Welcome to Hilo

Tropical elegance in a lush, gorgeous setting

The Big Island’s second largest city is globally renowned for presenting the dramatic, verdant side of Hawaii, one in which waterfalls cascade over lava ridges, papayas and anthuriums flourish on the side of the road, and rainforests give way to tranquil beaches edged with turquoise water.

The former fishing enclave and historic port may have been revitalized in the mid-1900s, but Hilo has retained a vintage, picturesque charm. Downtown Hilo thrives with contemporary businesses run out of centuries-old, beautifully-restored wooden storefronts. Locals and visitors line up for classic shaved ice. Relics from the past, including metal rings to tie up horses, are found alongside upscale retailers, acclaimed restaurants, and a theater that dates back to 1925. As the entry point to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hilo boasts an old Hawaii feel with a modern sensibility.

What to Love

  • Ample beauty and a rich sense of history
  • A wealth of outdoor adventures and cultural sites
  • Array of splendid restaurants, galleries, museums, and shops
  • Quiet sophistication and a laid-back vibe
  • High-profile properties with sweeping views of the Pacific

Local Lifestyle

Hilo is, first and foremost, a tight-knit community with a harmonious vibe to match it. Home to the University of Hawaii at Hilo, it’s a haven for students, professionals, and families, while its profusion of natural splendors renders it a magnet for artists. It’s also an excellent fit for avid surfers, hikers, and outdoor explorers, in addition to retirees searching for a calmer pace of life and those seeking seclusion with an exquisite backdrop.

Dining, Entertainment & Shopping

Historic downtown Hilo and the city as a whole thrive with the perfect mix of casual and high-end galleries, retailers, and restaurants. Locals love to linger over their coffee at Hawaiian Style Cafe, where luscious pancakes the size of Frisbees are served with Hawaii’s signature aloha spirit, before trotting off to browse fashionable island attire or visiting any one of the town’s three pristine museums. Sunsets are often savored at Hilo Bay Cafe, which provides staggering vistas of Mauna Kea and a menu brimming with delectable Pacific Rim fare. Hamakua mushroom pot pie, fiddle fern warabi rolls, and Maui rum BBQ ribs with lilikoi slaw are just three fantastic options at this lively venue. Meanwhile, farm-to-table cuisine ascends to new heights at Moon and Turtle — a quaint, intimate cafe that offers meals inspired by local bounty.

Given Hilo’s position on the Pacific and ideal agricultural conditions, it’s also a hotbed for hyper-fresh seafood and organic produce, which you can find at any of the town’s bustling markets. One to try? Suisan Fish Market is an island institution famous for its melt-in-your-mouth poke — or Hawaiian fish salad — ono, and mahi-mahi, all of which are freshly caught and cut on-site.

Things to Do

Hawaii abounds with delightful activities for every age, personality, and lifestyle. Hilo brings this concept home by providing a vibrant, cosmopolitan atmosphere within an extraordinary natural setting. Whether you’d like to please your palate, soothe your spirit, nourish your mind, or pump up your energy, the town and its nearby environs are sure to satisfy you.

The Big Island’s access to an abundance of fresh food is crystallized at Hilo Farmer’s Market. Situated in the heart of historic downtown Hilo and held daily, it bursts with fresh vegetables and fruits, both rare and common, succulent seafood and meats, and beloved Hawaiian treats like mochi donuts, macadamia nuts, and musubi. 

Residents and visitors also count Lili’uokalani Botanical Gardens as one of Hilo’s greatest gems. For a good reason, too: The immaculate seaside sanctuary and authentic Japanese garden are plush with pagodas, stone lanterns, a teahouse, ornamental flora, and peaceful walking trails.

Wonder is further discovered at the University of Hawaii’s Imiloa Astronomy Center, which showcases ancient Hawaiians’ unparalleled navigation skills and the latest developments by Hawaii-based astronomers. A collection of Hawaiian plants, interactive exhibits, a stunning planetarium, and a restaurant perched above Hilo Bay round out this remarkable experience. And every year, people from around the globe convene in “the world capital of hula” for the Merrie Monarch Festival — a multi-day hula competition and cultural fete celebrating Hawaii’s ancient, beloved art form.

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