Hilo is a town on the Big Island of Hawaii. The county seat and largest city in Hawaii County, Hilo is the one of the best starting points to explore the eastern half of the island, including Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.


Although the largest city on the Big Island, Hilo is a small city (43,263 in the 2010 Census) with a relaxed pace of life. It is on the rainier, less touristy east side of the island, and the city itself is not a huge draw for tourists, but there is an excellent farmers' and craftsmen's market on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, and in addition to the attractions within city limits, there is good snorkeling nearby, extremely lush botanic gardens in the area, and Volcanoes National Park is a splendid day trip.


 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°F) 79.0 78.8 79.0 78.9 80.6 82.2 82.8 83.2 83.3 82.6 80.8 79.4
Nightly lows (°F) 63.8 63.5 64.6 65.5 66.9 68.2 69.2 69.3 69.7 69.1 67.3 65.1
Precipitation (in) 9.26 9.56 13.43 11.54 8.12 7.37 10.81 9.85 9.94 9.77 15.50 11.57

Source: w:Hilo, Hawaii#Geography and climate

Hilo has a mild, somewhat muggy subtropical climate, with a lot of rain. In fact January and February are the only months with less than 20 rainy days on average.

Get in

Most of the visitors bound for Hilo will arrive via one of the inter island airlines (Hawaiian), or as a day stop from one of the frequent cruise ship visits. Unless you're sailing your own craft, this is only way of getting in by sea, as inter-island boat services were suspended in 2009.

By plane

  Hilo International Airport (IATA: ITO) is the main airport serving Hilo and the eastern side of the Big Island. The majority of flights to Hilo originate from Honolulu via Hawaiian Airlines. There is also one flight from Kahului daily, and one non-stop flight from LAX daily, operated by United Airlines. The airport terminal is rather small, with a relaxed atmosphere. Long lines for security are unlikely.

By car

From elsewhere on the Big Island: for visitors, this would mean taking the Mamalahoa Highway (HI-190), the Daniel K. Inouye Highway (via a right turn) and the Saddle Road (HI-200, but without signposted route numbers on the road) across the interior of the island from Kailua-Kona at the western end, where the other commercial airport is located. Allow at least 2 hours for that trip, which goes through some curvy, hilly terrain.

Alternatively, you can take the Hawaii Belt Road (HI-19) around much of the northern shore of the island, going inland through Waimea. You may find this an easier drive, and possibly a more pleasant one if you'd like to go through more villages and see fewer starkly beautiful views of Mauna Kea and other hilly inland scenery. To be on the safe side, you should allow at least 2.5 hours for the northern route, though you may want to stop in one or more towns along the way.

Direction signs are fairly good on the Big Island, though not always with much advance notice for the driver. Traffic drives slowly (usually 25-35 miles per hour), and it's ordinary for unobstructed traffic to go slower than posted speed limits.

If you don't have a car, hitching a ride is very easy on the Big Island.

Get around

Many of Hilo's points of interest are concentrated in quite a small area in the western end of Kamehameha Avenue. There you can get around by foot easily. However, some natural attractions, beaches and shops are a mile or more away from there.

The county's Hele-On Bus system ($2 fare) does not serve Hilo International Airport. As public transportation on Hawai`i Island is minimal, virtually all visitors rent a vehicle from one of the many rental agencies upon arriving at Hilo International Airport. It's a good idea to make car reservations in advance, as special events or active conditions at the Volcanoes National Park can quickly deplete the supply of available vehicles.

As an alternative, taxis are also available at the airport though renting a car is almost always more practical.

There are also a few bicycle shops on and around Kamehameha Avenue, if you would like to rent or buy a bicycle.


Rainbow Falls


Four Mile beach

Many of the activities that are available are strictly daytime, and focus on the ocean. Surf culture is big, and boards may be rented from   Orchidland Surf, located in the Bayfront district. Stan, the owner, will be happy to fill you in on where to go as well as the current conditions.



Lili'uokalani Gardens

Hilo has two main shopping areas, each about a mile away from most of the hotels on the Banyan Drive loop. Follow Kamehameha Avenue west from Banyan Drive, and you will arrive at Downtown Hilo, which is home to many quaint shops and restaurants. Follow Highway 11 (also Mamalahoa Highway or Kanoelehua Avenue) south from Banyan Drive, and you will arrive at the Prince Kuhio Plaza. There are larger retail stores in and around the Prince Kuhio Plaza area. KTA Superstores, Long's Drugs, and a Wal-Mart are all present on the island.

Downtown Hilo

Most Downtown Hilo stores are located along the "Bayfront", or Kamehameha Avenue, though the side streets are also packed with excellent finds and shops to explore. The Hilo Farmer's Market is also located downtown. You can easily spend a day walking around Downtown Hilo, browsing and shopping.

While Downtown Hilo itself is walkable, parking spaces can be hard to find midday. It is possible to walk from your Banyan Drive area hotel to Downtown, though it is approximately one mile.

Fresh produce at the Farmer's Market

Prince Kuhio Plaza Area

A fabric shop in Hilo. Yes, they have Aloha shirts!

The Prince Kuhio Plaza is the main retail center in Hilo. It is surrounded by many larger retailers and shops. It is best to have a car, as Highway 11 from Banyan Drive to the Plaza is not the most pedestrian-friendly boulevard.


Downtown Hilo

Hilo is known for its locally-made ice cream. It's some of the best on earth and can be found several places, including Hilo Homemade Ice Cream downtown at 41 Waianuenue Avenue.

The Hilo Farmer's Market, on the corner of Kamehameha Avenue and Mamo Street, has lots of cheap eats. If you love tropical fruit, this is the place to go. There's a great tamale stand in the west corner of the market serving very tasty $2 tamales. Market open daily 7AM to 5PM, with extended hours on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The small town of Pahoa offers The Pahoa Market, which is a flea market open on Sundays and has more prepared food. Take Highway 130 on the way to Pahoa.



View from Liliuo'kalani Park towards North Hilo



Waiakea Pond


Hilo is a small town, and as such, there is not a lot of public drinking to be done. Despite a very lackluster nightlife, almost every bar has a cover charge. Still, there are a few places to wet your whistle, and maybe catch a live act.



Night view of Hilo Bay





Stay safe

At the Tsunami Museum you can learn about the disastrous one that hit Hilo in 1960

Hilo is generally quite safe. There are usually homeless people loitering around public parks and sometimes they can be a little eccentric, so keep your distance.

If an earthquake were to strike and a tsunami warning were issued, if you are at the beach, there would be tsunami evacuation signs to guide you to a safe distance.


Locals refrain from wearing aloha outfits, either full body attire or partial outfits. Clothes are very casual to resort casual at best.

Go next

Behind Hilo rises Mauna Kea
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