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Honoka'a Western Week

There’s a common misconception about the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. Most folks relate it with aloha shirts, ukulele, and powdery white sandy beaches surrounded by tropical blue waters. But there’s more to Big Island’s culture that might sweep the boots off your feet – cattle ranching and rodeos! The arrival of the cattle in 1793 on Hawaiʻi island ushered in that of a long-horned cow galloping alongside the beach, ranch hands roping cattle on lava fields, and cattle drives through shark-infested waters.

It led to converting wide open spaces into Parker Ranch in 1847 to corral in half-wild cattle. Who knew, right??

A paniolo (cowboy) swinging a lasso at a rodeo on horseback.

A Unique Hawaiian Tradition

The rich history and tradition of the Paniolo shaped Western Week celebrations on the Hāmākua Coast for over half a century.

A paniolo (cowboy) throws a shaka.

Western Week is a week-long community celebration of Paniolo heritage every May in our very own Honokaʻa town. Paniolo is a term for “Hawaiian cowboy,” which developed in the technique and origin of the vaquero or Mexican cowboy of Mexico City.

Honoka'a People's Theatre Western Week signage.
The Hawaiian cowboy infused recreational activities that embraced storytelling, music, and rodeo festivals into their ranch culture and lifestyle. It branded Honoka’a’s Western Week tradition as a defining characteristic of the community, and it’s one of our favorite things about this little town!
A paniolo (cowboy) riding in a blur.

Our Community

Western Week arose from the annual rodeo when the Paniolo and their followers assembled in town. This motivated community merchants to organize a week-long celebration that persists today.

This year’s hybrid venue featured a lineup of online and in-person events. It launched with a Saloon Girls and Cowboys Got Talent Show, online silent auction, Hāmākua Harvest Farm Fest, Paniolo Storytime for keiki, Whiskey Tasting, petting zoo, and an open-air western movie “Rango.”

A grid of four images showing parade goers in western gear.

Saddle Up Saturday

These Boots are Made for Walkin'

And the novel Saddle Up Saturday event on Māmane street, which hosts local artisans, showcased Beet Kvass at Pāpaʻaloa Joe, crafted honey from Meli Gardens Honey, Kalehua Creations… and of course our own ʻĀhualoa Family Farms 100% Hawaiian macadamia nuts. The venue rounded it up with a Slack Roping event and a Mini-Rodeo.

Western week goodies from local stores.

In Honoka’a town, you’ll experience the mark Paniolo heritage has made on Hawai’i’s culture until the cows come home. For all ya’ll cowboys and cowgirls who want a hog-killin’ time at Western Week, mark your calendar for next year’s hoe down! And be sure to stop by the Nuthouse while you’re in town!


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