Big Island

The Two Sides of Waimea on Hawai’i Island

They say there are two sides to every story,

This is especially true of Waimea (also known as Kamuela), with its dualities of both name and climate.

Waimea, Hawai’i Island, where the wet and dry sides meet in a rainbow

The wet and dry sides of the Big Island are known as the windward and leeward sides, respectively. The windward side of the Big Island is in the northern and eastern districts. When moist air carried by tradewinds reach the majestic volcanoes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, the air cools and turns into rain clouds, bringing tropical moisture to the Hilo side and the green northern areas where Waimea is located. The heart of Waimea town is where the wet and dry sides meet which means rainbows galore!

Photo by Peter French –  Majestic Mauna Kea and the Town of Waimea

Diverse Climate Zones, One Big Island

The leeward side of Hawai’i Island to the south and west, known generally as the Kona side of the island, is much drier. Tradewinds lose their moisture after reaching the southern and western coastlines, making these areas more arid. This gives the Kona side of the island its calm water, sunny days, and beautiful beaches. Itʻs not surprising that this coast is where many of the island’s resorts are located.

Kauna‘oa Bay at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel – South Kohala

Hawai‘i residents often use shorthand to refer to these two sides of the Big Island – the Hilo side or the Kona side. For some, choosing their favorite side is simple. Most people have a preference for either tropical, verdant jungle and rain showers – or warm, dry, sunny days. Then there are those residents who love both.

Waimea’s “Wet Side” and “Dry Side”

For the lovers of both types of weather, there’s the beautiful, historic town of Waimea. Perched at 2,690 feet above sea level overlooking the Kohala Coast, Waimea is a long-established community of ranchers with a population of more than 7,000 residents. This beautiful paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) town located in the South Kohala District of the Big Island has the best of both worlds because Waimea is located on the invisible, yet defined leeward–windward border of the island. If you tell a local you are from Waimea, their first question is usually, “The wet side or the dry side?”

Sunset and Ocean View from Kohala By The Sea, South Kohala

The dry side of Waimea gets an average of just 15 inches of rain per year and sees plenty of sunshine, giving many residents the ability harness the power of the sun for solar electricity and “green” living.  Depending on the location , the dry side boasts beautiful ocean and sunset views.

Photo by Peter French – Green Hills of Wet Side Waimea

The wet side of Waimea gets an average of 65 inches of rain per year and can sometimes be downright cold, but if you love to garden and you enjoy cultivating a beautiful lawn and flowers, this side may be just what you’re looking for.  Some additional advantages of the wet side – home prices are a bit lower and it’s one of the few places in Hawai’i where you can enjoy a more ‘seasonal’ lifestyle. This is especially true in winter when snow dusts the top of nearby Mauna Kea. If you like snuggling in front of a fire, Waimea is one of the few places on the island where a fireplace comes in handy!

Photo by Peter French – Winter in Waimea

Waimea is gorgeous, regardless of which side you choose as your home base.  It has grown in recent years as many residents on the Kohala Coast send their kids to the public and private schools here. Kohala resort residents enjoy coming up for the thriving performing arts and entertainment at the lovely, historic Kahilu Theater, or picking up fresh produce at the abundant Waimea farmers’ markets.  You may just fall in love with this charming ranching town and decide to stay forever!



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Kathie alvus

September 1, 2021

We are currently living in Waimea for only two weeks. We have moved from NY upstate. Due to arthritis and asthma we think we may need the dry side of Waimea. We really like Waimea and would be interested in a long term rental. We are five older adults. Can you help us? Thank you, kathie alvis

Julie Keller

October 19, 2021

Aloha Kathie, I did not receive notification of this comment you made – sorry to have missed it! My guess is you’ve found someone else to help you by this time, but if not, I’d be happy to. Fee free to call or email or 808-987-7931.
Mahalo for your comment!

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