Hilo

Travel Guide North America USA Western United States Hawaii Hawaii Island Hilo

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Introduction

Hilo, on the east side of the Big Island of Hawaii, is the precious last living remnant of old Hawaii. Completely unlike every other large town in Hawaii, Hilo is a place to connect with the land and the locals. You won't find the hustle and bustle of the tourist-driven culture here, and you won't find the fancy hotels and restaurants. What you will find are authentic people and one of your last chances to connect with the hidden Hawaii.

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Sights and Activities

  • Pacific Tsunami Museum, 130 Kamehameha Ave, ☎ +1 808 935-0926, fax: +1 808 935-0842, e-mail: tsunami@tsunami.org. T-Sa 10AM-4PM. Serves as a living memorial, and a reminder for a generation yet to experience such fright. A tsunami, Japanese for "harbor waves" are a fact of life in Hawaii, especially Hilo. On 1 April 1946, and 23 May 1960, Hilo suffered devastating tsunamis that reshaped its social and economic structure. $8/adult, $7/concession, $4/child, under 5 free.
  • The Lyman House Museum, 276 Haili St, ☎ +1 808 935-5021. M-Sa 10AM-4:30PM. This museum features a restored missionary house. They also have a small collection of local artwork, historical exhibits, and the 9th-best mineral collection in the United States. Tours at 11AM and 2PM. $10/adult, $8/senior, $3/child, $21/family, $5/student, plus cheaper rates for locals.
  • 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. Drive up Waianuenue Avenue from downtown, following the signs. If you pass the hospital, you have gone too far. Very wheelchair accessible, but the Boiling Pots will require some hiking.
  • King Kamehameha Statue (in Wailoa State Park off Kamehameha Ave). 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. free.
  • Naha Stone, 300 Waianuenue Ave (in front of the Hilo Public Library). It was prophesied that the man who moved the Naha stone, which weighs nearly 5000 pounds, would unite all of the Hawaiian islands and be the greatest king of all Hawaii. Kamehameha, at the age of fourteen, not only moved the stone, but lifted it end over end, and he eventually fulfilled the prophesy. The Pinao stone, which sits next to the Naha stone, once guarded an ancient temple.
  • Lili'uokalani Gardens, 189 Lihiwai St. Located on Banyan Drive, this authentic Japanese garden was built in the early 1900s 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. free.

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

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Weather

Hilo has a tropical rainforest climate (Köppen Af), with substantial rainfall throughout the course of the year. Its location on the eastern side of the island, (windward relative to the trade winds), makes it the fourth wettest designated city in the United States, behind the southeast Alaskan cities of Whittier, Ketchikan and Yakutat, and one of the wettest in the world. An average of around 3,220 mm of rain fell at Hilo International Airport annually between 1981 and 2010, with 272 days of the year receiving some rain. Rainfall in Hilo varies with altitude, with more at higher elevations. At some weather stations in upper Hilo the annual rainfall is above 5,100 mm.

Monthly mean temperatures range from 21.8 °C in February to 24.7 °C in August. The highest recorded temperature was 34 °C on May 20, 1996, and the lowest 12 °C on February 21, 1962. The wettest year was 1994 with 4,643.4 mm, and the driest was 1983, with 1,729.5 mm. The most rainfall in one month was 1,290.8 mm in December 1954. The most rainfall in 24 hours was 691.9 mm on November 2, 2000.

Hilo's location on the shore of the funnel-shaped Hilo Bay also makes it vulnerable to tsunamis.

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Getting There

By Plane

Hilo International Airport (ITO IATA). Is the main airport serving Hilo and the eastern side of the Big Island. The majority of flights to Hilo originate from Honolulu via Hawaiian Airlines. There is also one flight from Kahului daily, and one non-stop flight from LAX daily, operated by United Airlines. The airport terminal is rather small, with a relaxed atmosphere. Long lines for security are unlikely.

By Car

From elsewhere on the Big Island: for visitors, this would mean taking the Mamalahoa Highway (HI-190), the Daniel K. Inouye Highway (via a right turn) and the Saddle Road (HI-200, but without signposted route numbers on the road) across the interior of the island from Kailua-Kona at the western end, where the other commercial airport is located. Allow at least 2 hours for that trip, which goes through some curvy, hilly terrain.

Alternatively, you can take the Hawaii Belt Road (HI-19) around much of the northern shore of the island, going inland through Waimea. You may find this an easier drive, and possibly a more pleasant one if you'd like to go through more villages and see fewer starkly beautiful views of Mauna Kea and other hilly inland scenery. To be on the safe side, you should allow at least 2.5 hours for the northern route, though you may want to stop in one or more towns along the way.

Direction signs are fairly good on the Big Island, though not always with much advance notice for the driver. Traffic drives slowly (usually 25-35 miles per hour), and it's ordinary for unobstructed traffic to go slower than posted speed limits.

If you don't have a car, hitching a ride is very easy on the Big Island.

By Bus

Hele On Bus system. There is one bus that connects Hilo to Kona, operating M-Sa, no holidays. Like most buses on the island it is designed for commuters. The bus route connects runs twice in the early morning and once in the afternoon.

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Getting Around

Many of Hilo's points of interest are concentrated in quite a small area in the western end of Kamehameha Avenue. There you can get around by foot easily. However, some natural attractions, beaches and shops are a mile or more away from there.

The county's Hele-On Bus system ($2 fare) serve Hilo International Airport eight times per day (except on Sunday). However, as public transportation on Hawai`i Island is minimal, virtually all visitors rent a vehicle from one of the many rental agencies upon arriving at 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.

As an alternative, taxis are also available at the airport though renting a car is almost always more practical.

There are also a few bicycle shops on and around Kamehameha Avenue, if you would like to rent or buy a bicycle.

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Eat

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.

The Hilo Farmer's Market, on the corner of Kamehameha Avenue and Mamo Street, has lots of cheap eats. If you love tropical fruit, this is the place to go. There's a great tamale stand in the west corner of the market serving very tasty $2 tamales. Market open daily 7AM to 5PM, with extended hours on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The small town of Pahoa offers The Pahoa Market, which is a flea market open on Sundays and has more prepared food. Take Highway 130 on the way to Pahoa.

  • Blane's Drive-Inn, 150 Kino'ole St, 217 Waianuenue Ave. 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 usually consists of two 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. They are famous for their loco mocos.
  • Cafe 100, 969 Kilauea Ave, ☎ +1 808 935-8683. 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 "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. edit
  • Hilo Coffee Mill, 17-995 Volcano Hwy, Mt. View (Btwn the 12 and 13 Mile Markers in Mountain View), ☎ +1 808 968-1333. M-Sa 7AM-4PM. Great light breakfast and locally made lunch specials daily. Some of the best Portuguese Bean Soup around, shoyu chicken, kalua pork, chicken and veggie wraps made to order. Lots more. Friendly staff, great smell of coffee, tours and unique coffee from around the state. Full espresso bar. Coffee roasted on site.
  • Ken's House of Pancakes, 1730 Kamehameha Ave (Look for Ken's on Kanoelehua, before Banyan Dr), ☎ +1 808 935-8711. 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.
  • Kuhio Grille, Prince Kuhio Plaza Ste 106A, ☎ +1 808 959-2336. Home of the one pound Lau Lau!
  • Ocean Sushi Deli, 250 Keawe St. Ocean Sushi features low-cost original and creative sushi along with local-style Japanese food. Some favorite sushi: eel with cream cheese, scallop roll with melted cheese on top.
  • Suisan, 85 Lihiwai St, ☎ +1 808 935-9349. Many varieties of poke sold by weight - take your package to the park across the street and enjoy a picnic!
  • Cafe Pesto, 308 Kamehameha Ave, ☎ +1 808 969-6640. 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.
  • The Hilo Bay Cafe, 315 Makaala St #109, ☎ +1 808 935-4939. 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. The name is somewhat misleading, since it's actually located in the Prince Kuhio Mall, close to Wal-Mart. Strange location, fabulous place. Reservations may be required on Friday or Saturday nights.
  • Naung Mai Thai Kitchen, 86 Kilauea Ave, ☎ +1 808 934-7540. 11AM-9PM. Flavorful Thai food with very fresh ingredients. If you want it spicy, you have to ask for that. Apps: $9, Salads: $8-15, Curry: $11-17, Noodles: $11-17, Rice dishes: $13, Seafood: $16, Stir fry: $11-17, Soups: $11-17, Specials: $12-20, Desserts: $3-5.
  • Reuben's, 336 Kamehameha Ave (Next door to Hilo Farmer's Market), ☎ +1 808 961-2552. Tu-Su 11AM-8PM. Hilo's best (and perhaps only) Mexican restaurant. Large portions of surprisingly authentic and tasty Mexican staples. Sue, the co-owner and bartender, pours the best (and VERY strong) margaritas in town.
  • Sunlight Cafe, 1261 Kilauea Ave, ☎ +1 808 934-8833. Japanese 'izakaya' type menu.
  • Sushi Bar Hime, 14 Furneaux Ln. Place sits only 10 people--cozy.
  • Coconut Grill, 136 Banyan Way. Excellent entres including Chicken Mauna Kea, Fillet Mingnon, fresh fish dishes and desserts such as Naughty Hula Girl Mud Pie (enough for a family of 4!) and mac nut ice cream.
  • Restaurant Miwa, 1261 Kilauea Ave (Hilo Shopping Center), ☎ +1 808 961-4454. An upscale Japanese restaurant, ask about their famous Chirashi bowls, you won't be disappointed.
  • The Seaside Restaurant and Aqua Farm, 1790 Kalanianaole Ave, ☎ +1 808 935-8825. One of the best places to be served an "ono" and fresh seafood lunch or dinner. Seaside can be found on Kalanianaole street across from 4-mile beach.

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Drink

Hilo is a small town, and as such, there is not a lot of public drinking to be done. Despite a very lackluster nightlife, almost every bar has a cover charge. Still, there are a few places to wet your whistle, and maybe catch a live act.

  • Detour, 124 Makaala St. A relatively new bar catering mostly to an Asian/Hawaiian clientèle. There is a dance floor with music supplied by a house PA system, there is no DJ. There is a bar/lounge area with pool tables, darts, TV's and sofas and a separate dance floor area. Fights tend to be common here also. edit
  • Cronies, 11 Waianuenue Ave (downtown cnr of Waianuenue and Kamehameha). Until 9PM. General sports bar not a spot for nightlife.
  • Hawai'i Nui Brewing Company (Mehana Brewing Company), 275 E. Kawili St. (Across the street from the Community College), ☎ +1 808-934-8211. 9:30-5:30 M-Sa. Small batch craft beers are brewed at this location, 6 are rotated on tap for tastings. Can also purchase logo wear and 6 packs, growlers and fills or rent kegs for your next party. They are the only brewery in the islands that produce and bottle all of their beers on site. Conveniently located on the way to the volcano, waterfalls and beaches!
  • Bear's Coffee, 106 Keawe St. Good waffles, lame hours.
  • Just Cruisin Coffee, 835 Kilauea Ave (cnr of Kilauea and Pauahi Sts (by the new State building)). Great sandwiches and pastries and 100% pure Kona coffee.
  • Hilo Sharks Coffee Shop, 41 Waianuenue Ave. Has delicious icecream and spectacularly delicious coffee.
  • Surf Break Cafe, 17 Haili St (Downtown on Kinoole). Great food, wonderful coffee, and the best atmosphere.

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Sleep

  • Arnott's Lodge, 98 Apapane Rd, ☎ +1 808 339-0921, e-mail: mahalo@arnottslodge.com. Ranges from hostel bunks and campsites to three-bedroom suites with kitchens. The owner also runs tours and hikes in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. $30-140.
  • Uncle Billy's Hilo Bay Hotel, 87 Banyan Dr, ☎ +1 808 935-0861, fax: +1 808 935-7903. Inexpensive rates and excellent location, but poor value due to old, unclean, noisy rooms and spotty service. Should be considered only as a last resort if everything else is booked. 145 rooms. $99-119.
  • Pakalana Inn, 321 Punahoa St (adjacent to Hilo Farmer's Market and Wailoa Park, across from Agasa's Furniture and Music, above Koji's Bento ande Hilo Guitars), ☎ +1 808 935-0709, e-mail: innkeeper@pakalanainn.com. 5 nice, newly restored rooms in the second floor of an old building in downtown Hilo. Free Wi-Fi, ocean or mountain views, key-less doors, very short walking distance to all the downtown Hilo offerings. Be there Wednesday or Saturday mornings for the Hilo Farmer's Market action. $99-139.
  • Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, 71 Banyan Dr, ☎ +1 808 935-9361, fax: +1 808 961-9642. Older hotel of 286 rooms that has as of 2015 been renovated and with great views. It is clean and the staff are friendly. Internet access in rooms, but the TV is 15 inches. $157-308.
  • At the Beach with Friends Bed and Breakfast, 369 Nene St, ☎ +1 808 934-8040, e-mail: beach@hilo.net. Custom built as a B&B on a lagoon at Hilo's favorite swimming beaches. One of a kind tropical setting, privacy, comfortable rooms, friendly, good food, and a great location. Beautiful house and garden with great tropical fish and plant collections. Computer station and WiFi. Cable TVs, and private phone lines in all the rooms. Lounge with books and music. $160-185.
  • Hilo Bay Hale, 301 Ponahawai St, ☎ +1 808 640-1113, e-mail: danny@pahala.info. A restored 1912 plantation home that features 4 guest suites with private baths and lanai (porches) overlooking koi ponds, streams and Hilo Bay. $159/night, discounts for longer stays.
  • Dolphin Bay Hotel, 333 Iliahi St, ☎ +1 808 935-1466, fax: +1 808 935-1523. Modest, clean accommodations. 13 rooms. $179.
  • Hilo Vacation Rentals, 2256 Kalanianaole Ave, toll-free: +1 800-813-3306. Oceanfront homes front best swimming and snorkeling beaches in Hilo bay. Choose from 1-4 bedroom beach houses. Guests enjoy complete oceanfront privacy in fully-equipped vacation rental homes. Available for nightly, weekly, and extended stays. All properties are privately owned and managed by the same family.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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Accommodation in Hilo

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This is version 20. Last edited at 9:51 on Jun 14, 19 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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