Best Things to Do in Hilo Hawaii

Hilo has a lot to offer and is a perfect spot for families. Start on Kamehameha Avenue facing beautiful Hilo Bay and stroll past modern aloha wear at Sig Zane Designs, the neo-classical Palace Theatre built in 1925, and the bustling Hilo Farmers Market.

Walk through the stunning Queen Liliuokalani Gardens and admire the huge banyan trees lining their namesake road.

Top Things To Do In Hilo Hawaii

1. Visit the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center

One of the best things to do in Hilo is the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, an immersive experience that blends Hawaiian culture with astronomy. Located on the University of Hawaii-Hilo campus, the center features exhibits that trace Polynesian settlers’ journey to the islands and highlight the role celestial navigation played in their voyage. Admission also includes a planetarium show.

Other attractions include Richardson Beach Park, a black sand beach with tiny flecks of green (olivine). The Pacific Tsunami Museum is dedicated to the 1946 and 1960 tsunamis that devastated the city, and downtown Hilo’s farmers market has local produce, flowers, prepared foods, and local coffee.

Getting around Hilo is easy; walking and biking are the most efficient ways to get around town, while public transportation from Hele-On Bus offers an affordable option for longer trips around the island.

2. Explore the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Center

The small downtown district of Hilo is pedestrian-friendly and full of local culture. The historic buildings on the bayfront feature a variety of boutique shops, art galleries, and restaurants. Try the local fresh poke and mochi desserts in one of the cool mom-and-pop food spots or stop at a farmers market for the chance to taste the best of Hawaii’s tropical fruit and vegetables.

For a quick trip outside of the city, visit Rainbow Falls at Wailuku River State Park or see some of the island’s most stunning natural beauty in the Hamakua Coast region. The best time to visit Hilo is during the shoulder season of spring and fall as prices for hotels and tours are often lower than peak season. A rental car is recommended, but public transportation and guided tours are also available.

3. Take a Hike to the ‘Akaka Falls

A visit to Akaka Falls is one of the best things to do in Hilo for boomer travelers looking for some scenic beauty and a little hiking. You can take a short hike along a rainforest filled with bamboo and wild orchids to see the magnificent 442-feet Akaka Falls.

From the waterfall, make your way to the sleepy town of Honomu for some snacks and curio shopping. Then head back down the Hamakua coast to the iconic Akaka Falls State Park for some scenic vistas and a lush botanical garden.

Nearby is the Pacific Tsunami Museum. This museum offers a sobering look at the impact of past tsunami events in the Pacific and provides visitors with valuable information on how to prepare for future tsunamis.

4. Visit the Mauna Loa Lava Tubes

When lava cools, it will harden on the outside while remaining hot inside and carving out long tunnels that look like natural underground subway systems. The Kaumana Caves Park is the gateway to a 25-mile-long lava tube that you can explore on foot. Wear sturdy shoes, bring a flashlight, and be prepared for a damp, cool adventure that is eye-opening and even a little spooky.

Hilo on the eastern side of Hawaii Island is low-key, almost unchanged, and friendly. The old downtown area is walkable and has great restaurants, shops with modern aloha apparel, historic museums including the Pacific Tsunami Museum, Lyman Museum, and Mokupapapa Discovery Center, and a lively arts scene including the Sig Zane Designs, East Hawaii Cultural Center, and more. There are also many parks, waterfalls, and lava tubes to explore around town.

5. Take a Snorkelling or Scuba Diving Trip

While the Kona side of the island may be better known for its picture-perfect white sand beaches, Hilo has a number of beautiful black sand beaches and beach parks. Snorkeling trips here are a great way to explore the lush coral reefs and marine life that make the brackish waters around Hilo so spectacular.

Those who wish to learn to scuba dive can do so in Hilo with a resort course that qualifies them for an introductory dive in only a few hours! There are also a number of tour companies and shuttle services that offer guided tours of Hilo’s best attractions.

Stroll along Kamehameha Avenue in downtown Hilo to see a variety of local shops, art galleries, and restaurants. Sample fresh local produce, meats, and seafood at the Hilo Farmer’s Market, or visit the boutique Two Ladies Kitchen for delicious Japanese confections like mochi.

6. Visit a Local Farm

Visiting a local farm is an amazing way to get that feel of Hawaii. Many local farms offer tours where you learn about their crops and then get a chance to sample their products. Some even organize full-blown farm-to-table dinners!

This small zoo is located in a rainforest botanical garden and features a variety of native animals. You can also explore the ponds and tropical plants that make this a special place to visit!

This farmers market is big, well organized, and a great place to pick up fresh food. It also has a variety of vendors selling handmade gifts and souvenirs. This is a fun and delicious experience!

7. Visit a Local Brewery

Hilo is a small town with lots of fun things to do. It has a cool farmers market and a variety of delicious local food restaurants. You can also get fresh poke, mochi desserts, and other tasty treats from a number of fun snack shops.

The Hilo Botanical Garden is an impressive attraction that is a must-see for visitors to the area. The gardens include bridges over fishponds and other Japanese-inspired features.

The Hilo Zoo and Museum are other fun places to visit. They provide a bite-sized history of Hawaii and its culture. Visitors can also take a tour of a vanilla farm to learn about the production process. Car rentals are popular in Hilo as they allow visitors to explore the city and its surroundings at their own pace. However, buses and tours are also available.

8. Visit a Local Farmer’s Market

Known for its lush forests, stunning waterfalls, and volcanic lava flows, Hilo is home to a wide range of attractions. From the 422 ft Akaka Falls to the Wailuku River State Park, this Big Island town has something for every traveler.

Along Kamehameha Avenue, you’ll find art galleries, boutique shops and restaurants. Museums such as the Lyman Museum and Mission House provide a bite-sized history of Hawaii and its culture.

Visit the Hilo Farmers Market on Wednesdays or Saturdays for a taste of the local fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Look for fresh poke and other Hawaiian delicacies as you browse over 200 stalls. If you’re in the mood for some sweet treats, stop by Two Ladies Kitchen for a delicious mochi experience. This small family-run business has been making this traditional Japanese confection for over 20 years.

9. Visit a Local Farmer’s Market

A trip to Hilo and the East Side of Hawaii is a trip back in time to a slower island pace. You can explore downtown Hilo along Kamehameha Avenue and find a variety of shops, restaurants, and attractions. From modern aloha wear at Sig Zane Designs to the neo-classical Palace Theatre built in 1925, there’s a little bit of everything here!

For a taste of local food, head to the Hilo Farmers Market. You’ll find a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and prepared foods at this weekly event. You can also sample traditional Japanese confections like mochi at Two Ladies Kitchen.

The only tropical zoo in the US, the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo is one of Hilo’s most beloved family attractions. It’s also the only place in the world where you can see a taro plant. It’s a must-visit!

10. Visit a Local Farmer’s Market

While visiting Hilo Hawaii make sure to check out the local farmer’s market in downtown. Open daily but more active and full on Wednesdays and Saturdays you can sample a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, snacks, and other treats.

Other Hilo attractions include a visit to the historical Mooheau Bandstand in the waterfront area which is used for political rallies, music, and hula shows and offers amazing views of Hilo Bay. Also, the unique Tsunami Museum and Lyman Museum are fascinating historic museums that tell of the city’s tragic past.

Finally, the Hilo Botanical Gardens offer a serene retreat just across the water from the waterfront area where you can cross a small bridge to Coconut Island (Moku Ola – Island of Life). It was once a spiritual place of refuge for the people of Hilo.

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