Waimea, Hawaii, this old house best neighborhood 2012
Photo: Alex Woodbury
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Waimea, Hawaii

Waimea has an 180-year history of cattle-roping "paniolo" (cowboys)—and the early-20th-century paniolo-style ranch houses to prove it. Those houses are characterized by their board-and-batten siding, gingerbread trim, decorative shutters, and small verandas. Waimea and its lush surroundings sit at the base of the Big Island's Kohala Mountains, a gateway between the sunny side and the rainy side of the island. "On the dry side of Waimea, they get about 15 inches of rain a year; on the wet side it's 60 or more," says Sherm Warner, president of the Waimea Community Association. Locals appreciate the distance from "big-city distractions" in Kona and Hilo, both over 40 miles away on opposite sides of the island, and the rustic charm that remains from the legacy of raising cattle here. "It's part of the community," Warner says. "You know, rodeo is a high-school sport here."

The Houses
Paniolo-style houses dot the green hills of Waimea along Highway 19. Expect to pay between $375,000 to a million for a 2,500- to 3,000-square-foot-house.

Why Buy Here?
Residents benefit from the Parker Ranch Foundation Trust, formed in 1992 by the late Richard Smart, who owned the area's flagship cattle ranch and used its fortunes to help develop Waimea responsibly. Among the community projects funded by the trust are two private schools and the North Hawaii Community Hospital. Eco-friendly development and sustainable living is part of the culture here, but Warner says the best part is that "It's Hawaii. It's the ideal."

Among the best for: The West, Small Towns, Cottages and Bungalows, Family Friendly, Parks and Recreation, Retirees
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