Stone bridges stretch across shallow brackish moats that flow through well manicured gardens with red pagodas and rock gardens by the sea. The 30-acre Liluokalani Gardens, connected by a series of trails to Coconut Island in coastal Hilo, is a serene setting as popular with local walkers and joggers as it is with visitors staying the nearby hotels along Banyan Drive. Named for Queen Liliuokalani, the last monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii prior to U.S annexation, and designed in the Japanese Edo style in 1917 to honor the many area Japanese sugar plantation workers, the gardens are a perfect blend of Hawaii and Japan. Look beyond the palm trees and across the bay and you’ll see the slopes of Mauna Kea along the Hamakua Coast, but look around you and you’ll see a traditional Japanese tea house—still used by the Urasenke Hilo Association to share the tradition of Japanese tea ceremonies—koi ponds and Eastern statues. One popular stone bridge and pagoda appears to rise out of the water—the determined will have to walk through shallow water to reach it, except during some low tides.
You can access the park by turning off Hilo’s main drag, Kamehameha Ave., and toward the ocean at Lihiwai Street just before the airport. There is limited parking along Lihiwai Street fronting the park, and a larger lot just after the turnoff for Kelipio Place before the bridge to Coconut Island. There are no posted hours, but the best time to go is early morning, when you can catch the sunrise over the ocean.