and orphan pen, where orphaned calves are cared for, are nearby.

“;Parker Ranch is not a dude ranch,”; Roberts said. “;Although it's not guaranteed, the guides do their best to get you close to the action, so you might see cowboys conducting health checks on cattle, corralling them for vaccinations or moving them from paddock to paddock for grazing.”;

Even without such encounters, the Cattle Country Tour is a fascinating journey back in time.

“;Most of Parker Ranch's landscape hasn't changed in over 160 years,”; Roberts said.

“;It's serene. It's majestic. It's a glimpse of the old West, Hawaiian style.”;


Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Bulletin have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.