Hawai’i is often at the top of most travelers’ bucket lists, but once the decision is made to travel to the beautiful state, figuring out which one of the islands to visit can prove daunting. How is it possible to choose between visiting an active volcano, hiking to a crashing waterfall, and learning more about Hawaiian culture and its native people? The good news is, you don’t have to choose. Hilo offers all of those things and more. Here, we give you where to stay in Hilo and why we believe this city with a big heart and a small-town feel located on the east coast of the Big Island should be at the top of your list.
Things to Do in Hilo
Hilo is the second-largest city in Hawai’i, trailing only Honolulu, and the largest on the Big Island, so you’re guaranteed to find a plethora of activities to satisfy the entire family. Some of the best things to do include visiting an active volcano and discovering more about the beautiful place you’re visiting, its culture, and how it has changed over time.
Viewing the lava flow at Halema’uma’u Crater is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Check with the park rangers at the visitor center when you arrive to see if there is an active flow and where it’s located to improve your chances of seeing the lava. If you’re not comfortable going on your own, you can book a guided tour or a boat tour if there are ocean lava flows occurring.
Visitors can tour both the Lyman Museum for a collection of artifacts and natural history exhibits as well as the Mission House, which showcases what life was like in Hawai’i 150 years ago. Tour guides and staff work hard “to tell the stories of Hawai’i, its islands, and its people.”
Learn the cultural and scientific significance of Mauna Kea and how the early Polynesians used the night skies to navigate throughout the Pacific at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center. Don’t forget to experience one of several shows offered in the 120-seat planetarium to feel closer to the stars than ever before.
Hawai’i is famous for its natural beauty, and Hilo is no exception. Divide your time between visiting crashing waterfalls, exploring dark lava tubes, and strolling through tranquil gardens during your stay in this vibrant, picturesque town.
The 0.4 mile paved ‘Akaka Falls Loop Trail takes you through lush tropical vegetation and ends with the stunning 442 foot ‘Akaka Falls. This popular waterfall is known for both its beauty, as well as its accessibility, thanks to the relatively easy path to get there.
Just off Kaumana drive, you’ll find the entrance to a lava tube created by Mauna Loa’s 1881 lava flow that stopped just outside of Hilo. Descend the staircase through the collapsed skylight of the lava tube, then enter either the north or south entrance, past the lush ferns and tropical vegetation that hang near the entryway.
This 24.67-acre garden is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Built in authentic Japanese style to honor the Japanese immigrants who came to Hawai’i to work in the sugar cane fields, a stroll through the gardens not only offers paths over arched bridges and past rock gardens and pagodas but also lovely views of Hilo Bay and Coconut Island.
Where to Eat
Hawai’i is a melting pot of cultures, and nowhere is that more apparent than in its food. Be sure to try a variety of cuisines while visiting to expand both your horizons and your palette. Here are some worth trying.
Puka Puka Kitchen – This modest plate lunch spot is popular with locals for a reason. Order one of the local specialties, like chicken katsu or the ahi don (teriyaki battered and fried ahi tuna).
Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill Hilo – Come for the kalua pork quesadillas and lilikoi martinis served during happy hour and stay for the guava BBQ glazed baby back ribs for dinner. Jackie Rey’s is open for dine-in, take-out, and delivery.
Izakaya Miyo – For a truly special fine dining experience, it’s Izakaya Miyo you want. Chef Louise Pauole personally prepares and serves small groups an impressive multi-course Japanese Izakaya menu, which you can pair with sake or wine.
Where to Stay
You have a multitude of lodging options available to you when on vacation in Hawai’i, but for the highest quality luxury accommodations, you’ll want to book with Elite Pacific Vacations. Here are just two of the incredible properties available to you near Hilo.
Sitting on 2.5 beautifully landscaped acres about an hour northwest of Hilo, the palm-lined driveway of Hale Luana foreshadows the luxury that awaits you behind its doors. Relax and enjoy spectacular ocean and garden views from the large lanai, where there’s also room to grill and dine al fresco as the ocean breeze blows through the trees surrounding the home. Once inside, the great room boasts vaulted ceilings, a comfortable living room with a fireplace, an indoor dining space, and a gourmet kitchen. The master bedroom also includes a fireplace and access to the back lanai, as well as an enormous ensuite with dual vanities, a walk-in shower, and a soaking tub. The true showstopper at Hale Luana Big Island is the large reading room–get cozy as you immerse yourself in a good book while catching glimpses of the rest of the property’s charming grounds.
This estate 20 minutes north of Hilo is truly one-of-a-kind. Perched along the cliffside of the Hamakua Coast, this modern three-story estate has hosted multiple celebrities, and it’s no wonder with its 180-degree ocean views and absolute privacy thanks to its unique location. With all of the included amenities, you never need to leave the estate. You have your own nine-hole golf course, tennis/basketball court, Olympic size pool with a water slide and diving board, and even your own private waterfall! There is both an elegant staircase and a private elevator in the home to take you between floors, and every room is surrounded by walls of windows to take full advantage of the ocean views. Sunbathe in privacy on the rooftop deck, with only unobstructed cliffside and ocean views to keep you company. Every bedroom in this estate has epic ocean or waterfall views, and each has its own private ensuite. The property even has an onsite caretaker who can assist you with off-property tours should you choose to venture out.
Whether you’re looking for celebrity-status accommodations or the most luxurious home that offers something the whole family will enjoy, Elite Pacific Vacations can provide it. We offer hundreds of incredible properties and are committed to providing exceptional service to our clients–including assistance from a concierge who can do everything from scheduling a private chef to planning out a day of fun on the island. Book accommodations today and become part of the Elite Pacific Vacations ‘ohana. We can’t wait to host you.
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