24 Fun-Filled Things to Do in Hilo, Hawaii
Located on the Big Island’s eastern coast, Hilo has no shortage of things to do! This seaside town is surrounded by natural beauty, from stunning waterfalls to lush rainforests. Not only is it picture-perfect - it’s bursting with history. This corner of Big Island has seen tsunamis, Hawaiian royalty, and so much more! Here are 25 of our favorite things to do in Hilo with some nearby honorable mentions.
Best Things to Do in Hilo, Hawaii
1. Check Out Rainbow Falls
Just a few miles outside Hilo town, you’ll find Rainbow Falls. This waterfall got its name from a stunning rainbow that’s often seen cascading over the falls on sunny days. It’s a short hike to get there, but it’s well worth it. Added bonus? There’s no entrance fee to visit making it one of the many FREE things to do in Hilo!
RELATED: Big Island Waterfalls Guide
2. Visit Hawai‘i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden
A botanical garden with hundreds of plant species tucked away in the rainforest with waterfalls? Yes, please! While you’re in Hilo, head just 15 minutes north to Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden. You can walk around the garden and explore the nearby Onomea Trail. Looking to visit the garden? We’ll guide you there on our North Island Jungle Adventure Loop.
3. Hike Onomea Trail
Onomea Trail is a scenic hike that winds through lush rainforest and offers sweeping ocean views. Just a short drive from the center of Hilo town, this moderately-rated trail takes about 2 hours to complete, but you can hike as far as you’d like and then turn back around. *This is one of our favorite stops on the North Island Jungle Adventure Loop!*
4. Try Local Produce at Hilo Farmers Marketing
Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Daeja Fallas
Named one of the 10 Best Farmers Markets for Food Lovers, Hilo's Farmer Market is a vibrant and bustling outdoor market located in downtown Hilo. It offers a wide variety of locally grown produce, exotic fruits, handmade crafts, and souvenirs. The market is open from 7:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. daily with big market days on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
RELATED: Big Island Farmers Markets
5. Lyman Museum and Mission House
The Lyman Museum and Mission House is a historic museum that will leave you with a deeper understanding of Hawaii’s past. It features exhibits on geology, natural history, and the cultural and social history of the Hawaiian Islands. You can take both a self-guided or guided tour of the museum. Please note, reservations are required to visit the museum. Learn more and make your reservation here.
RELATED: 16 Must-Visit Historic Sites on the Big Island
6. Imiloa Astronomy Center
Did you know that Hawaii has a deep-rooted history of astronomy that lives on today? Imiloa Astronomy Center celebrates the cultural and scientific significance of this history. The center features interactive exhibits, immersive planetarium shows, and displays of traditional Hawaiian star navigation. Want to visit the museum? It’s a stop on our North Island Jungle Adventure Loop and South Island Epic Coastal Journey tours!
RELATED: North Island Jungle Adventure Loop Itinerary
7. Akaka Falls
Akaka Falls is a stunning waterfall located on the east side of the Big Island of Hawaii. The waterfall drops 442 feet into a lush tropical gorge surrounded by bamboo and ferns. There’s a short, paved walk to the falls - but it’s worth it! Before you go, watch the video below to learn about the legend behind this scenic waterfall!
RELATED: Tears of a Grieving Wife: Akaka Falls' Origin
8. Drive the Hamakua Coast
While not technically in Hilo, the Hamakua Coast is a scenic drive along the northeast coast of the Big Island. Hilo is the perfect starting point to begin this scenic road trip. Along the way you’ll take in breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean against jagged lava rock, explore lush rainforests, and visit cascading waterfalls. Looking to drive the Hamakua Coast? Check out our North Island Jungle Adventure Loop! It features this picturesque corner of Big Island with 26 tours along the way!
9. Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut
A Hawaiian staple! Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut is famous for its macadamia nut varieties including chocolate coated, Maui onion and garlic, and honey roasted - all grown and processed in Hawaii! Stop at Mauna Loa and check out the visitor center where you can sample products and buy some awesome souvenirs – your friends will thank you!
10. Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens
Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens is a family-friendly attraction located right in Hilo town! The zoo is home to over 80 animal species, including many that are native to Hawaii. While you’re there, take time to explore the gardens and enjoy the playgrounds and picnic areas.
11. Liluokalani Botanical Garden
Named after Hawaii’s last monarch, Liliuokalani Botanical Garden is a beautiful and peaceful oasis located right in Hilo town. The garden features a variety of native Hawaiian plants and trees, including a large collection of orchids and other tropical flowers. Take a leisurely stroll through the garden's pathways while enjoying the tranquil ponds and waterfalls.
RELATED: Queen Liliuokalani Park: The Beautiful Japanese Garden in Hilo
12. Two Ladies Mochi
A MUST visit while in Hilo! Two Ladies Mochi is a popular mochi shop that serves hand-made mochi daily. Try their mochi with fresh fruit and unique flavors like oreo, brownie and peanut butter! Hawaii. This shop has limited hours and often has a wait, so be sure to check their Facebook in advance to make sure it’s open!
13. Big Island Candies Factory
Another thing to do for foodies in Hilo? Big Island Candies Factory! This confectionery specializes in high-quality gourmet chocolates and treats. The factory offers a wide range of sweets, including shortbread cookies, chocolate dipped macadamia nuts, and handmade truffles. While you’re there take a tour of the factory to see the production process and sample the some products.
14. Pacific Tsunami Museum
Pacific Tsunami Museum is a unique and informative museum located in downtown Hilo, Hawaii that explores the science and history of tsunamis. The museum features interactive exhibits, historic photos, and videos that document the devastating impact of past tsunamis on Hawaii and around the world. Visitors can learn about the science behind tsunamis, how to prepare for them, and hear personal accounts of survival and recovery.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons
RELATED: Accounts from Hawaii’s 1946 Tsunami
15. Take a Helicopter Tour
View Hilo from above! The Big Island features of mix of landscapes - from sharp lava rocks to lush rainforests. This is a truly unique way to experience the island. Some Big Island helicopter tour companies include:
- Blue Hawaiian Helicopters
- Safari Helicopters
- Mauna Loa Helicopters
- Hawaii Helicopters
- Tropical Helicopters
- Hilo Helicopter Tours
- Pinnacle Helicopters
- Big Island Air
- Paradise Helicopters
16. Hilo Art Museum
Hilo Art Museum features a diverse collection of contemporary and traditional works from local and international artists, as well as rotating exhibits and special events. In addition to enjoying the museum’s art, you’ll learn about Hawaii’s history and culture through its unique works.
17. Hilo Coffee Mill
Just a 25-minute drive from Hilo you’ll find a charming coffee farm and roastery - Hilo Coffee Mill. The farm produces high-quality coffee beans using sustainable and organic farming practices, and the roastery produces a variety of coffee blends. While you’re there you can tour the farm and roastery, sample the coffee, and grab a bite at the on-site cafe.
18. Hilo Bay
After all the hikes, museums, and waterfalls in and around Hilo, stop and take a moment to relax at Hilo Bay. This is a popular spot for swimming, fishing, and kayaking. And, on a clear day, you might even be able to take in views of Mauna Kea - Hawaii’s largest volcano.
19. Richardson Beach Park
dronepicr, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The Big Island is known to have awesome black sand beaches, and Richardson Beach Park one right near Hilo! The beach features picnic areas, restrooms, and showers, making it a great spot for families. It’s also an ideal snorkel spot with calm waters and tide pools! While you’re there, grab some snorkel gear and check out Hawaii’s unique marine life. Just remember to keep a safe distance.
RELATED: Big Island Snorkel Spots
20. Coconut Island
Coconut Island, also known as Moku Ola, is a small island located in Hilo Bay. To get to the island you’ll walk across a short footbridge. From there, you can take a stroll around, pack a picnic or even go for a swim at this quaint and picturesque spot.
RELATED: Coconut Island - the Beautiful Area That Once Protected Criminals
21. Boiling Pots
Photo by howsmystockdoing from Flickr
By now, you can probably tell that Big Island has some pretty epic waterfalls, and Boiling Pots is another one to add to the list. This scenic spot is known for its series of cascading falls and pools. It gets its name from the boiling effect created by the water rushing over the rocks and into the pools below.
RELATED: The Legend Behind Rainbow Falls & The Boiling Pots
22. Kaumana Caves
Photo by Sunny from Flickr
Want to explore a lava tube? Kaumana Caves consist of a series of lava tubes that were formed by a volcanic eruption. Go inside the caves to look at unique rock formations and experience the geologic wonders of the Big Island!
RELATED: Kaumana Cave: The Cave that Nearly Destroyed Hilo
23. Naha Stone
While you’re in Hilo, take a quick visit to the Naha Stone located just outside of the Hilo Public Library. This stop won’t take long, but you’ll learn about an ancient Hawaiian legend! According to the legend, whoever could lift the stone would be the rightful ruler of the island. Stop by during your Hilo trip to see what happened next!
24. Walk Along Banyon Drive
Take a stroll along Banyon Drive to marvel at – you guessed it – banyan trees! But these aren’t just any banyan trees; these are known as the Hilo Walk of Fame. Each tree was planted by a celebrity. Although some trees were lost during Hilo’s tsunamis, 50 remain as a dedication to the people that planted them. Some honorees include Franklin D Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Amelia Earhart, and Louis Armstrong.
RELATED: Banyan Tree Drive in Hilo: Trees Planted by Celebrities
Things to do NEAR Hilo
While these aren’t in the town - they are a quick drive away!
1. Volcanoes National Park
Photo from Unsplash by Jeck Ebnet
A place that needs no introduction, Hilo is the perfect base camp for a visit to Volcanoes National Park. Located about one hour away from the park, you can make the short drive and spend the day exploring Volcanoes’ many hikes, historic sites, and overlooks. Check out our Volcanoes National Park Tour and we’ll share history and legends along the way!
RELATED: Shaka Guide's Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Tour Itinerary
2. Punaluu Black Sand Beach
When you think of black sand beaches on the Big Island, you’re probably thinking of Punaluu. This beach is iconic. The sand is formed from lava that has cooled and hardened over time. When you visit, you can go for a stroll, spot sea turtles (they’re frequently resting here - just keep a safe and respectful distance), and even swim - just be warned, the waves can get rough!
RELATED: Visiting Big Island’s Black Sand Beach
3. Visit Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea - Hawaii’s tallest Volcano and a sacred spot in ancient Hawaiian culture. A visit to Mauna Kea is a truly unforgettable experience. Stop by Mauna Kea’s Visitor Information Station where you can learn about the summit, take short hiking routes, and stargaze.
Please keep in mind that due to elevation change and the high altitude, the trip can be physically demanding. Also, be sure to pack layers - Mauna Kea’s temperatures vary drastically from the rest of the island! And, when you visit - remember to be respectful.
4. Umauma Falls
An attraction the whole family will love! Looking for some adventure near Hilo? Check out, Umauma Falls. This is a paid attraction but while you’re there you swim, kayak, and zipline.
5. Shipman Beach
Thomas Tunsch / Wikimedia Commons; CC-BY-SA-3.0
Shipman Beach is a secluded and pristine black sand beach located just 20 minutes from Hilo. It is accessible by hiking or by boat, making it less crowded than some of the more popular beaches. Visitors can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing in the crystal-clear waters, and may even spot sea turtles or other marine life.
RELATED: Shipman Beach Is Big Island's Most Underrated
6. South Point
South Point, also known as Ka Lae in Hawaiian is the southernmost point in the United States. It is a rugged and remote area with stunning ocean views. If you make the drive to South Point, you can check out an ancient heiau or temple, hike to the Big Island’s green sand beach (one of only 4 in the world), or cliff dive into the Pacific Ocean (for experienced swimmers only!).
As you can see, there’s so much to see and do in and around Hilo. Whether you’re looking for history and culture or outdoor adventure, Hilo’s got you covered!
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Visiting Hilo? Check out our North Island Jungle Adventure Loop!