There are many reasons why tourist should visit Hilo but here are top eleven places that would get you coming back for more. Take a free-taste of the immense beauty of Hilo as we take you to Coconut Island, East Hawaii Cultural Center, Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Hilo Palace Theatre, Kalakaua Park, Lili`uokalani Gardens, Lyman House Memorial Museum, Pacific Tsunami Museum, Rainbow falls, Richardson Beach Park and Waiakea Mission Station.
Hilo, the county seat of Hawaii County is a bestowed with splendid waterfalls, dramatic rainforest, majestic volcanoes and a lot more! Here are the thrilling and amazing reasons why Hilo should be your next stop:
Coconut Island is a relaxing haven
This small island which is located in Hilo Bay is also called Moku Ola. It is just offshore from the popular Liliuokalani Park and Gardens. It has tiny sandy beaches and very wide grassy areas. If you don’t want to rent a car or roam around Hilo for the day, this island is the place for you. Simply grab lunch and head to Coconut Island with friends and family to feel touristy and enjoy the relaxing sight of Hilo and the whole Bay. You will have to walk over a small bridge to the coconut island which connects it to the mainland.
Occasionally, there are kids playing soccer. But most of the time, you can see families enjoying picnic in the grassy areas. There are also picnic tables you can use. The area is surprisingly clean and there are many places to sit on. Plus, you get to do a short walk to the Japanese-inspired Park nearby or drive through the scenic Banyan tree drive. Kids usually pick the Japanese park because of the stone monument where they can jump off into the 15 feet deep water.
History awaits you at the East Hawaii Cultural Center
Want to go to exhibit openings for local artists? For sure, the gallery will be bustling with great art, live music and laughter! The center features talented small local artists that perform during plays for a reasonable price, master quilt makers or fiber artists who will answer your questions for free, and artists offering workshops.
You may also meet new friends there as the place if often packed with people especially during the Spring and Fall Art show. Or, during the Young at Art show every March. It has a low-priced gift shop too. Most people visit the Center as often as they can to look at the stunning piece of artwork of local artists with stunning talents. If you’re lucky, the next day might be full of poetry, dance, slideshow and amusing music at the theater! Hawaiian Festivals and talent contests are also held at the EHCC.
If you’re looking for a place which looks like a garden, pack your bags and go to Kauai. It is known as the Garden Isle of Hawaii. Learn why Kauai is one of the most favorite tourist destinations in the Big Island.More info
You will learn a lot from Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
If all you want is fantastic scenery and tropical plant life then visiting this beautiful rain forest garden is a must. The views of living beauty on the side of the hill going down to the bay below like bromeliads, orchids, gigantic palm trees, other flowers, trees and vines are awesome. Not to mention the surreal waterfalls and the gorgeous Onome Bay! The river that runs through it is also a picture perfect. There are more than 2,000 plant species in the area. There are also centenarian(over 100 year-old) coconut palm trees and mango trees here.
You have to watch out for the first steps going up and the easy walk down because the paved or board walked path are quite steep and it is not advisable for anyone with mobility issues or for kids. Or, you can simply pay $5 for the golf cart ride down the 500 feet boardwalk to be safe. The entrance fee costs $15 and since it is run by a nonprofit organization they also accept donation. If you have questions about the place or anything, you can ask their helpful and friendly staff.
Hilo Palace Theatre offers out-of-the ordinary shows
If you want to take a break from watching movies on commercial theaters, then this Grand Dame historic theater built in 1925 is for you. You can watch live musical performances by local artists, plays and off-beat movies in this cultural mecca.
It presents very authentic program which is sparsely attended because it is off-tourist path. The programs show the history of Hawaiian culture so, if you are free very Wednesday, just drop by at around 11 to 11:45 AM for storytelling, hula and music. You can even dance with the locals who join the Hula dancers for the final dance.
It is easy to buy tickets even if you didn’t buy in advance. The sight lines are clear and unless you have really long legs, the seats are comfy and not tight. Seating price costs $20.
This old movie theater is often used as an art house. It also has a gorgeous pipe organ! the theater is not air conditioned. It’s not actually hot in there because the doors are open. But if you are sensitive to humid temperature, you can bring a fan (they usually give hand fans) and enjoy the fact that you are sitting in a restored theater that survived two tsunamis and with great architecture and a rich history.
You can go on Wednesdays to catch Hawaiian cultural presentations which are open to the public, for free. If you are in town, just ask the management for their upcoming events and schedules of plays and musical performances.
Kalakaua Park transforms a boring day into an exciting one
If you picked up a take-out food in Hilo’s city center, you can go to this small yet pretty park in Hilo’s downtown area to eat lunch. Kalakua Park is also called, the “Hilo’s Town Square”. It was originally built last 1933 for King David Kalākaua. He was the one who revived the hula. That’s why a bronze statue of the King with a taro leaf was built for him in 1988 and he served as the inspiration of the Merrie Monarch Festival held every year in Hilo. There is also a post office with picture-perfect architectural designs nearby. With a short walk, you can reach Wailuku river walk. While it is a good family park at noon time, it is not highly recommended to hang out there in the evening.
While there are no recreation facilities for you to enjoy, the small fishponds and the banyan tree are enough to make you smile on a boring noon. Don’t be surpised if you see flwers and wreaths along the fishpond walk way. The locals (usually family members of military men) usually leave them to honor their loved ones who passed away.
Lili`uokalani Gardens is a great recreational place for kids and adults alike
Liliu’okalani Gardens’ Pagoda and Torii
Banyan Tree and Bamboo at Lili`uokalani Gardens
This 30-acre park with the beautiful Japanese gardens can be found at the Banyan Drive, Hilo. It was originally named for Queen Lili`uokalani. If it is your first time, you will be amazed at how beautiful is the banyan tree that stands proudly at a corner. These gardens have big trees and green lawns which are conducive for almost every type of community activity.
In fact, many special events like the walk and fun run initiated by the Police Department are held in this place. The soothing sound of the waves from the ocean nearby also makes it a very relaxing place for yoga and chi students.
If you have kids you can bring them here for a stroll and relaxation at day time. There are also bridges, water ponds and trees.
You can quickly spot the small beach area which looks like a pool for kids. The locals usually jump off the ledge into the water and the visitors join them.
If you want to have some peace and quiet time you can take an evening stroll because the place is quiet and safe. Residents and visitors flock in the gardens because there is always something going in this place, like fund raising events, Running, Walking, weddings and more. There is also a wide parking area. Volunteers of the nonprofit group called, Friends of Lili`uokalani Gardens, help in the upkeep and improvement of the place.
Go back to early settlers’ life at Lyman House Memorial Museum
Do you want to go back to the time of the early English settlers of Hawaii and learn more about the lives of early whites and the native people? Why not take a guided tour at the museum? The Lyman Museum is a natural history museum in Hilo originally founded in 1931 in the oldest wood-framed building in the area, the Lyman family mission house.
While the Lyman museum have period furniture and structural design that your eyes can feast on, the museum proper have equally interesting special exhibits. Rich history can be found upstairs with the parade of early Hawaiian paintings and even bird feather laia! It is also a great educational experience for kids who will definitely marvel at the mineral exhibits, shells and coral collections downstairs. There are natural world displays like animals and plants from Hawaii. If you want to buy souvenirs for your friends and family, just take you pick at its gift shop which sells reasonably-priced items.
Learn about Tsunami at the Pacific Tsunami Museum
If you want to learn about tsunami and how it affects the people in the town it hits, then you have to stop by at this museum. It used to be an old bank and is the only building that survived the last tsunami in Hilo. You can get lots of helpful information on the human cost and science behind tsunami and how people living in coastal areas with low elevation should prepare for it.
See the history unfolds itself as you travel from the pre-western events up to the recent Japan tsunami. There are multi-media on touchscreens showing the latest tsunamis. You will also have an idea of what tsunami is like because of the very loud “emergency tsunami response simulator” on display. It is also interesting to listen to the stories of the eyewitnesses of that disastrous day.
Watch, climb and splash at the Rainbow falls
This Lovely falls which is a short drive way from the residential area of Hilo is about 80 feet high. Its magnificent view is great for the whole family. Sometimes, visitors see a rainbow hovering on top. If you are daring enough, you can climb on the trail off to the left that will lead you to the top of the falls where you can catch a breath taking angle of this beautiful waterfall. It is also wheelchair accessible for those with mobility problems.
Richardson Beach Park is an all-out fun place you can’t say no to
Richardson is located at the end of a line of about six beach parks at the South of downtown. It has deep black sand. You can go snorkeling and swimming or watch turtles, or simply lounge at the lovely picnic areas. Overall, the park looks restful and absolutely beautiful that’s why you can see any families of group of friends picnicking in the area.
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Waiakea Mission Station-Hilo Station
This was the first Christian mission that reached the east of Hawaii. The most recent building is called Haili Church. This is a double wood construction and a wood frame building with a Greek revival style. The architectural design is similar to the meeting churches in New England.
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