Trot, Canter, Gallop

Parker Ranch introduces Cowboys of Hawaii program

By: Marty Wentzel

WAIMEA, Big Island Since the early 1800s, paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys) have been riding the ranges of the Big Island. These days, clients can saddle up with their modern-day equivalent in the newest activity from Parker Ranch called Cowboys of Hawaii, one example of how the 200,000-acre working ranch is sharing its history and culture with guests.

“Most people are unaware of the ranch and the role it has played in shaping the Big Island’s history,” said Parker Ranch vice president of marketing and development Diane Quitiquit. “We want visitors to come away with new knowledge of an important part of Hawaiian history paniolo culture that they didn’t expect to have.”

Parker Ranch surrounds the town of Waimea and spreads between the Kohala Mountains and Mauna Kea volcano. Last year, 26,500 guests took part in the ranch’s various tours. “Our visitors are adventurers who love to seek out cultural and historical experiences,” explained Quitiquit. “Incentive groups visiting the Big Island have enjoyed a special rodeo or dinner function at the ranch, and we welcome educational and agricultural tours as well.”

The Cowboys of Hawaii horseback adventure takes visitors through old stone corrals to open pasturelands, where they enjoy sweeping views of the mountains and the sea, perhaps catching glimpses of pheasant, frankolins and wild pigs along the way. They visit the racetrack where Parker Ranch thoroughbreds have been trained over time, and they hear stories from real-life paniolo. “We have great horses with no attitude,” said paniolo Bully Figgeroa. “We don’t make them walk nose-to-tail. If you want to ride off to the side, that’s fine. Everyone can ride freely as long as they’re within a reasonable distance.”

Priced at $79 per person, the two-hour excursion is offered at 8:15 a.m. and 12:15 p.m., with a sunset ride from 4-5:30 p.m.

For a tamer tour, visitors can ride in a covered wagon, pulled by draft horses, while learning about Parker Ranch’s history. The 45-minute amble winds through old and new ranch operations ($15 per adult, $12 for children 12 and under).

Parker Ranch recently debuted a year-round hunting program for game birds ($350 per half-day, $525 full-day) and big game like Polynesian boar, Spanish goat, Vancouver bulls and Axis deer (from $525-$1,850 depending on length and game). Beverages and snacks are supplied on all hunts.

Parker Ranch’s museum and visitor center presents displays of antique ranching tools, historic photos and old furnishings. Its theater features a movie about the ranch’s cattle operations and paniolo heritage.

808-885-2303; www.park