Hilo, which is located on the Big Island, is perfect for people who want to get the most out of their Hawaiian vacation. Because of its diverse geography, it has something for everyone, and is a great place to go if you are wishing to combine relaxation with adventure. Hilo has a variety of different beaches, and you can experience the uniqueness of many different sands, from black, gray, brown, green, and white. One way you can spend your day in Hilo is a trip to the Volcanoes National Park. Depending on how much time you have, you can spend a few hours, to a few days, exploring these natural wonders. The National Park’s website has great itineraries, broken down based on the length of your visit (http://www.nps.gov/havo/planyourvisit/index.htm). The park protects Kilauea and Mauna Loa, which are two active volcanoes.
The Volcanoes National Park has beautiful scenery, and you can spend hours just taking in all the sites. There are many places to hike and camp throughout the park, and experiences for many different fitness levels. If you are more into learning by reading, you are also able to learn a lot about the biology, geography, and history of the island. The visitor’s center is also worth a visit if you are new to Hawaiian culture, as it gives you a lot of information about Pele, the fire goddess of Hawaii. Hilo is considered the rainy part of the Big Island, so be sure to prepare for some rain, and be ready to spend some time indoors if you need to dry off. Luckily, the rains are usually short, and it is still warm outside, compared to the cold Seattle rains.
Depending on where you are coming from on the island, you might be able to make time to stop at a black sand beach in the same day, such as Punaluu. Punaluu is located South of the National Park, and it is one of the most highly visited black sand beaches. This a great beach to stop at for a picnic, or just a nice stretch break if you have spent some time in your car. If you’re lucky, you may get to meet a green sea turtle, also known as honu, sunbathing on the beach. The best time to observe these magnificent creatures is a time when the surf is low. Although these turtles are very calm, peaceful creatures, you should be sure to let them be. You can safely walk up to get a closer look, but be sure not to touch them.
If you are more of a night owl, Mauna Kea Observatory will be ideal for you. Depending on the time of year, you can even see some snow. Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano that sits 4,200 meters above sea level. You are able to stargaze at the many telescopes available to the public at the Visitor Information Station, which is at 9,200 feet. Remember, since you are traveling up such high altitude, that you it will be much colder than down at sea level, so prepare accordingly.
For the adventurer in your group, there are also many ways to explore. You can explore the lava tubes by going on caving tours, which take you through the lava tubes and also teach you about how they are made, and how they are used now. Near the National Volcano Park there is a lava tube you can stop at and explore, but this area tends to get crowded. Don’t let this discourage you, you can also view lava tubes at the Kaumana Caves Park, which is a free park to enter, and tends to be quieter with fewer tourists. The caves can be slippery, so come prepared with good shoes, and possibly gloves if you want to get on your hands and knees to explore.
Another beautiful stop that you don’t want to miss while in Hilo is theAkaka Falls State Park. The park is easily accessible off the Mamaloa Highway, you have to pay a bit more if you park inside the gate, but if you park outside the gate you only have to pay a dollar to walk in. The walk is paved, and you can spend a few hours marveling at this majestic waterfall. Come prepared to do a little hiking, some stairs are involved, but since it is all paved and relatively short, it should be fine for everyone in your group.
If photography is what you are into, Leleiwi Beach Park is a must see. This beach tends to be packed during the summer, mainly with locals. The shoreline is rocky with lava rocks, but with beautiful tidepools that you won’t want to miss.
There are many hotels to stay at while in Hilo, with a range in prices. One Bed & Breakfast that is very popular, and highly rated, is the Orchid Tree. This is the perfect quiet getaway, and located very close to many attractions, such as beaches and downtown Hilo. Another Bed & Breakfast that is well-liked is the Hilo Honu Inn, which is located in downtown Hilo. This is on the higher price range, but you are downtown and close to many other attractions, which makes this another favorite among frequent Hilo visitors. For more information on Bed and Breakfasts in Hilo and the Big Island in general, visit www.stayhawaii.com.
As Hawaiian coffee grows in popularity, so do the areas of where it is grown and produced. In Mountain View, on the way to the Volcanoes National Park, small farms are beginning to produce their own coffee. The coffee beans in Hilo differ from other parts of the Island because of the amount of shade and moisture; the coffee beans are usually larger in areas where there is more moisture, which Hilo definitely has because of the precipitation they receive. Hilo used to have a thriving sugar cane industry, but some of these farms are now being taken over by coffee farmers, such as Hilo Coffee Mill. The Hilo coffee industry is relatively new, and currently not as well known and booming as other areas of the Big Island, but it is a new area to keep an eye on for Hawaiian coffee.
Mahalo and thanks for reading! Have you been to Hilo? Please tell us about it in our comments section!