Overlooked by the Manua Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes, Hilo is a laid-back coastal settlement full of sprawling banyan trees, local produce markets, shops, and art galleries. While the town itself is a peaceful getaway, Hilo is most famous for its proximity to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Wailuku River State Park.
A variety of volcano tours visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from Hilo and typically include attractions such as Kilauea Volcano (one of the island’s most active volcanoes), Thurston Lava Tube, and Kilauea Iki Overlook. Opt for a nighttime tour to see glowing molten lava and enjoy dinner at Volcano Winery, or choose a private excursion for a personalized experience.
To explore the city, choose a guided tour of downtown Hilo and see the daily farmers market on Kamehameha Avenue, the Big Island Candy Factory, and Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. You can also experience Hilo’s natural attractions on a waterfall tour, guided hike, ziplining adventure tour, or helicopter tour. Other top activities include learning about ocean conservation at the headquarters of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, taking in Big Island history at the Lyman Museum, and visiting the Imiloa Astronomy Center and Pacific Tsunami Museum.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Hilo is on the wet side of the Big Island and rain is common; don’t forget to pack a light raincoat.
- Bring sun protection, bug spray, and plenty of water if you plan to visit the jungle.
- Hilo’s coast is boulder-strewn and tree-lined; head to Kona on the other side of the island for sandy beaches and snorkeling.
How to Get There
Hilo is located on the east coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. The town has a small international airport and is regularly visited by cruise ships. State Highway 11 links Hilo with other Big Island towns.
When to Get There
While Hilo receives relatively few visitors compared to Hawaii’s resort areas, the town is busiest during spring break, summer, and the winter holidays. To avoid rain, opt for a summer visit; the wettest month is November with most rain falling during late afternoon and early morning.
Exploring Waterfalls Near Hilo
In nearby Wailuku River State Park you can find Akaka Falls and Rainbow Falls, an 80-foot (24-meter) cascade famous for the rainbow that forms in its mist during sunny mornings. In the park’s Boiling Pots, you can explore a succession of pools connected by underground rivers, with water that constantly rolls and bubbles.