Hilo, though a small city, is actually the second largest city in Hawaii.  It is OLD Hawaii.  Though there is tourism, it is certainly not on the level of Honolulu or even Kona. Start off by visiting Hilo’s farmers market.  Though it runs daily, the “big” days are Wednesday and Saturday. In addition to fresh fruits and veggies, there are flower vendors, jewelry and clothing booths, Bento (box lunch) sellers and other crafters.

The downtown music pavilion is the site of often free concerts; especially on Black and White night (a festival in November when everyone goes downtown wearing….black and white…..), election night, 4th of July and others.

Richardson Beach Park, the last in a series of county parks along Kalanianaole Ave, it has a small black sand beach allowing easy water access, great snorkeling and stunning views of Mauna Kea.  In winter, whales play and breach out in the bay. There are numerous brackish ponds fed by both salt and fresh water, surrounded by grassy areas on which to picnic.

Liliuokalani Park is a classic Japanese garden off Banyan drive. It has beautiful views of Hilo Bay, and tide-fed fish ponds.  Lovingly planted with a variety of tropical plants, it is a nice place to picnic, meditate or just watch the plethora of evening walkers/strollers.

Hilo Bay, as seen from Coconut Island off Banyan Drive, is usually tranquil due to the large breakwater. In it, paddle and sail clubs compete. It has poor swimming as the breakwater prevents the ocean current from clearing the murky water, but in addition to paddlers, fishermen and surfers are well represented. The low lying area around Hilo bay has been rededicated as a series of parks and recreation areas since the 1960 tsunami took 61 lives.

The Pacific Tsunami museum, along Kamehameha Avenue in downtown Hilo, is dedicated to the study of Pacific Tsunami. It has exhibits, lectures, historical data, and education.

Wailoa park is at the site of the 1960 tsunami.  The area was cleared of development to prevent another such tragedy.  It is an area surrounding a brackish extension of Hilo Bay, with expansive lawns and “wavy” bridges:


At the entrance to the park is the monument to King Kamehameha, which is draped with hundreds of lei on his memorial day:


At the upper edge of the park is the Tsunami memorial and Wailoa center, where art exhibitions are held throughout the year (here is a view of Wailoa Center seen from the edge of the Tsunami memorial


Panaewa Zoo and Equestrian Park,  just south of Hilo, is a hidden treasure. Open 9am – 4pm daily, it is free. Don’t miss the two resident Bengal Tiger cousins:

and the family of lemurs:

Other not to be missed things in and around Hilo:

Imiloa Astronomy Center

Rainbow Falls State Park

Boiling Pots

Merrie Monarch Festival

Big Island Candies