The capital of the Big Island is full of lush tropical forests, botanical gardens, and waterfalls; all are nurtured by the regular rainfall that dampens the grounds of Hilo all year round.
If you are planning a tropical getaway on the Big Island, Hilo simply has to be a part of your itinerary. The weather here is unpredictable, so make sure you pack a light raincoat.
To make planning easier for you, we put together a list of attractions you should explore during your visit to Hilo.
Hiking And Waterfalls
Hilo’s varied landscape is dotted with hills, tropical vegetation, and gorgeous waterfalls. Each of these waterfalls will bring you beautiful scenery, photo ops, and a chance to whet your adventurous streak.
If you travel 11 miles north of the Hilo coast, you’ll find Akaka Falls, part of the Akaka Falls State Park. Getting to this gorgeous waterfall involves a short hike through lush vegetation.
Another waterfall you can visit during your visit to Akaka Falls is Kahuna Falls, which is found inside the same park.
Mauna Kea-Humuula Trail
If you are visiting Hilo between March and December, make sure you add Mauna Kea-Humuula Trail to your itinerary. This 21.6-kilometre route is considered quite challenging and takes nearly nine hours to complete.
Walking, hiking and birding are some of the activities you can enjoy here. Dogs are not allowed on this route, so you will have to leave your furry friend at home.
There are restroom facilities at the Visitors Information Centre. Finding a parking spot is a bit of a challenge, so visit as early as you can.
Make sure you bring plenty of water and wear protective clothing; it can get extremely cold as you get closer to the summit. Also, if you are susceptible to colds and headaches, bring pain relief medication.
This hike isn’t suitable for beginner hikers; the challenging route demands a bit of experience and a good level of fitness.
This 80-foot-tall waterfall is located just outside Hilo Town. A part of the Wailuku River, the waterfall is named Rainbow Falls due to the rainbows that materialise in the pool on days of sunlight and mist.
The fall cascades over a lava cave; some locals believe that this cave is the dwelling of the Hawaiian moon goddess.
This is rather an easy hike and will take a little more than an hour to complete. Kaumana Trail is 4.5 kilometres long and is an excellent hike for beginners. The trail is quite rocky, so make sure you wear good hiking shoes.
Visit in the morning or evening for the best experience, and make sure you wear sunscreen.
Waialea Falls Trail
A challenging route perfect for experienced hikers, Waialea Falls Trail is a 0.6-mile out-and-back trail. It takes about 15 minutes to complete the hike. The trail is open year-round, and dogs are welcome here, but the trail is slippery and full of rocks, bushes, and lush vegetation; you might have to do a bit of scrambling.
Birding, hiking, and walking are some of the activities you can enjoy, and the trail isn’t frequented by tourists, so you will have some privacy.
Visit Coconut Island
Head to Coconut Island to swim off the two beaches protected by the Hilo Pier. There are grassy areas where you can have a picnic as well, and the tall tower found here is a favourite with local kids – the tower has two levels; one is 10 feet high, and the other is 20 feet; local kids jump into the water from the tower.
The visibility isn’t great, so snorkelling isn’t something you can enjoy on Coconut Island.
Drive Along The Scenic Hamakua Coast
Enjoy a drive along the Hamakua Coast for breathtaking scenery. The coastline stretches from Hilo to the Waipi’o Valley. The sights of waterfalls, lush canyons, rainforests, and valleys will be your reward for the long drive.
Beer Tasting At Hilo Brewing Company
Visit Hilo Brewing Company, the largest privately owned brewery in Hilo, to sample craft beers. There’s a tasting room as well as a gift shop where you can buy some souvenirs for your friends back home.
The tasting room and the gift shop are closed on Monday, and the open hours vary according to the day, so check their website before visiting.
Shop At Hilo Farmers’ Market
Head to Hilo Farmers’ Market on the big market days, Wednesday and Saturday, to buy gifts, flowers, handcrafted items, and tropical produce. The market serves as a reminder of the old plantation days. About 200 local vendors set up shop on the big market days.
Hilo Farmers’ Market is open from 7 AM to 2 PM on Wednesday and Saturday – it’s open on other days as well, but you won’t find many vendors.
Panaewa Hawaiian Home Lands Farmers Market, Kinoole Farmers Market, and Hilo Town (Friday Night) Market are three other farmers’ markets you should consider visiting during your time here.
Drop By Lyman Museum & Mission House
Lyman Museum has a history going back to 1839. It was established as a mission house for New England missionaries. And 100 years later, the mission house was turned into a museum to educate people about Hawaiian history and culture.
The old Mission House hasn’t changed much, and the collection of exhibits includes a set of videos, natural history items, and archives.
Hit The Beaches
Visit the black sand beaches of Hilo to relax, snorkel, swim, and take in the coastal scenery that envelopes Hilo. Carlsmith Beach Park, Reeds Bay Beach Park, Kealoha (James) Beach Park, Onekahakaha Beach, and Richardson Beach Park are some of the must-visit Hilo beaches.
Hilo doesn’t have many surf spots, but if you venture outside the city, you’ll find numerous opportunities for surfing. Honoliʻi in Hilo, however, is an excellent surf spot for those who want to remain in Hilo.
Right outside downtown Hilo is Richardson Beach, which is perfect for snorkelling. There are plenty of beach areas for you to enter the water, and sea turtles will be your snorkeling companions.
Visit The Botanical Gardens
The botanical gardens at the University of Hawaii, better known as the University of Hawaii at Hilo Botanical Gardens, came into existence in the 1980s. The gardens are home to a number of tropical flowering plants, but the highlight is the collection of cycads.
Embark On A Whale Watching Expedition
The Big Island is one of the best places to see whales. The migration that takes place between December to April from Alaska to the Pacific is one of the highlights that attract tourists to the Big Island. About 12,000 whales traverse a distance of 6000 miles to get here.
Hilo Bay is an excellent place for whale sightings. There’s an array of whale-watching tours, and they typically go on for half a day. Besides whales, you’ll also see whale sharks and dolphins.
Join A Helicopter Tour
Most of the popular tropical waterfalls and lava fields are located just within an hour from Hilo, so Hilo is one of the most important departure points for helicopter tours.
More importantly, helicopter tours in Hilo are known to be much cheaper than the ones offered on the West Coast of Hawaii.