Konnichi wa / Great Outdoors
Things to Do in Hilo, Hawaii
At first glance, it might seem like this sleepy town on the Big Island (or the Island of Hawaii) doesn't have much to offer. Hilo doesn't draw huge crowds of tourists like other Hawaiian destinations, but with its relaxed pace and small-town ambiance, it feels more like "old Hawaii" than the resort areas elsewhere on the island. Plus, Hilo has several attractions that make it worth visiting. Here are a few of the highlights.
Hilo Farmers Market
Foodies will love the Hilo Farmers' Market, which is arguably the best on the Big Island. The market features tropical produce, prepared food and gifts. Here, you can buy a giant avocado, sip juice from a fresh coconut, or taste local treats such as lilikoi haupia, a creamy type of pudding made with passion fruit. Another section of the market is devoted to arts and crafts. The major market days are Wednesday and Saturday from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. The market is in downtown Hilo at the corner of Kamehameha Avenue and Mamo Street.
Pacific Tsunami Museum
Hilo and the Big Island have been devastated by two major tsunamis within the past century. In this compact but fascinating museum, you can learn about the natural disasters that have shaped the history of this area. The tsunami museum is located at 130 Kamehameha Ave. It's open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. General admission is $8. Discounts are available for seniors and children.
Just a few minutes from downtown Hilo, Wailuku River State Park features a beautiful waterfall and large banyan trees. If you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a rainbow behind the falls. The waterfall is more impressive after heavy rains. The park is open during daylight hours, and there is no charge for admission. Rainbow Falls is located at 40 Rainbow Drive, just off Waianuenue Avenue.
Imiloa Astronomy Center
You could spend a rainy day taking in the exhibits on astronomy and indigenous Hawaiian culture in this family-oriented museum and planetarium. Located at 600 Imiloa Place, Imiloa Astronomy Center is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Imiloa is closed on New Year's Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Admission is $17.50 for adults. Discounts are available for children, seniors and Hawaii residents.
This park, named after the last queen of Hawaii, might actually remind you of Japan. Its Japanese-style garden, situated next to the ocean, has paths that meander through a setting of ponds, stone bridges and wooden pavilions. It's a serene and picturesque place for a stroll. Coconut Island, just across the street from the Japanese garden, is a favorite destination for fishing, swimming and sunbathing. Liliuokalani Park is at 123 N. Kuakini St. It has restrooms and picnic tables. Please note that there is no lifeguard on duty at Coconut Island. The park is open 24 hours per day, and admission is free.
Richardson's Ocean Park
Wildlife lovers come to this park to spot the green sea turtles that congregate here. Because the turtles are endangered, it's prohibited by law to approach them, but you can often see them lying on lava rocks near the shore or swimming in the ocean. The park also has a nice black sand beach enjoyed by tourists and locals, and it's a good place for swimming and snorkeling. The park is located at 2349 Kalanianaole Ave. There are restrooms, picnic tables and a lifeguard on duty. Hours of operation are from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. Admission is free.
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Hilo
- Driving to the top of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano that marks the highest point in the state of Hawaii
- Staying overnight at the summit of Mauna Loa, which was once considered to be the largest volcano on Earth and comprises over half of the Big Island
- Soaking in the views at Akaka Falls State Park with its two beautiful waterfalls, Kahuna and Akaka Falls
- Taking a helicopter tour to check out the lava flows in Puna and lava tubes around Hilo created by Kilauea in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Visiting the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, which has great views of Boulder Creek and the lava tubes on Onomea Bay, or Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo, the only one in the United States that's located within a rainforest.
- Catching some rays at Hilo Bay or Carlsmith Beach Park, where you have a good chance of seeing sea turtles
- Absorbing Hawaiian island history at the Lyman Museum & Mission House
- Taking the Hamakua Coast road trip to Honokaa near Waipi'o Valley on the north side of the island
- Cruising down Banyan Drive, the "Hilo Walk of Fame", to see the banyan trees planted by celebrities along the way
And, of course, there are other top things to do on Hawaii Island, many of which are in Kona on the dry side, and on the other islands as well, including Oahu and Kauai, but it's clear that there's much to discover and many opportunities for recreation in Hilo itself.
Whether you enjoy wildlife, nature, science, history or good food, you'll find something interesting in Hilo on the Big Island. You could possibly visit many of the above attractions in a day, but if you fall under the spell of Hilo's unique charm, you might decide to stay longer.
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