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Hilo

Hawaii is the tropical jewel of the USA. They may say words like “winter” and “summer”, but with year-round highs in the 70s and 80s and lows in the 60s, seasons are more concepts than reality. That’s why when it’s cold on the mainland, people flock to HI. There’s a lull in tourist traffic from mid-April to early-June and late-August to early-December. One thing to keep in mind is that even if the overall climate is lovely, the changes in elevation and terrain will create microclimates. Be sure to check the forecasts before your trip.

Hilo has everything that the Big Island can offer. Does anyone need to be told about soft sandy beaches, waves and water for a far as the eye can see, or how many different varieties of sea life you can swim with? Sure, Hilo has all of that. If you want to soak up some rays and relax with a tasty beverage, a Hawaiian vacation in Hilo is perfect. You want to wiggle your toes in warm, black sand and look out at water so blue that sapphires get jealous? Punalu’U Beach is waiting for you. You can even go snorkeling there or head over to Carlsmith Beach Park and swim with turtles. 

Hilo is much more than stunning beaches and tropical drinks. It’s more than snorkeling, diving, fishing, and a lifetime of water adventures. Hilo is also home to land-based adventures and experiences. 

Let’s do some science! 

The Imiloa Astronomy Center is a science museum and a cultural museum in one. You can learn about our place in the solar system and universe and also discover how Hawaii’s ancient ancestors navigate the waters. 

Want more science? You can visit the Subaru Telescope. This is where serious science happens! It’s a working National Astronomical Observatory of Japan located at the summit of Maunakea. Group tours are available in English or Japanese. If you’re interested in visiting the summit, you should visit their website first. This is a working facility, not a tourist attraction, and there are some restrictions for visitors. There are even restrictions on getting there. It’s the only place in the world where you can drive from sea level to 14,000 feet (visitor’s center located at 9,200 feet), but you need a car with low range, 4-wheel drive. If you can get there, you’ll have remarkable views, but this destination requires some pre-trip planning. 

The Pacific Tsunami Museum is part memorial, part educational, and part museum. It shows you the power of Mother Nature by exploring the historic tsunamis of 1946 and 1960 and it illustrates the triumph of the human spirit by showcasing the stories of survivors. 

Get lost in another culture! 

The East Hawaii Culture Center can introduce you to the culture of the people who make Hilo great. The Lyman Museum, affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, is the oldest surviving wood-framed building on the island. 

After you learn about the culture that formed Hawaii, take in more sights by joining the walking tour of Old Town Hilo. Stop by the Hilo Farmer’s Market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings to stock up on picnic supplies and then visit Lili’uokalani Park for a picnic surrounded by Japanese Gardens. 

The Hawaii Plantation Museum in Papaikou is a short drive from Hilo and shows you the life and times of the Hawaiian sugar plantations. Learn about the growing and manufacturing of sugar cane from boom times to bust.  

Commune with nature! 

No visit to Hilo would be complete without lava viewing. The lava flows are almost spiritual to some and profoundly beautiful to others. Take care and mind your step. This is real, active lava. 

Panaewa Zoo is a zoo unlike any available on the mainland. Here you can see tropical and rainforest animals and hear their calls. 

If you have mobility concerns, Hawaii offers beautiful views of nature for you too. Rainbow Falls has an easy walk on a wheelchair accessible path to lovely falls and brilliant tropical trees. Akaka Falls State Park offers an easy loop walk from the parking lot to the falls. Due to steps, it’s not considered wheelchair accessible, but if you can navigate steps (with a handrail) then this should be accessible to you. The path can be a bit slippery when wet and you may want to make this your first event of the day to avoid the crowds. Once you’re there, you’re treated to a picturesque waterfall and lush native vegetation. 

Festivals 

Hilo hosts a variety of very popular festivals. Merrie Monarch Festival is a week-long festival after Easter that’s a celebration of Hawaiian culture and the last King of the Kingdom of Hawaii. There are hula competitions, an arts fair, and food. Most of it is free, but the three-day Hula competition is ticketed. The tickets only travel through regular mail—plan early. 

Come June 11, the Kamehameha festival kicks up and offers a family-friendly event. Enjoy dancing, cultural demonstrations, arts & crafts during the day and still have time to get in something else after the festival closes. 

Last, but not least, is the Kona Coffee Festival in early November. Celebrate this delightful coffee by learning about it from growing to brewing. Enjoy tastings, cultural events, music, dance, and artisanal crafts. 

Discover a new culture, learn about the stars, or recharge in nature—there’s something for everyone in Hilo, Hawaii. Book your getaway today, and check out our Vacation Planning Resource Center for information to guide you on your next trip!

Top Things To Do In Hilo

  • Punalu’U Beach
  • Carlsmith Beach Park
  • Imiloa Astronomy Center
  • Subaru Telescope
  • Pacific Tsunami Museum
  • East Hawaii Culture Center
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