An East Hawaii Island Adventure

Hilo Town, on the rainy eastern side of Hawaii Island has many more interesting and fun things to do than can be accomplished in a single day. If your vacation plan calls for only a few hours in Hilo on a drive around the island, then this site will help you select a few places in Hilo to visit.

Your Ideal Hawaii Island Vacation: A Guide for Visiting the Big Island of Hawaii is a new travel guide that covers over 150 incredible places to visit on the island. You can also get a Kindle version of the portion of the guide for East Hawaii: Your Ideal Hawaii Island Vacation East Side: A Guide for Visiting Hilo, Volcano, Kau, and Puna on the Big Island of Hawaii

Below are some of our favorite places to spend time in Hilo with links to more information.

Hilo sights and restaurants are spread out and best seen with a car or hired taxi. You can rent a car at Hilo airport or near the Hilo Harbor within walking distance to the cruise ship docks. If you are driving around Hawaii Island from the West side in one day, there won't be much time to spend in Hilo, particularly if the drive includes stops at other sights around the Island. Stay a night or two in Hilo or nearby Volcano to fully experience the East side of Hawaii.

If it is raining in Hilo, there are fun and kid-friendly in-door activities at 'Imiloa Astronomy Center, NOAA's MokuPapapa Discovery Center, The Pacific Tsunami Museum, and Lyman House and Museum. Most of Hilo's downtown area and the Farmer's market are covered to protect from the rain.

The rain in Hilo usually doesn't last long, so don't assume the day is going to stay rainy. If it is not raining, the free tropical parks, Liliuokalani Garden and Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens, are wonderful ways to spend a couple of hours enjoying the tropical plants and strolling beautiful paths in Hilo.

If you are staying in Hilo for a while, check out events going on around town:

If you are hungry, there are lots of places to eat with Hawaiian, Asian, American, and European foods served. Hilo Menus has a review of restaurants in Hilo to help you decide.

Liliuokalani Gardens, Coconut Island, and Banyan drive are located on the Banyan peninsula and there is no charge to visit them. Liliuokalani Gardens are 30 acres of ponds, bridges, sculpture, grass, flowers, and trees located on Hilo Bay. The park is the largest Edo-style Japanese garden outside of Japan and has paths that wander throughout the park. A Japanese tea house is located in the park, as well as bathrooms and benches to sit in the park and along the shore. If it is raining you will get wet, but we enjoy walking there in the rain all the time. There are covered areas where you can sit and enjoy the park and Hilo Bay and stay dry.

Liliuokalani Gardens Hilo

Tea House Hilo

Coconut island is next to the Liliuokalani Gardens and can be reached by crossing over a bridge. The tiny island has a sidewalk around the island. You can take a swim in one of the protected little coves on the island. The picture below is a view of Coconut Island from a Hilo Hawaiian Hotel room. There are covered picnic areas on the island as well as restrooms.

Coconut island Hilo

Banyan drive runs next to the Liliuokalani Gardens and is the street where most of the hotels in Hilo are located. Huge banyan trees line the street, each with a sign with the name of a famous person that planted the tree. The most famous tree is Babe Ruth's Tree. If it is raining you can duck into one of the hotel lobbies along the road. Our favorite hotel is the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel which has a comfortable lobby and nice bay view rooms.

Banyon Drive Hilo

Babe Ruth tree Hilo

At the North end of Liliuokalani Park is Suisan Fish market, a retail outlet of the largest fish distributor in Hawaii. The local fisherman bring their catch to the dock early in the morning.

Suisan Fish store Hilo

It is fun to look at the store's display of colorful fish caught in the Pacific Ocean as well as the local reef fish. A tiny grill cafe on the outside of the store serves fresh made fish sandwiches for lunch which makes a great picnic in the park.

Suisan Fish store Hilo

Back to Top

Rainbow Falls is located up above Hilo on Waianuenue drive. It is a beautiful waterfall with varying amounts of water depending on recent rainfall. You can climb a staircase up above the falls and see the top of the water fall. Further up the road is Boiling pots where you can see the swirling water and Peepee Falls another waterfall.

Rainbow Falls Hilo

Rainbow falls is free, there is plenty of parking, and there are rest rooms. The last time we were there, a woman played ukulele as we watched the beautiful water fall.

Back to Top

Hilo's Farmer's Market is world renown. Tropical fruits, vegetables and flowers can be purchased there that are not available on the mainland. Farmer's market is open every day. Sundays and Wednesdays, the market expands to a huge arts and crafts market. Just wandering through the market is educational and a lot of fun watching the local growers hawk their produce.

Farmers Market Hilo

Farmers Market Hilo

Back to Top

'Imiloa Astronomy Center is an Astronomy and Hawaiian culture facility funded primarily by NASA. It is located above the University of Hawaii Hilo campus. The center has Astronomy displays, films, and exhibits; a room dedicated to 3D movies projected on a globe, and the world's only 3D planetarium. Due to the large number of telescopes on Mauna Kea and the concentration of observatory management operations located in Hilo, the center also features a telescope control console. You can see the glint of the telescopes on Mauna Kea from Hilo on clear days. Check their website for show times and entrance fees for the Astronomy center. The cafe at 'Imiloa is great and you can get to the cafe and the gift shop without having to pay the entrance fee.

Astronomy Center Hilo

Asstronomy exhibit Hilo

Mauna Kea above Hilo, Hawaii

Learn more about 'Imiloa Astronomy Center and taking a tour of the Telescopes.

Back to Top

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens is the only tropical zoo in the US with garden paths lined with colorful birds, tropical flowers and and foliage. Peacocks roam around the grounds. There is a petting zoo for the kids and a butterfly cage you can walk through.The park is free with plenty of parking, picnic tables, and benches. There are strollers for rent, toilets and a gift shop.


Zoo in Hilo

Back to Top

Hilo's Farmer's Market has tropical fruits, vegetables and flowers that are not available on the mainland. Farmer's market is open every day. On Sundays and Wednesdays, the market expands to a huge arts and crafts market. Just wandering through the market is fasinating.

Farmers Market Hilo

Farmers Market Hilo

Downtown Hilo Shops and Museums. Hilo's main street, Kamehameha Avenue, is lined with cafes, stores, and museums. The walkway is covered to protect from the rain.

Downtown Hilo

Some of the other fun attractions in the downtown Hilo area are:

  • Huge aquariums, exhibits, movies, and Hawaiian Reef information are on display at NOAA's MokuPapapa Discovery Center (now in the Koehnen Building in downtown Hilo)
    NOAA Hilo Center
  • The history Tidal waves in Hilo is described at the Pacific Tsunami Museum.
  • East Hawaii Culture Center and Kalakaua Park are across from Hilo's downtown Federal Building and Post Office. The Center has art shows, workshops, and performances.
    East Hawaii Culture Center Hilo
  • Kalakaua Park is in front of the East Hawaii Culture Center. It is dedicated to King David Kalakaua, a great patron of the arts. His statue is prominent in the center of the park. The park also has a war memorial.
    park Hilo
  • Up the road from the park is the famous Naha stone directly in front of the Hilo Library. It weighs nearly 500 pounds. There was a Hawaiian prophecy that the one that could lift the stone would unite the islands of Hawaii and legend is that King Kamehameha not only moved the stone but flipped it completely over when he was young. King Kamehameha became the first monarch to rule all the islands.
    Naha stone Hilo
  • A few blocks from the Naha Stone is the Lyman House and Museum with a huge collection of shells, rocks and historical displays. The Lyman's were early missionaries to Hilo and their original house is intact and can be toured.
    Naha stone Hilo

Back to Top

Big Island Candies factory is a local Hilo cookie maker that sends their goodies all over the world. They have a factory and store in Hilo where you can watch the cookies being made through big glass panels and sample them with Kona coffee.

Big Island Candy Factory

Big Island Candy Display

Back to Top

Copyright 2009-2014