Hilo is the biggest town on Big Island, but it still remains rather authentic and is not too crowded with tourism. It’s located on the northeastern part of the island and is a perfect base to explore the Volcano National parks of the island. The population of Hilo is a true melting pot of cultures, which is reflected in the atmosphere of this charming town.
Given its native population, Hilo is also a perfect destination for those wanting to learn about the real Hawaiian culture. There are a lot of Museums and cultural events that reflect the rich Hawaiian culture from the past to present. Surrounded by amazing lush green nature, waterfalls and an incredible coastline, Hilo is a great destination for travellers looking to explore the less touristy areas of Hawaii.
- Our favorite beach: Onekahakaha Beach Park
- Our favorite restaurant: Papajac's Cafe
- Our favorite boat tours in Hilo: Hāmākua Historical Hawai’i Afternoon Cruise in Hilo
- Our favorite watersport in Hilo: Dolphin and Reef Snorkeling in Hilo
Language and currency in Hilo
Hilo, located on Big Island, follows suit with the rest of Hawaii in having both English and Hawaiian (the native Hawaiian language) recognized as official tongues. If you speak English, you will have little trouble getting around in the tourist areas surrounding Big Island and Hilo. But of course, you'll make a lot of friends if you learn some simple Hawaiian phrases like Aloha (Hello and Goodbye) and Mahalo (Thank You).
Hilo uses the United States Dollar (USD), and currency exchanges at local banks are simple and quick. Most of Big Island's tourist destinations also accept credit cards.
Getting around in Hilo
Hilo is a fantastic jumping off place for explorations of the rest of Big Island like the Volcano National park. The best way to visit the most gorgeous places, though, is to rent a car. You can easily book the car online ahead of time, choose the option that is easiest and cheapest for you, and pick up your car at the airport.
If you don't plan on doing too much exploring and would rather just stay in one place, public transportation connects the major attractions of Big Island. Taxis and ride-hailing applications are also widespread in larger towns on the island.
Best things to do during your holidays in Hilo
There are many amazing things to do in Hilo, and most of them involve some adventure in nature, culture and a lot of beautiful landscapes.
This waterfall is located super close to the town of Hilo, and you can even walk there. It’s a short and easy trail, and worth every meter. In a beautiful natural setting, admire the 80ft waterfall. Depending on the light, it creates some beautiful rainbow markings, which gave the Rainbow Falls its name. If you’re staying in Hilo, a visit to the Rainbow Falls is a Must-Do for everybody!
Hawai‘i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden
This Botanical Garden is located near Hilo along the coast, and is one of the most popular and also most educational Botanical Gardens of Hawaii. Hawai‘i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden is a sanctuary for local flora, and also functions as a living seed bank. If you like colors and scents, the tropical plants from all over the world displayed in this Botanical Garden will be like a piece of heaven for you! Walk through the lush tropical gardens and breathe in the fresh and delicious air!
Hilo Farmers Market
If you’re into food, but also into beautiful plants and colors, a visit to Hilo Farmers Market is a must! It’s open everyday from 7am to 3pm and offers a huge variety of local food and much more! Be amazed by the delicious selection of tropical fruits, homemade coffee, and other local delicacies! Strolling around the Hilo Farmers Market is a super enjoyable experience, and at the same time you get to explore some new and exciting dishes and drinks that are unique to Big Island!
Imiloa Astronomy Center
Located in the outskirts of Hilo town, the Imiloa Astronomy Center is a great place to visit for everybody interested in astronomy. It combines Hawaiian culture with astronomy, and includes a fascinating Planetarium Show which is especially exciting for kids! There is also a sky restaurant where you can enjoy a beautiful view AND some delicious food. If you come here in the dark, it’s also a great place for stargazing.
The best boat tours in Hilo
Hilo is located on the side of Big Island with more rain in general, which is why there are fewer tourists than on the Kona side. But there are still some great boat tours starting from Hilo to explore the unique coastline!
Join us for the Hāmākua Historical Hawai’i Afternoon Cruise in Hil
o for example, to explore some hidden caves and an ancient Hawaiian village. This boat tour is perfect to learn a bit more about the history of the region while enjoying a cruise along the coast. Make sure to bring your cameras to capture the beautiful sights you get to see on this boat trip!
Animal-lovers will love the Humpback Whale Exploration in Hilo, a 2-hour boat tour to see wild humpback whales in their natural habitat. Seeing those fascinating mammals enjoying their freedom is one of the most magical experiences you have during your stay in Hilo!
Looking for a more exclusive boat trip? Book your Private Boat Tour in Hilo and spend some quality time on board your charter! We can customize your boat tour to your needs, so feel free to send us an email with all your requests!
The best watersports in Hilo
Apart from amazing boat tours in Hilo, there are also plenty of super fun watersports you can do all along the coast of Big Island.
How about a tour to Sea Turtle Lagoon and Black Sand Beach Snorkel in Hil
o? This snorkeling tour is a great activity to do with your friends and family. Put your goggles on and explore the fascinating marine life of Hawaii! The volcanic landscape of Hilo also attracts a lot of special fish and rays. Snorkel along the coral reefs while looking out for some underwater friends!
Kayaking and Stand-Up Paddleboarding are also super popular watersport activities along the coast of Hilo. Rent a kayak or a SUP Board at the beach and paddle along the unique coastline. From the sea, you can enjoy the view over the amazing nature and the volcanoes in the back even better! It’s a fun experience for everybody!
What and where to eat in Hilo
Though Big Island is better known for its breathtaking scenery, its local cuisine is worth exploring. Musubi is a local favorite in Hilo and one you shouldn't miss if you ever find yourself there. Musubi is a grilled spam sandwiched between two blocks of rice and wrapped in nori. Make sure you eat this local delicacy while you're in Holi! It’s available at most snack shops, and at the Hilo Farmers Market you can get it at Poke N Sides.
Another classic dish on Big Island is the Loco Moco. The dish consists of a beef patty, rice, gravy, and a fried egg. You can experience it for yourself at Cafe 100 in Hilo, one of the best spots in Hilo for Loco Moco.
If you’re up for some local seafood and Poke, the Suisan Fish Market is your best bet! Some say it has the best poke on Big Island, and besides Poke, you also find a lot of other delicious seafood dishes.
Enjoy the beautiful beaches around Hilo
The coast around Hilo is blessed with a lot of rainfall, creating lush tropical forests behind the sandy beaches and turquoise waters. If you want the best of Big Island, you will find it around Hilo! To make sure you get to see the most beautiful beaches, we have a list of some of the best places to spend a day at the beach in Hilo!
Carlsmith Beach Park
This beach, also known as Four Mile, is the perfect place for swimming and snorkeling, especially for kids! Thanks to the reef and the lava rocks surrounding the bay, the water is super calm. It’s almost like going to a natural swimming pool, where you can sometimes find wild sea turtles! There is no sand at Carlsmith Beach Park, but instead you can lie down on the rocks or the lawn. It’s located super close to Hilo, making it a great little getaway paradise!
Onekahakaha Beach Park
Just like Carlsmith, the Onekahakaha Beach Park is also not your typical sandy beach, but instead an ocean pool with tidal pools, making it one of the safest places for swimming along the coast. Behind the water, you can relax at the picnic tables or the lawn of the beach park. It’s just east of Hilo Airport, so easily accessible from the town. Perfect for families with kids wanting to spend a day swimming in the refreshing waters of Big Island!
This little beach is especially interesting for surfers, thanks to the reef break you can reach from Chocks Beach is a great spot for catching waves! Surrounded by coconut trees and lush green colors, you can relax at the beach while watching the surfers out in the line-up. The waves are usually quite soft, so it’s also a great spot for beginners, but make sure to check the conditions before going out, as the rip currents can be quite tricky.
Whatever you decide to do during your holiday in Hilo, we promise you will love the boat tours and watersports. Sunshine and a lot of fun are guaranteed! For any further tips or requests, feel free to contact us anytime.