Hilo -

Rainbow Falls, Hilo

Get in

Hilo International Airport (IATA airport code: ITO) is the main airport serving Hilo and the eastern coast of the Big Island. Currently, the only service available to Hilo Airport is interisland service from Hawaiian Airlines, Aloha Airlines, Island Air, or Pacific Wings.

Most of the visitors bound for Hilo will arrive via one of the inter island Airlines (Aloha, Hawaiian, Pacific Wings), or as a day stop from one of the frequent cruise ship visits.

Get around

Hilo is a smaller sized town without public transportation. Most visitors chose to take a cab downtown and cover the bayfront and surrounding area on foot or they rent a car. Many local touring companies and taxi services will be happy to provide guided tours of Hilo and the surrounding areas. Car rental services are available at the 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.


  Haole = Caucasion: Though many think that "haole" just means white person, it refers more to an attitude than anything else. Treat the locals with respect, and the same respect will be returned to you.
  Do not mix aloha patterns: It's just tacky.
  No local people wear full aloha outfits: Look around. Do you see anyone from here wearing matching aloha-print shirts and shorts?
  Do not wear matching aloha-wear outfits: See above, and it looks silly.
  Be respectful: People in Hawaii are laid back, but don't mistake that for being dumb. They have strong sense of community, and don't suffer fools. People will be nice to you if you don't act like an ass. Remember, this may be a vacation spot to you, but it's home to everyone else.
  Foot outfits: It's called slippers here, not flip-flops. Say it once and immediately be branded as a tourist.
  Stereotypes: We don't live in grass huts and the women are not topless all the time who dance for you at every whim. That's what strip clubs are for.
  Tanning: Please use sunblock! Red is not a good color if your skin is usually white, unless you're a lobster.
  Style: Most people in Hilo don't have any. Just wear the most comfortable and worn out clothing you got and you'll do just fine.


Hilo is a small town, and as such there is not a lot of public drinking do be done. Still, there are a few places to wet your whistle, and maybe catch a live act.

  Nichols Public House - located at the intersection of Kilauea and Aupuni Streets downtown.
  Uncle Mikey's - located in Waiakea Villas
  Shooters - located on Banyan Drive
  Cronies - located in downtown Hilo, on the corner of Waianuenue and Kamehameha
  Charley's - Located in Keaau, about 20 minutes drive outside of Hilo in the Keaau shopping center.

  Bear's Coffee - located in Downtown. Good waffles, lame hours.
  Starbucks - They just appeared one day. One is on Kilauea, the other is in the Prince Kuhio shopping center.

Hilo is 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.


  Akaka Falls: An amazing waterfall a few miles north of Hilo along Highway 19.
  Pacific Tsunami Museum: The Pacific Tsunami Museum serves as a living memorial, and a reminder for a generation yet to experience such fright. Tsunamis, Japanese for harbor waves are a fact of life in Hawaii, especially Hilo. On April 1, 1946, and May 23, 1960, Hilo suffered devastating tsunamis that reshaped its social and economic structure.
  Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo: No admission is charged at the Pana'ewa Zoo, the only zoo in the U.S. situated in a tropical rainforest. This is a playground for exotic birds and animals including a white Bengal tiger and pygmy hippos.
  Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: the park is located 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 Kilaua. Here you can witness the power of the earth, and the stunning beauty of the active lava flows.
When planning a visit to the volcano, it pays to check the Hawaii Volcano Observatory website to get an idea of the amount of current activity, as well as the distance to the viewing area from the road. Nature is dynamic, and fickle - sometimes there are gorgeous rivers of lava, and at other times nothing. It's a good idea to bring along water, sturdy shoes, and a flashlight for each person in the party. Also, it is important to note that the volcanic gasses can cause problems for people with asthma, and the heat of the lava flows can cause some problems for contact lens wearers.
Above all, be respectful. The people of Hawaii are very spiritually inclined, and consider the volcano to be the home of the Goddess Pele. Also, it _is_ a volcano, so it pays to be cautious.
  The Lyman Museum/Lyman House: Located in downtown Hilo, 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. 276 Haili St, (808) 935-5021.
  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 day. You have a better chance to see the rainbow created by the mist. It's located up Wainuenue Ave.. from downtown Hilo. Follow the signs. If you pass the hospital, you have gone too far. Very wheelchair accessible.
  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: Displayed in front of the Hilo Public Library on Wainuenue, the Naha stone weighs nearly five thousand pounds and was prophesized that the man who moved the Naha stone on its end would be the greatest king of all Hawaii and bring the other chiefs under his rule. Kamehameha at the age of fourteen, not only moved the stone, but lifted it end over end to become the first King of the Islands.
  Lili'uokalani Gardens: Located on Banyan Drive, this authentic Japanese garden park was built in the early 1900's 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.
  Nani Mau Gardens: Located 3 miles from Hilo, "Nani Mau" which translates as "forever beautiful" features 20 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.


  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 located 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.
  Walking along the Bayfront and visiting the quaint shops along Kamehameha Avenue is fun for browsing and shopping.
  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.
  Hilo also has many shops with extremely high quality printed fabrics that are locally made. The print designs are Polynesian or Hawaiian in style. You can find shops selling the fabrics as well as shops selling the clothing made from the beautiful fabrics.


  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: Every Wednesday and Saturday, you can visit the Hilo farmer's market. Here you'll find an abundance of amazing fresh produce, things to snack on, and the obligatory junk you don't really need (tm), i.e. towels with dolphins on them, jewelry, sarongs, semi-legal weaponry, etc.
  Hilo Guitars: Specializing in acoustic instruments, they also have the best collection of Ukuleles in Hilo. 114 Ponahawai St, (808) 935-4282
  Kathmandu Imports: A fascinating new addition to the Hilo Bayfront district, Kathmandu Imports sells a collection of Tibettan and Nepali items. Located on Waianuenue Ave.
  The Mall: The main shopping center for Hilo is the Prince Kuhio Plaza, located on Kanoelehua (Highway 19). This mall features a number of standard retail stores (Macy's, Longs Drugs, Sears, Suncoast, even a "Hot Topic" should you need a punk tee-shirt for something) as well as a satellite location of Hilo Hatties, for all of your tacky aloha-wear needs. There is also a Borders if you need some reading material, as well as a Wall-Mart, should you wish to feed the evil corporate juggernaut.
  KTA: also known as Taniguchi store to the locals, KTA blends local and Japanese varieties to provide you with your daily necessities.
  Sponge and Son/Hilo Surfboard Company: If you've got some cash, and want to get in the water with your own gear, check out these guys. Sponge and son is the only store I have ever seen dedicated exclusively to body boarding. Craig and Bryce will be happy to hook you up with all the gear that you need to get ripping. For those on a budget, they have used gear too. These guys like talking story, and can tell you where the surf is bombing. 84 Ponahawai St. (808) 969-9981.


The good news is, people in Hilo like food. There are a number of excellent places to eat ranging from the local plate lunch, to a few passable upscale establishments.
  Blane's Drive-In: 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. There are 3 Blane's locations, one on Kanoelehua across from the mall, one on Wainuenue in downtown, and a new one in Waimea town. They are also famous for their loco mocos.
  Cafe 100: In honor of the famed 100th Infantry Army Battalion, 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 famous "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.
  Restaurant Miwas: An upscale Japanese restaurant, ask about their famous Chirashi bowls, you won't be disappointed. Located in the Hilo Shopping Center.
  Seaside Restaurant: One of the best places to be served an "ono" and fresh seafood lunch or dinner. Seaside can be found on Kalanianaole street. More upscale dinning but worth the price with great service.
  Cafe Pesto: 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.
  Francine Marie: This deceptively titled restaurant serves some of the best Mexican food in Hilo featuring fresh, handmade corn tortillas. They're open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 8-3. Save room for desserts like their luscious liliko'i and coconut cream puffs as well as scrumptious coconut macaroons. It's worth the effort if you are in the area.
  The Hilo Bay Cafe: 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, you'll thank me. The name is somewhat misleading, since it's actually located in the Prince Kuhio Mall, close to Wall-Mart. Strange location, fabulous place. Reservations may be required on Friday or Saturday nights.
  Ken's House of Pancakes: 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. Look for Ken's on Kanoelehua, before Banyan Drive.
  Ocean Sushi Deli/Tsunami's: These sister restaurants are located across the street from each other in downtown Hilo on Keawe St.. Ocean Sushi features low-cost sushi, while Tsunami's specializes in local-style Japanese food. During dinner, patrons of either restaurant can order from the menu of the other.
  Pescatore: A good northern Italian restaurant, located in downtown Hilo on Keawe St.. The ahi carpaccio is not to be missed.
  Restaurant Kaikodo: If you are looking for the trappings of fine dining, Kaikodo may be the place for you. Located in a restored Masonic temple in downtown Hilo, this establishment is a little on the spendy side. At one point, they had the best sushi bar in Hilo, but the space used for this doubled as a banquet room. Frequent complaints regarding the unavailability caused the management to put this feature on hold for an indeterminate amount of time.
The Pahoa Market
: Another weekly flea market, the Pahoa market is open only on Sundays. It's located on Highway 130, on the way to Pahoa town. This market is a little less produce, a little more hippie. They also tend to have more pre-prepared food, so it's a good stop for lunch.


  The Hawaii Volcano Observatory 
  Hilo's Farmer's Market 
  Downtown Hilo Information 

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