Welcome to Hilo
Hilo is blessed with breathtaking waterfalls, flourishing gardens, and verdant jungles.
Hilo is a town on the northeastern edge of Hawai'i Island with stunning scenery and all the conveniences of a big city. The area is blessed with breathtaking waterfalls, verdant jungles, and flourishing gardens. It's also the location of Hilo International Airport and is an easy stop en route to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which is only 45 minutes to the south.
In the 1800s, Hilo transformed from a busy farming and fishing area to a commercial center for the sugar industry. Downtown Hilo sprang up around its crescent-shaped bay and became the county seat. Today, Hilo's downtown is a picturesque town with museums, art galleries, shops, and restaurants.
What to Love
- Wide variety of housing options
- Beautiful sunrises and views over Hilo Bay
- Residential neighborhoods with families
- Hilo International Airport
Hilo is the largest city on the Big Island, in addition to being its capital. Nearly 3.3 times the size of Kailua Kona, it is home to more than 23% of all people living on the island of Hawai'i. About 10% of Hilo's population comprises students and employees at the University of Hawaii's Hilo campus. As a result, certain areas of Hilo have the feel of a college town.
In addition to being the island's largest city, Hilo is also its cultural center. The scene is created by the presence of historic structures, the aftermath of two tsunamis, and the legacy of the island's former plantation era.
Residences in Hilo tend to reflect the town's laid-back vibe. Most of the town's single-family homes are clustered along Kaumana Drive and Hawaii Belt Road. As you travel south along Keaau-Pahoa Road, you'll see communities populated by single-family bungalows close to the coast.
Dining, Entertainment & Shopping
Hilo has a wide variety of shopping options. Prince Kuhio Plaza is East Hawaii's largest enclosed shopping center. Anchor businesses include Sears and Macy's, and the mall also features a 9-Screen Movie Theatre, a food court, restaurants, retail boutiques, and many more businesses. Downtown Hilo is home to many quaint restaurants and shops, including Hilo Farmers Market, where you can get fresh produce and local crafts.
Over the past few years, Hilo's restaurant industry has steadily grown, and the city now features a wide variety of excellent dining options. Café Pesto is a great spot for lunch or dinner. This eatery serves a wide selection of dishes that draw inspiration from Italian and Mediterranean cuisine and are prepared using fresh, regional ingredients. Pineapples Island Fresh Cuisine, an open-air restaurant in the heart of downtown, is a local favorite. With its lively bar scene, indoor/outdoor feel, and live music, this restaurant is a great spot to relax with friends over bistro fare made with regional ingredients. For a delicious breakfast, try Ken's House of Pancakes. The portions are very generous, so sharing is a good idea. The bananas foster French toast, and macadamia nut pancakes are must-orders.
Things to Do
The magnificent Akaka Falls is one of Hawaii's most famous attractions and the crown jewel of Akaka Falls State Park. You can reach these falls after a scenic 0.4-mile hike through a looping footpath that not only provides spectacular views of Akaka Falls but also of Kahuna Falls, another major attraction in Akaka Falls State Park.
For a taste of Japan right in the middle of Hilo, head to the beautiful Liliuokalani Park and Gardens. It is the largest garden designed in the Edo style outside of Japan and spans an impressive 24 acres. You'll feel like you've traveled to Japan thanks to the garden's many torii gates, gazebos, bridges, teahouses, pagodas, statues, and ponds, all of which have a Japanese aesthetic.
Bike Volcano offers guided bicycle tours of Hawaii's national parks and volcanoes. Biking over the Hawaiian mountains, complete with active volcanoes and the sensation of molten lava, is a spiritual experience unlike any other. If you (or your children) are interested in Hawaiian history and astronomy, the Imiloa Astronomy Center is a fantastic option. Exhibits, activities, and a full-dome planetarium are just some ways that the Imiloa center aims to educate and entertain its many visitors, students, and locals.
The Merrie Monarch Hula Festival is a week-long festival held each year after Easter. It features a three-day hula competition, an invitational art fair, hula shows, and a grand parade to celebrate the many cultures of Hawaii.
Hilo falls under the Hawaii Department of Education School District. Top schools in this town include:
Hilo Union Elementary School, Grades PK-6
Connections - New Century Public Charter School, Grades K-12 & Ungraded
Hilo Intermediate School, Grades 7-8
Waiakea High School, Grades 9-12 & Ungraded
Hilo High School, Grades 9-12 & Ungraded