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Kamuela on the Coast? Say It Isn’t So (It Isn’t)

May 6, 2013, 2:41 PM HST
* Updated May 9, 8:42 AM
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Sometimes those living elsewhere struggle with Big Island geography.

Take, for example, the Wilderness Society’s selections some years back of the top 10 romantic outdoor activities. It selected as No. 7 “watching the sun set from Chain of Craters Road in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.”

A nice gesture, but the park is on the eastern side of the Big Island, and there are several very tall mountains between the park’s road and the sun setting in the west.

Now a national magazine has named a community a good 10 miles from the ocean – as the `alala flies – as one of “The 10 Best Beach Towns for Families.”

Looking for the “shore bets” in family-vacation destinations, Parents Magazine, a monthly periodical with a circulation of more than 2 million, named “Kamuela, Hawaii, The Big Island” No. 8 on its list.

It’s not that Kamuela isn’t family-friendly, it is just that it’s located at an elevation of more than 2,600 feet above sea level.

That’s sea level as in adjacent to the shore or a beach.

The problem may lie partly in the fact that Kamuela is the US Postal Service designation for the upcountry Big Island town commonly known as Waimea.

The magazine describes Kamuela’s activities as including hula, luau and stargazing at The Shops at Mauna Lani, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, respectively, all of which are located on the South Kohala coast.

While those resorts use either “Waimea” or “Kohala Coast” in their mailing addresses, they also use Kamuela’s 96743 zip code.

Hence the confusion.

It’s not clear why the Big Island’s Waimea didn’t get top postal service billing, but it may have something to do with the fact that there are several Waimeas in Hawaii, including Waimea, Kauai and Waimea Falls, Oahu.

Not at the beach. Wikipedia photo.

Not at the beach. Wikipedia photo.

Perhaps the reason that the USPS recognizes the one on Kauai — which, ironically, is located on the coast — is because it was founded first.

According to Hawaiian scholar Mary Kawena Pukui, that’s also where British explorer Capt. James Cook first set foot in Hawaii, in 1778.

Waimea, Big Island, got its start in the early 1800s when John Palmer Parker jumped ship and began taming cattle in the area in 1809. He married a chief’s daughter in 1815 and developed Parker Ranch.

Pukui said the origin of the Kamuela post office came from the Hawaiian name for either Samuel Parker, son of the founder of Parker Ranch born in 1863, or for Samuel Spencer, a former postmaster.

But we digress.

Under “Oceanfront Fun,” Parents Magazine also listed Kamuela’s beach town attributes as including Hapuna Beach State Park, which apparently doesn’t have its own mailing address.

However, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources website describes the park as being located 2.3 miles south of the South Kohala community of Kawaihae.

Although it is best known as the location of one of the Big Island’s two deep-draft harbors, Kawaihae, population 1,426, is located within several miles of all of the locales attributed to Kamuela.

And since Kawaihae as well as Puako — located just south of Hapuna — also share the 96743 zip code, it appears both of those coastal towns are getting the short end of the stick.

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