Thirty minutes over the mountain from Kohala, Waimea offers a completely different experience from the rest of the island. Rolling green hills, large open pastures, light rain, cool evening breezes and morning mists, abundant cattle, horses, and regular rodeos are just a few of the surprises you'll stumble upon here in paniolo (Hawaiian for "cowboy") country.

Waimea is also where some of the island's top Hawaii regional-cuisine chefs practice their art using local ingredients, which makes it an ideal place to find yourself at dinnertime. In keeping with the recent Big Island restaurant trend toward featuring locally farmed ingredients, a handful of Waimea farms and ranches supply most of the restaurants on the island, and many sell to the public as well. With its galleries, restaurants, beautiful countryside, and paniolo culture, Waimea is well worth a stop if you're heading to Hilo or Mauna Kea. And the short highway, or mountain road, that connects Waimea to North Kohala (Highway 250) affords some of our favorite Big Island views.