Waterfall in Hilo, Hawaii | Image by Heather Morse from Unsplash

Waterfall in Hilo, Hawaii | Image by Heather Morse from Unsplash

24 Fun-Filled Things to Do in Hilo, Hawaii

Jennifer Fields

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 

waterfalls in hawaii with rainbow on a clear sky

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. 

tropical forest with small river Image from Flickr by 

3. Hike Onomea Trail 

overview of the sea from a cliffImage from Flickr by 

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!* 

north island tour download

4. Try Local Produce at Hilo Farmers Marketing 

couples walking towards hilos farmers marketHawaii 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

white museum in hawaiiImage from Flickr by 

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, that 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! 

RELATEDTears of a Grieving Wife: Akaka Falls' Origin

8. Drive the Hamakua Coast

overview of the sea from a high coast with cloudy skyCanva

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! 

north island tour download

9. Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut 

mauna loa visitor cenetr signboard Image from Flickr by 

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.

two green parrots

11. Liluokalani Botanical Garden 

big garden in bamboo shootsImage from Flickr by 

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. 

RELATEDQueen Liliuokalani Park: The Beautiful Japanese Garden in Hilo

12. Two Ladies Mochi 

different varieties of mochiTwo Ladies Mochi Facebook

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 

brown chocolate factory facadeBig Island Candies Facebook

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 some products.

downlaod shaka guide

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.

old museumPhoto from Wikimedia Commons

RELATED: Accounts from Hawaii’s 1946 Tsunami

15. Take a Helicopter Tour 

aerial view of a city with many houses and forestsImage from Flickr by 

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 

bay with houses and coconut trees in the middle

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 

lagoon near the seadronepicr, 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. 

downlaod shaka guide

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 

waterfallsPhoto 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

three persons inside the cave near the entrancePhoto 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! 

RELATEDKaumana 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 who 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

downlaod shaka guide

Things to do NEAR Hilo 

While these aren’t in the town - they are a quick drive away! 

1. Volcanoes National Park 

lava almost drying upPhoto 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 the 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

black sand beach in hawaii

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

brown mountain

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 

shallow shore with pine trees on the left sideThomas 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!).

download south coastal epic tour

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! 

Visiting Hilo? Check out our North Island Jungle Adventure Loop!

We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at aloha@shakaguide.com.

For more detailed information to help you plan, check out our North Island Jungle Itinerary and Know Before You Go article.

Like this article? Share it on Pinterest!

hilo bay

Visiting Hilo? Check out our North Island Jungle Adventure Loop!


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