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The largest town on the Big Island and second largest in the state, Hilo is a lush rainforest that is known to be one of the wettest towns in the world. The geographic flipside to the volcanic Kohala Coast of the Big Island, Hilo is very tropical and boasts dramatic waterfalls and natural wonders that are often times overlooked.
The Big Island ranks third most visited island in Hawaii (Oahu is the first, Maui the second and Kauai the least visited), which makes Hilo somewhat of a lesser-known town for tourists. The vast majority of vacationers stay in the Kailua-Kona area of Big Island, with its beautiful weather, abundant shopping and variety of dining options. Not to mention the clear waters for snorkeling and diving is a main attractor as well.
But Hilo is equally beautiful and offers seclusion and adventure. From historical monuments to museums to waterfall hikes, farmers markets and the state’s largest National Park, Hilo is a town rich with history, culture and excitement and offers any visitor a wonderful experience of Hawaii.
Originally a farming and fishing industry in earlier times, Hilo also acted as a major trade center between the Wailuku River for Hawaiians. In the early 1800’s, the sugar cane industry transitioned Hilo into a commercial center and as the industry developed, so too did the community. But after two devastating tsunamis hit in 1946 and again in 1960, the sugar cane industry died and the city rebuilt. Despite the natural tragedies that have occurred (tsunamis, earthquakes and lava flows), Hilo has remained vibrant.
Most people ask when is the best time to visit Hawaii?’ and really the answer is anytime. With year round tropical weather and only two seasons, it really depends on when is a good time for you. Because Hilo is wetter than its counterparts however, travelers might want to take the rainy season into consideration when making plans. But just because you plan your trip in the summer doesn’t mean you won’t see rain. Especially in Hilo.
While Hilo definitely sees its share of rain, most of it occurs at night. Most days have prolonged periods without rain, so you get to enjoy the tropical scenery without the soggy daytime weather. Cooler in temperature, we always recommend packing a light sweater when visiting Hilo. Average summer temperature is 75 degrees whereas winter temps average at about 70.
As for attractions beyond just its natural wonders, Hilo has a variety of affordable dining options and moderately priced hotels and B&B’s. With a constant stream of performances, festivals, events and live music, Hilo is an authentic taste of Hawaii. Rustic and country, this Big Island town offers a less touristy experience than Oahu, a more local Hawaii feel than Maui and a livelier pace than Kauai.
Here are a handful of Hilo attractions that will surely interest you during your visit to the Big Island:
– Hilo Farmer’s Market: Ranked #1 Top US Farmer’s Market by Huffington Post, the Hilo Farmer’s Market is a must-see experience when visiting the Big Island. Over 200 local farmers and crafters gather together to offer up a variety of produce, tropical flowers, crafts and gift items. Taking place 7 days a week at the corner of Mamo Street and Kamehameha Avenue, this farmer’s market is open year round. Big Days are every Wednesday and Saturday from 6:00am till 4:00pm, with over 200 local farmers and crafters. On Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays you can expect to find over 30 farmers and crafters open from 7:00am till 4:00pm.
– Wailuku River State Park: Home to the 80-foot waterfall known as Rainbow Falls and to the smaller waterfall named Peepee Falls, (which feeds the Boiling Pots freshwater pools), this state park is an easy way to access the lush interior of Hilo. A relaxing walk through the rainforest offers incredible views of the waterfalls and an abundance of flora to enjoy and photograph.
– Liliuokalani Gardens: Named after the last reigning monarch of the Hawaiian Islands, Queen Lydia Liliuokalani, this beautifully landscaped 30-acre Japanese garden features arching bridges over fishponds, rock gardens, pagodas, stone lanterns and more. A peaceful place to stroll around, this garden was dedicated in 1917 as a tribute to Hawaii’s first Japanese immigrants who came to the islands to work in the sugar cane fields.
– Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: No visit to Hilo is complete without a day exploring this expansive volcanic destination. Hilo is the gateway to this National Park, which offers a variety of points of interest. From smoking calderas to glimpses of molten hot lava to underground tubes, hikes and a volcanography museum, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a Hawaii wonder. The Jagger Museum is located at the base of Halema’uma’u Crater, which is currently the most active part of the park, and while sights of lava are dependent on volcanic activity, this is a great place for checking out the incredible views.
– Imiloa Astronomy Center: Hilo’s newest world-class attraction, this astronomy center is an interactive place with exhibits, programs and events that engage children and families in interesting ways. With a planetarium, native garden and an IMAX-style movie presentation, the Imiloa Astronomy Center is a place where astronomy meets Hawaiian culture.
– Downtown Hilo: built around a crescent-shaped bay, downtown Hilo holds much historical significance and is a wonderful place to saunter around. Art galleries, unique shops and boutiques, the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory, the Historic Palace Theatre, eateries and more adorn the streets of downtown Hilo.
A beautiful and culturally rich place to explore, Hilo offers visitors an abundance of things to see and do, both in the natural world and man-made one. From tumbling waterfalls to historic museums, the main town of Big Island is a great experience while vacationing in Hawaii. With an authentic feel and tropical backdrop, Hilo is blessed with the beauty and culture of the islands