Hilo is a town on the Big Island of Hawaii. The county seat and largest city in Hawaii County, Hilo is the one of the best starting points to explore the eastern half of the island, including Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Hilo International Airport is the main airport serving Hilo and the eastern side of the Big Island. The majority of flights to Hilo originate from Honolulu via Hawaiian Airlines and go! There is also one flight from Kahului daily.
Most of the visitors bound for Hilo will arrive via one of the inter island Airlines (go!, Hawaiian), or as a day stop from one of the frequent cruise ship visits.
As public transportation on Hawai`i Island is minimal, virtually all visitors rent a vehicle from one of the many rental agencies upon arriving at Hilo International Airport. As an alternative, taxis are also available at the airport though renting a car is almost always more practical. The county's Hele-On Bus system ($1.00 fare) does not serve Hilo International Airport. It's a good idea to make car reservations in advance, as special events or active conditions at the Volcanoes National Park can quickly deplete the supply of available vehicles.
For family - friendly, educational, personal tours of Hilo and Hamakua waterfalls, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and other locations on the island of Hawaii, check out Native Guide Hawaii (+1 808 982-7575).
Pacific Tsunami Museum, 130 Kamehameha Ave, ☎ +1 808 935-0926 (email@example.com, fax: +1 808 935-0842), . Serves as a living memorial, and a reminder for a generation yet to experience such fright. A tsunami, Japanese for “harbor waves” are a fact of life in Hawaii, especially Hilo. On 1 April 1946, and 23 May 1960, Hilo suffered devastating tsunamis that reshaped its social and economic structure.
Hilo Art Museum, 1266 Kamehameha Ave, ☎ +1 808 961-1426 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . The Big Island's only general art museum, and has a growing collection of art from around the world. It is in the historic Hilo Iron Works building with a breathtaking view of Hilo Bay.
The Lyman House Museum, 276 Haili St, ☎ +1 808 935-5021. This museum features a restored missionary house (hourly guided tours). They also have a small collection of local artwork, historical exhibits, and the 9th-best mineral collection in the United States.
Rainbow Falls: If you don't have time to make it up to Akaka Falls, or you don't like hiking, Rainbow Falls is worth a visit. Try to visit early in the the day. You have a better chance to see the rainbow created by the mist. Drive up Waianuenue Avenue from downtown, following the signs. If you pass the hospital, you have gone too far. Very wheelchair accessible, but the Boiling Pots will require some hiking.
King Kamehameha Statue - Erected in 1997 at Wailoa State Park, the statue of King Kamehameha is perhaps the most impressive of the four found throughout the state. A gift from the island of Kauai who failed to erect the statue due to the historical significance of being the only island never to be conquered by Kamehameha the Great. Standing at 14 feet tall, the statue now overlooks Hilo where the first King of Hawaii established his seat of government.
Naha Stone, 300 Waianuenue Ave (in front of the Hilo Public Library). It was prophesied that the man who moved the Naha stone, which weighs nearly 5000 pounds, would unite all of the Hawaiian islands and be the greatest king of all Hawaii. Kamehameha, at the age of fourteen, not only moved the stone, but lifted it end over end, and he eventually fulfilled the prophesy. The Pinao stone, which sits next to the Naha stone, once guarded an ancient temple.
Lili'uokalani Gardens - Located on Banyan Drive, this authentic Japanese garden was built in the early 1900s as a memorial to the immigrant Japanese who developed the old Waiakea Sugar Plantation and is named in honor of Hawaii's last reigning monarch, Queen Liliuokalani.
Many of the activities that are available are strictly daytime, and focus on the ocean. Surf culture is big, and boards may be rented from Orchidland Surf, located in the Bayfront district. Stan, the owner, will be happy to fill you in on where to go as well as the current conditions.
Other ocean fun can be found at Richardson's Ocean Park at the end of Kalanianaole (Highway 19). This is a popular spot for family cookouts, and has occasional waves. Snorkeling is a popular activity here. You can also find people relaxing on the beach or in the grass reading and visiting.
Four Mile is a popular swimming spot, also located on Kalanianaole, before you get to Richardson's. Though there is no 'beach', it is rather like a large salt water swimming pool, with a sandy bottom, protected from the ocean by a reef. The brackish water is colder, a mix of the ocean and fresh water springs.
Helicopter touring is popular, with flights over macadamia nut plantations to the lava flows at Kilauea.
Kaumana caves are fun to explore and it's free. You should bring your own flashlight.
Pacific Tsunami Museum is a great place to learn about the tidal waves that destroyed Hilo several times.
Hilo Art Museum is the island's only general art museum. It is in the historic Hilo Iron Works building with the best view of Hilo Bay.
Hilo has two main shopping areas, each about a mile away from most of the hotels on the Banyan Drive loop. Follow Kamehameha Avenue west from Banyan Drive, and you will arrive at Downtown Hilo, which is home to many quaint shops and restaurants. Follow Highway 11 (also Mamalahoa Highway or Kanoelehua Avenue) south from Banyan Drive, and you will arrive at the Prince Kuhio Plaza. There are larger retail stores in and around the Prince Kuhio Plaza area. KTA Superstores, Long's Drugs, and a Wal-Mart are all present on the island.
Most Downtown Hilo stores are located along the "Bayfront", or Kamehameha Avenue, though the side streets are also packed with excellent finds and shops to explore. The Hilo Farmer's Market is also located downtown. You can easily spend a day walking around Downtown Hilo, browsing and shopping.
While Downtown Hilo itself is walkable, parking spaces can be hard to find midday. It is possible to walk from your Banyan Drive area hotel to Downtown, though it is approximately one mile.
2 the Point Acupuncture, 83 Maikai St, ☎ +1 808 938-6007, . Skilled in the art and science of natural medicine.Applying the ancient Asian tradition of Seitai Shinpo Acupuncture with modern science, Kim is able to treat not only the ailments that bring you to see us, but also to safeguard your long term health and quality of life, so that your path in life is pain free and easy.
Basically Books, 160 Kamehameha Ave, ☎ +1 808 961-0144, . This family-owned independent bookstore in the heart of Downtown Hilo is the perfect place to purchase books on Hawaiian culutre, history and language. Excellent selection of Big Island maps.
Chase Gallery. Located in Hilo's scenic Bayfront district, along highway 19, this gallery features an excellent collection of local artwork.
Hilo Farmer's Market, (cnr of Mamo St and Kamehameha Ave), ☎ +1 808 933-1000, . W Sa mornings from dawn until it's gone, Su 2PM-until it's gone. Purchase the freshest, cheapest produce in Hilo at the Hilo Farmer's Market. You can also find fresh fish, fresh-cut flowers (anthuriums, protea, and other local varieties), prepared snacks, and the typical flea market junk. Be prepared to haggle. Get there early, like the locals do, before everything sells out.
Hilo Guitars, 114 Ponahawai St, ☎ +1 808 935-4282. Specializing in acoustic instruments, they also have the best collection of ukuleles in Hilo. Good store for Hawaiian music song books.
Hilo Surfboard Company, 84 Ponahawai St, ☎ +1 808 934-0925, . The Big Island's surf shop for surfers. This little shop has Hawaii Islands largest selection of new, used, and custom surfboards. There is also a huge selection of bodyboards. They have rentals and on site board repair. Also find Hilo Surfboard Company t-shirts and many local brands. Owner Scott Murray will be stoked to see you and talk story!
Kahuina Gallery, (on cnr of Mamo St and Kilauea Ave, just up the street from the Farmer's Market), ☎ +1 808 935-4420. A cooperative of island artists and musicians. A variety of cards, posters, CDs, original works of art, and small publications are available from local artists and musicians. Each Friday night is free open mic and music.
Kathmandu Imports. A fascinating new addition to the Hilo Bayfront district, Kathmandu Imports sells a collection of Tibetan and Nepali items. Located on Waianuenue Ave.
Sig Zane Designs, 122 Kamehameha Ave (right next to the Pacific Tsunami Museum), ☎ +1 808 935-7077, . M-F 9:30AM-5PM, Sa 9AM-4PM. Sig Zane Designs is one of the premier clothiers in Hawaii. They are known for their original textile prints, which depict indigenous and culturally-significant Hawaiian plants and flowers. The shop offers aloha shirts, ladies' blouses and dresses, handbags, and furniture. Sig Zane's aloha shirts and clothing items are priced higher than brands available at Hilo Hattie, though the quality and look is worth the extra cost.Aloha shirts from $89, Ladies' blouses from $59.
Prince Kuhio Plaza Area
The Prince Kuhio Plaza is the main retail center in Hilo. It is surrounded by many larger retailers and shops. It is best to have a car, as Highway 11 from Banyan Drive to the Plaza is not the most pedestrian-friendly boulevard.
Big Island Candies, 585 Hinano St, (toll free: +1 800-935-5510), . 8:30AM-5PM daily. Big Island Candies is renowned for their chocolate hand-dipped cookies and confections. They even dip dried squid in chocolate! This is one of the most popular gifts for visitors to take home from Hawaii. Products are packaged perfectly for gift-giving.
Big Island Delights, 762-4 Kanoelehua Ave, ☎ +1 808 959-7868, . Big Island Delights cookies. A local favorite when visiting Hilo and bringing back "omiyage", which means a gift to take back home when traveling.
Discount Fabric Warehouse, 933 Kanoelehua Ave, . M-Sa 9AM-6PM, Su 10AM-4PM. This unassuming warehouse offers the largest selection of Hawaiian-print fabrics on the Big Island. This is a must-stop for anyone who loves to sew or craft! Very reasonable prices on all fabrics, especially the cotton Hawaiian prints.
Kawate Seed Shop, 1990 Kinoole Ave, ☎ +1 808 959-8313. Some say Kawate makes the best shave ice in Hilo. With about a dozen flavors, visitors can add ice cream, azuki (red bean paste), or condensed milk to their shave ice. Kawate is also a great place to purchase local-style snacks such as Chinese li hing mui and other "crackseeds".Shave ice from $2.
Prince Kuhio Plaza, 111 E Puainako St, ☎ +1 808 959-3555, . M-Th 9:30AM-8PM, F Sa 9:30AM-9PM, Su 10AM-6PM. Hilo's main shopping center features a number of standard retail stores including American Eagle Outfitters, Hot Topic, GameStop, and Foot Locker. Macy's and Sears are the department store anchors. There are a few local shops such as Big Island Surf Company and Royal Hawaiian Heritage Jewelry. Also has a movie theater and food court.
Hilo is known for its locally-made ice cream. It's some of the best on earth and can be found several places, including Hilo Homemade Ice Cream downtown at 41 Waianuenue Avenue.
The Hilo Farmer's Market, on the corner of Kamehameha Avenue and Mamo Street, has lots of cheap eats. If you love tropical fruit, this is the place to go. There's a great tamale stand in the west corner of the market serving very tasty $2 tamales. Market open daily 7AM to 5PM, with extended hours on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The small town of Pahoa offers The Pahoa Market, which is a flea market open on Sundays, has more pre-prepared food. Take Highway 130 on the way to Pahoa.
Hawai'i Nui Brewing Company (Mehana Brewing Company), 275 E. Kawili St. (Across the street from the Community College), ☎ 808-934-8211, . 9:30-5:30 M-Sa. Small batch craft beers are brewed at this location, 6 are rotated on tap for tastings. Can also purchase logo wear and 6 packs, growlers and fills or rent kegs for your next party. They are the only brewery in the islands that produce and bottle all of their beers on site. Conveniently located on the way to the volcano, waterfalls and beaches!
Blane's Drive-In, 150 Kino'ole St, 217 Waianuenue Ave. Falling into the category of "plate lunch" place, Blane's has a large, inexpensive menu. Perfect for a heavy lunch after surfing for a couple of hours. A plate lunch, for those who don't know, usually consists of 2 scoops of steamed rice, a scoop of macaroni salad, and your choice of a variety of extremely fattening delicious goodness. For the less adventurous, they also serve up burgers, fries, chili, etc. They are famous for their loco mocos.
Cafe 100, 969 Kilauea Ave, ☎ +1 808 935-8683. In honor of the famed 100th Infantry Army Battallion, Mr. Miyashiro who served in the 100th during World War II, established this local restaurant with his wife in 1945. Destroyed twice by the devastating tsunamis, Cafe 100 offers good food at a great price. Known for their "Loco Moco" consisting of a bowl of rice with a hamburger patty, gravy and an egg, it is one of the best places to "grind" on the island and a local favorite.
Hilo Coffee Mill, 17-995 Volcano Hwy, Mt. View (Btwn the 12 and 13 Mile Markers in Mountain View), ☎ +1 808 968-1333, . M-Sa 7AM-4PM. Great light breakfast and locally made lunch specials daily. Some of the best Portuguese Bean Soup around, shoyu chicken, kalua pork, chicken and veggie wraps made to order. Lots more. Friendly staff, great smell of coffee, tours and unique coffee from around the state. Full espresso bar. Coffee roasted on site.
Ken's House of Pancakes, 1730 Kamehameha Ave (Look for Ken's on Kanoelehua, before Banyan Dr), ☎ +1 808 935-8711. Don't let the name of this place throw you off. They have an amazingly varied menu, and perhaps more importantly, they are the only 24-hour eatery in Hilo.
Kuhio Grille, Prince Kuhio Plaza Ste 106A, ☎ +1 808 959-2336. Home of the one pound Lau Lau!
Ocean Sushi Deli, 250 Keawe St. Ocean Sushi features low-cost original and creative sushi along with local-style Japanese food. Some favorite sushi: eel with cream cheese, scallop roll with melted cheese on top--yum!
Suisan, 85 Lihiwai St, ☎ +1 808 935-9349, . Many varieties of poke sold by weight - take your package to the park across the street and enjoy a picnic!
Cafe Pesto, 308 Kamehameha Ave, ☎ +1 808 969-6640, . If you have a memory of coming to Hilo as a child, and eating in a reasonably nice restaurant with a view of the bay, chances are it was Cafe Pesto. They have a wide range of food, everything from pizzas to furikake-crusted ono. It's also open late, which is a definite plus in Hilo.
Garden Snack Club, 82 Kilauea Ave, ☎ +1 808 933-9664. Weird name, but original Thai food.
The Hilo Bay Cafe, 315 Makaala St #109, ☎ +1 808-935-4939. This restaurant was started by the owners of a local health food store (Island Naturals) and features excellent cuisine, featuring local organic produce, etc. A great place for a date. Try a Mojito. The name is somewhat misleading, since it's actually located in the Prince Kuhio Mall, close to Wal-Mart. Strange location, fabulous place. Reservations may be required on Friday or Saturday nights.
Naung Mai, 86 Kilauea Ave, ☎ +1 808 934-7540.
Reuben's, 336 Kamehameha Ave (Next door to Hilo Farmer's Market), ☎ +1 808 961-2552. Tu-Su 11AM-8PM. Hilo's best (and perhaps only) Mexican restaurant. Large portions of surprisingly authentic and tasty Mexican staples. Sue, the co-owner and bartender, pours the best (and VERY strong) margaritas in town.
Sunlight Cafe, 1261 Kilauea Ave, ☎ +1 808 934-8833. Japanese 'izakaya' type menu.
Sushi Bar Hime, 14 Furneaux Ln. Place sits only 10 people--cozy.
Coconut Grill, 136 Banyan Way. Excellent entres including Chicken Mauna Kea, Fillet Mingnon, fresh fish dishes and desserts such as Naughty Hula Girl Mud Pie (enough for a family of 4!) and mac nut ice cream.
Pescatore, 235 Keawe St, ☎ +1 808 969-9090. A good northern Italian restaurant downtown. The ahi carpaccio is not to be missed.
Restaurant Miwa, 1261 Kilauea Ave (Hilo Shopping Center), ☎ +1 808 961-4454. An upscale Japanese restaurant, ask about their famous Chirashi bowls, you won't be disappointed.
Seaside Restaurant, 1790 Kalanianaole Ave, ☎ +1 808 935-8825. One of the best places to be served an "ono" and fresh seafood lunch or dinner. Seaside can be found on Kalanianaole street across from 4-mile beach.
Hilo is a small town, and as such, there is not a lot of public drinking to be done. Despite of a very lackluster nightlife, almost every bar has a cover charge. Still, there are a few places to wet your whistle, and maybe catch a live act.
Detour. A relatively new bar catering mostly to an Asian/Hawaiian clientèle. There is a dance floor with music supplied by a house PA system, there is no DJ. There is a bar/lounge area with pool tables, darts, TV's and sofas and a separate dance floor area. Fights tend to be common here also. (On weekends there is typically a $7 cover charge).
Cronies, (downtown cnr of Waianuenue and Kamehameha). Until 9PM. General sports bar not a spot for nightlife.
Emerald Orchid, Keawe St. A neat British pub-style bar with a nice selection of beers and liquor served by friendly bartenders. Features a small dance floor with the occasional live band or DJ. Attendance is hit or miss, with some days being packed and the next week being nearly empty. Very close to Hilo Hostel.
Legends Bar & Grill (formerly Charley's), (Keaau shopping center, about 20 min from downtown). Recently bought and renovated, this bar in Keaau is now one of the few venues that frequently has live music.
Bear's Coffee. Good waffles, lame hours.
Kope Kope, Hilo Shopping Center. Great coffee, wonderful atmosphere, rockin' baristas (new owner - yeah!).
Just Cruisin Coffee, (cnr of Kilauea and Pauahi Sts (by the new State building)). Great sandwiches and pastries and 100% pure Kona coffee.
Seattle's Best Coffee, In Borders in Prince Kuhio area. Closed, to be a Walgreens.
Starbucks. One is on Kilauea, the other is in the Prince Kuhio shopping center.
Surf Break Cafe, (Downtown on Kinoole). Great food, wonderful coffee, and the best atmosphere.
Hilo Airport Hostel (Pineapple Park Hostels), 860 Piilani St, ☎ +1 702-421-1183, . Clean, Affordable and Professional. Pineapple Park hostel is 1 mile from the Hilo Airport. Pool table, Cable TV, WiFi, and A/C available in most rooms. Free breakfast. Dorm room has private bathroom. Private, semi private and family rooms available.$25 & up.
Hilo Backpackers Hostel, 69 Waianuenue Ave, ☎ +1 808 934-0800, . Newly renovated hostel provides budget minded travelers with affordable accommodations and volcano tour adventures.$27.
Uncle Billy's Hilo Bay Hotel, 87 Banyan Dr, ☎ +1 808 935-0861 (fax: +1 808 935-7903), . Inexpensive rates and excellent location, but poor value due to old, unclean, noisy rooms and spotty service. Should be considered only as a last resort if everything else is booked. 145 rooms.
At the Beach with Friends Bed and Breakfast, 369 Nene St, ☎ +1 808 934-8040 (email@example.com), . Custom built as a B&B on a lagoon at Hilo's favorite swimming beaches. One of a kind tropical setting, privacy, comfortable rooms, friendly, good food, and a great location. Beautiful house and garden with great tropical fish and plant collections. Computer station and WiFi. Cable TVs, and private phone lines in all the rooms. Lounge with books and music.
Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, 71 Banyan Dr, ☎ +1 808 935-9361 (fax: +1 808 961-9642), . Older hotel of 286 rooms with great views. It is clean, the staff are friendly, but it is really showing its age. Beds for instance, feature bedspreads which are clearly 20+ years old. Plus, air conditioning in each room is a small corner unit that works, but is hardly central air. Internet access in rooms, but the TV is 15 inches.
Pakalana Inn, 321 Punahoa St (adjacent to Hilo Farmer's Market and Wailoa Park, across from Agasa's Furniture and Music, above Koji's Bento ande Hilo Guitars), ☎ +1 808-935-0709 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . 5 nice, newly restored rooms in the second floor of an old building in downtown Hilo. Free Wi-Fi, ocean or mountain views, key-less doors, very short walking distance to all the downtown Hilo offerings. Be there Wednesday or Saturday mornings for the Hilo Farmer's Market action.~$100. (19 deg 43'21.26,155 deg 05'03.55)
Waterfalls Inn Bed and Breakfast, 240 Kaiulani St, ☎ +1 808 969-3407, . Four suites in a classic old house. Country relaxation.
Hilo Bay Hale, 301 Ponahawai St, ☎ +1 808 640-1113 (email@example.com), . A restored 1912 plantation home that features 4 guest suites with private baths and lanai (porches) overlooking koi ponds, streams and Hilo Bay.
Hilo Vacation Rentals, 2256 Kalanianaole Ave, (toll free: +1 800-813-3306), . Oceanfront homes front best swimming and snorkeling beaches in Hilo bay. Choose from 1-4 bedroom beach houses. Guests enjoy complete oceanfront privacy in fully-equipped vacation rental homes. Available for nightly, weekly, and extended stays. All properties are privately owned and managed by the same family.
Haole = Caucasian: Though many think that "haole" just means white person, it refers more to an attitude than anything else. Hilo is a workaday town that sees few tourists. Locals aren't as accustomed to tourists as they are in the resort areas, so respecting the local people and culture is very important. Treat the locals with respect, and the same respect will be returned to you. There are a few native Hawaiians who have a generally negative attitude to Haoles, and may express this attitude through looks or comments. You are best to simply ignore comments to avoid provocation.
Locals refrain from wearing aloha outfits, either full body attire or partial outfits. Clothes are very casual to resort casual at best.
WARNING: Check with your car rental company before driving to the Mauna Kea summit. Four-wheel drive is highly recommended.
Akaka Falls State Park, (11 mi/18 km N of Hilo at the end of Hwy 220). This awe-inspiring waterfall is the highest falls on the island. The loop trail is an easy walk through the tropical rainforest, and provides several viewing opportunities. Kahuna Falls can also be viewed from the trail, though it is much less impressive than Akaka Falls.
Nani Mau Gardens, 421 Makalika St (3 mi/5 km from Hilo), ☎ +1 808 959-3500, . Nani Mau, which translates as "forever beautiful", features over 50 acres of artistically-landscaped displays of native and exotic tropical flowers and plants, a spectacular orchid garden, rare palms and tropical fruit orchards. First opened to the public in 1972, this tropical garden claims to have every flowering plant in Hawaii.
Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo, (off Hwy 11), ☎ +1 808 959-9233, . 9AM-4PM daily. This is the only zoo in the U.S. situated in a tropical rainforest--a playground for exotic birds and animals, including a white Bengal tiger and pygmy hippos. Three squirrel monkeys from the old Pearl City Tavern (now closed and razed, replaced by a auto dealership) are there as well. Tiger feeding daily at 3:30PM.Free.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park - The entrance to the park is in the town of Volcano, roughly 40 minutes drive from downtown Hilo. Many people can spend several days exploring all that the park has to offer. There are a number of excellent hikes, showcasing most of the flavors of Hawaiian geological activity. Of course, the thing that most people come to see is the active flow zone of Kilauea. Entrance fees are consistent with other U.S. National Parks.
Mauna Kea - It is a dormant volcano. Go to Saddle Road via State Highway 11 (either turn right on E Puainako St, and then reaching the end of a T-intersection, turn right and then make a left and with a unsigned Hawaiian Route 200; or take the Waianuenue Ave (changes into Kaumana Dr), and then after you reach a end, turn right and you will be on Saddle Road).
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