Hilo is the main city on the Big Island of Hawaii

Hilo is the main city on the Big Island of Hawaii

Hilo is a coastal city in the state of Hawaii, the second largest on the island of Hawaii after Honolulu. It is the administrative center of Hawaii County, Hawaii. Located on the shore of Hilo Bay. According to the 2000 census, it had a population of 40,759. It is located near two shield volcanoes: the active Mauna Loa and the dormant Mauna Kea. The city is home to a branch of the University of Hawaii. The city is served by Hilo International Airport.



The city of Hilo is located in the eastern part of the island of Hawaii. The city has a total land area of 151.4 km², with a land area of 140.6 km² and a water surface area of 10.7 km².

The city has a humid climate, one of the wettest in the United States. The average annual precipitation is about 3,245 mm.

Climate of Hilo
Indicator Jan. Feb. March Apr. May June July Avg. Sen. Oct. November Dec. Year
Absolute maximum, °C 33,3 33,3 33,9 31,7 34,4 32,2 32,8 33,9 33,3 32,8 33,3 33,9 34,4
Average maximum, °C 26,1 26,0 26,1 26,1 27,0 27,9 28,2 28,4 28,5 28,1 27,1 26,3 27,2
Average temperature, °C 21,9 21,8 22,1 22,3 23,2 24,0 24,5 24,7 24,6 24,2 23,4 22,4 23,3
Average minimum, °C 17,7 17,5 18,1 18,6 19,4 20,1 20,7 20,9 20,6 20,3 19,6 18,4 19,3
Absolute minimum, °C 12,2 11,7 12,2 14,4 15,0 16,1 16,7 17,2 16,1 16,7 14,4 12,8 11,7
Norm of precipitation, mm 235 243 341 293 206 187 275 250 253 248 394 294 3219
Source: Weather and climate


Long before Europeans arrived on the island, the area of what is now the city was inhabited by Hawaiians. In the middle of the 19th century, the first missionaries came to Hilo and founded several churches here.

Later, the city was surrounded by sugar cane plantations, which mainly employed Asians, and Hilo itself became a major trading center.

In the early twentieth century, construction of a fence was begun on Hilo Bay, which was completed in 1929. On April 1, 1946, the city was significantly damaged by the Aleutian Islands earthquake tsunami, killing 160 people. On May 23, 1960, another tsunami caused by a magnitude 9.5 earthquake off the coast of Chile resulted in 61 deaths, presumably caused by inattention to warning sirens.

In the 1960s, Hilo was greatly expanded by the construction of suburbs, and the city center became a cultural center with several galleries and museums. The closure of sugar plantations in the 1990s, which occurred against the backdrop of a general recession in the state, led to a decline in the local economy. Hilo has also seen economic and demographic growth in recent years since neighboring Puna became the fastest-growing region in the state.


According to the 2000 census, 40,759 people lived in Hilo. The population density was 289.9 persons/km². The white population was 17.12%, the black population 0.45%, the Native American population 0.34%, the Asian population 38.30%, the non-Pacific island population 12.12%, the other races 0.94%, and the mixed population 29.74%.

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The median annual family income was $39,139 and family income was $48,150.

Notable residents.

Waipahu – Kahului – Kaneohe – Kailua – Lihue – Pearl City – Hilo

The 14 most popular tourist attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii

The island of Hawaii, more commonly referred to as the Big Island, is famous for its incredible natural attractions, especially the volcanoes that have shaped and continue to shape the landscape. Originally formed by five volcanoes, the island continues to grow as the active Kilauea spews lava into the ocean. The two largest volcanoes on the island are Mauna Loa as well as Mauna Kea, which together make up nearly three-quarters of the island’s surface. Mauna Kea, now extinct, is the highest mountain in the Pacific at 13,800 feet above sea level.

The big island is also a major tourist destination for its exotic tropical climate, filled with lush forests and stunning waterfalls as well as gorgeous beaches. People come from all over the world to surf the huge Pacific waves, snorkel among the colorful fish and coral, and dive to explore the diverse ocean life. Hilo, on the northeast coast, is the island’s largest city and the best place for those focused on exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park , Kailua-Kona sits on the opposite side of the island in the middle of the west coast. This region is known for its coffee and spectacular sunsets.

1 Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcano National Park

This is one of the most geologically interesting national parks in the United States, home to two active volcanoes that allow visitors to see the wonder of nature in action. Visitors should be aware that various parts of the park and its surroundings, including roads, may be closed during periods of volcanic activity.

Sitting on the southeast side of the island, the park covers only 21 square miles, but continues to grow as active lava flows into the ocean and cools into the rock. The park has Kilauea Volcano, which was recently active in 2018, with explosions of steam and ash on top, leading to a shutdown at the visitor center. Halema’uma’u crater , the legendary home of Hawaii’s fire goddess, Pele, is an actively steaming crater that brings curious tourists to its edge. Crater Rim Road draws tourists to the park’s main attractions, including the Wrecking Trail , a landscape left behind after the 1959 eruption from Iki Crater. The Jagger Museum is also along this route, a great place to learn not only about the volcano phenomenon, but also about the relationship between Hawaiian legends and nature. Another attraction in the park is the Thurston Lava Tube , a unique place where lava once flowed and cooled so that it left a tunnel nearly 500 feet long and 20 feet high.

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Address: 1 Crater Drive, Hawaii National Park, Hawaii

Accommodations: Where to stay in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

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2 Waipio Valley and Overlook

Waipio Valley and Overloit.

This incredibly beautiful valley on the northeast coast of the Big Island, about 50 miles north of Hilo, is often described as something of a “Shangri-La,” almost cut off from the outside world. The valley, about one mile wide, scatters the Kohala Mountains and is difficult to reach because of the steep cliffs on the three landward sides. Strong waves make it equally impregnable from the sea.

Bananas, papayas, mangoes, avocados and grapefruits grow on the fertile floor of the valley, while colorful ginger, orchids and hibiscus adorn the landscape. Where the valley meets the ocean is a long black-sand beach. As many locals will tell you, this is the area where the movie Waterworld was filmed.

There is a steep and winding road into the valley that allows access by car or on foot. Most car rental companies do not allow their cars to go down into the valley, so some people prefer to take the road.

Waipio is fed by Hiilawe Falls , which falls more than 1,200 feet. This double waterfall is one of the highest in the world, but during the dry season there is now very little water because it is used to irrigate the land above the valley.

A popular scenic drive along the Hamakua Coast is the Hamakua Heritage Corridor, which runs from Hilo City to Waipio Valley Lookout.

Location: Waipopo Valley Road, Hamakua Coast

3 Mauna Kea.

Mauna Kea is the highest mountain in Hawaii and home to the Mauna Kea Observatory, an active research center. Temperatures here are very cold, a stark contrast to the tropical paradise below, but that doesn’t stop crowds from gathering in the visitor center each night for unprecedented views of the stars above. The summit and visitor information station, which sit at 13,800 feet and 9,200 feet, respectively, can only be accessed by 4WD vehicles, a trip often forbidden by rental car companies. The easiest way to enjoy the mountains is to meet Mauna Key and the Stars Adventure Tour, which saves you from the most troublesome issues, such as finding the right car, warmth and parking. The tour includes a picnic dinner at a Hawaiian ranch, an informative ride up the mountain to the summit, a hoodie in the park and an evening of contemplation with hot cocoa. Tourists should be aware that because of the extreme climb, participants must be at least 16 years old, in good condition and not recently dived.

Location: Hawaii, Hawaii

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4 Kona Coffee Living History Farm

Kona Coffee Living History Farm

Kona Coffee Living History Farm is the nation’s only living history museum dedicated to the legacy of traditional coffee farming. Run by the Kona Historical Society, this working farm shows visitors what life was like for coffee producers in the 1920s and ’30s. Costumed interpreters are happy to talk with tourists as they go about their daily tasks, from planting and cleaning to cooking and crafting. Visitors are free to explore the grounds, observing the Kona Nightingale (a donkey breed) and learning about the old roasting and milling methods. The farm also invites visitors to taste and, of course, purchase some of their amazing coffees. Around Kailua-Kona, tourists can also take a pre-arranged tour of the Hula Daddy Commercial Coffee Plantation or take a roasting trip to the Mountain Thunder Plantation.

Address: 82-6199 Mamalahoa Highway, Captain Cook, Hawaii

Official website: www.konahistorical.org

5 Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park (Kona Coast)

Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park (Kona Coast)

This park is a great place to learn about the traditions of the island. The present temple was restored by the national park authorities and is a replica of the original, which dates from the late 18th century. The palace was a place of refuge, protected by a huge wall 10 feet high and 16 feet wide. This thick wall between the former palace and the sanctuary has survived through the centuries, and repairs were made in 1902 and 1963-64. Using information gleaned from photographs, replicas of kaua wood carvings of the temple gods have been placed in their original positions.

Attractions at the homestead include the landing site of the royal canoes (“Keone’ele”); the stones on which the royal family played some Hawaiian game known as “konane”; and Kaahumanu Stone, behind which the queen hid from Kamehameha’s henchmen but was discovered when her dog began barking. There is also a royal pond known as “he-lay-palaloo”; Keua Stone, supposedly a favorite place of Keua, King Kona; burial vaults; cave paintings; and model houses belonging to priests and residents of Sanctuary City.

Address: State Hwy 160, Hōnaunau, Hawaii

Puuhonua o Honaunau NP (Sanctuary City) Map

6 Akaka Falls State Park and Kahuna Falls

Akaka Falls State Park and Cahoona Falls

Acaca Falls State Park near Hilo is home to Acaca Falls and Kahuna Falls. Acaca Falls is the tallest on the island, with a freefall of 442 feet. It is very stunning, with lush surroundings of tropical ferns, bamboo and orchids. The trail to the waterfalls is comfortably paved but steep and includes sections of steps. The trail, a loop less than half a mile long, takes you past Kahuna, which falls to the top of Acaca Falls, with a branch that leads to a vantage point perfect for getting photos of Acaca.

The address is Akaka Falls Road, Honom, Hawaii

7 Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

Located near Hamakua Picturesque Coast Drive , between Hilo and Waipio Valley Lookout, the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden has more than 2,000 species of tropical plants. A nonprofit organization specializing in the conservation and study of tropical flora, the garden attracts tourists, botanists and photographers. The 40-acre garden is filled with wandering paths that explore this secluded valley, as well as a 500-foot observation path overlooking a ravine and many plants. Palm Vista Palm is known for its collection of more than 200 species of palms from around the world.

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Address: 27-717 Mamalahoa Hwy, Papaikou, Hawaii

Official website: www.htbg.com

8 Hapuna Beach State Park

Hapuna Beach State Park.

Hapuna Beach is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the country, known for its soft white sand and many amenities. The beach is manned by lifeguards, especially reassuring as conditions can become dangerous as the tide changes. Tourists and locals come here for sunbathing, snorkeling, swimming and, of course, one of the world’s best surfing. There are also concessions and picnic shelters, as well as screened overnight shelters with access to electricity, refrigerators and showers. The park also has miles of hiking trails that offer great views of the coast.

Address: Old Puako Road, Waimea, Hawaii

9 Waikoloa Beach Resort and Petroglyph Park

Waikoloa Beach Resort and Petroglyph Park

Located on the Kona coast, Waikoloa Beach is home to a beautiful area with several petroglyphs. Most visitors come to the area for the Hilton Waikoloa Village. Few resorts in the world compare to the care that has gone into creating a magical atmosphere for guests at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. Although the resort is large, guests can get around using the elegant transit system or the beautifully appointed wood-paneled boats that cruise the canals on the grounds.

The art galleries here contain millions of dollars of Hawaiian, Oriental and other art. The tropical gardens feature sculptures grouped by theme. A variety of species are found throughout the gardens that surround the saltwater lagoon. One of the resort’s main attractions is the dolphin area, where guests, especially children, can enter and interact with dolphins.

10 Ahu’ena Heiau

Ahu’ena Heiau eggrole / photo modified

This fully restored temple, directly behind the Kamehameha Hotel in Kailua-Kona, is perhaps the best example of a Hawaiian sacrificial site.Ahuena Heiau was built by Kamehameha I on Kamakahonu Beach and is dedicated to the god Lona.

Kamehameha I spent the last years of my life at Ahuena Heiau. According to Hawaiian custom, his bones were removed from his corpse on a stone platform in the temple and taken north, perhaps to Wawahiwa Point, where they were left in a secret place.

Here Kamehameha II’s son and successor grew up, and this area became central to the fight against taboos and the destruction of pagan idols and temples during his reign. Further measures were then taken to abolish the old religion from Lahaina, the seat of government. The restoration of Ahuena Hayyu was overseen by the Bishop’s Museum in Honolulu.

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Location: Kailua Kona, Hawaii

Official website: www.ahuena-heiau.org

11 Kailua Kona and Magic Sands Beach

Kailua Kona and Magic Sands Beach Blake Handley / photo modified

Kailua Kona is the main town on the Kona coast and a good base for visitors who want to explore this section of the Big Island. It is the main shopping center from which many submarine and boat trips depart. Magic Sands Beach, sometimes a good snorkeling or swimming area, is located south of Kailua-Kona. The beach is sometimes covered with sand, and at other times it is devoid of sand, leaving a rocky shore.

12 Hilo Farmers Market

Hilo Farmers Market.

Hilo Farmers Market has become a local institution-so much so that it is now open daily, year-round. More than 200 vendors gather in historic downtown Hilo, selling local produce and flowers, handmade crafts and souvenirs. The market also hosts special events, including annual festivals and weekly themes such as Hilo Hula Tuesday and Market Music. Hilo is near the eastern tip of the island at one end of the Hamakua Heritage Corridor , which extends north to Waipio Valley Lookout. Other places of interest in Hilo include watching the planetarium at the Imiloa Animation Center and visiting the East Hawaii Cultural Center.

Address: Kamehameha Avenue, Mamo Street, Hilo, Hawaii

Official website: www.hilofarmersmarket.com

13 Keilakukua Bay State Historical Park

Keilakukukua Bay State Historical Park

South of Kailua-Kona, this state historic park is located where Captain Cook landed in 1779 and then died in a skirmish with local Hawaiians. Kilakekua Bay is a protected marine life conservation area, resulting in pristine waters and abundant marine life. Because of the abundance of colorful fish and thriving coral, it is a particularly popular spot for snorkeling, scuba diving and kayaking. Attractions in the park include the Monument to Captain James Cook and Hikiau Heyu , a temple built in honor of the Hawaiian god Lono.

Address: 82-6099 Puuhonua Road, Captain Cook, Hawaii

14 Parker Ranch (Kona Coast)

Parker Ranch (Kona Coast) t.benedict / photo modified

Cattle ranches may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Hawaiian agriculture, but Parker Ranch is actually the largest in the United States. Covering 355 square miles from the Kohala Mountains to the northwest coast of the Big Island, ranches account for about 9 percent of Hawaii’s total area. The entire ranch, which is operated by the 6th Generation Party, is open to the public. Tours include visits to the 19th-century John Parker House; the family cemetery; Pukalani Stables; and Puuopelu, a modern family home. This elegant home is akin to a museum, housing 100 paintings by famous artists such as Renoir, Pissarro and Degas. Exhibits about the ranch and the family’s history can be found in the Visitor Center and Museum, which features family heirlooms, photographs and a short film.

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