Top Hilo Hawaii Attractions: What to See Guide

Top Hilo Hawaii Attractions: What to See Guide

Hilo, Hawaii is a paradise for nature lovers and culture enthusiasts alike. With a wide range of attractions and activities to explore, this charming city offers something for everyone. Whether you’re seeking breathtaking waterfalls, immersive cultural experiences, or thrilling outdoor adventures, Hilo has it all. In this guide, we will take you through the top attractions in Hilo and provide a detailed overview of what to see and do in this captivating destination.

Key Takeaways:

  • Explore the must-visit attractions in Hilo, including Akaka Falls State Park, Rainbow Falls, Liliuokalani Gardens, and Kulaniapia Falls.
  • Immerse yourself in unique experiences that showcase the local culture and history, such as visiting the Imiloa Astronomy Center and the Lyman Museum, or exploring the Hilo Farmers Market.
  • Embark on thrilling outdoor adventures in Hilo, from hiking through rainforests to biking along scenic coastal paths and taking ATV tours.
  • Discover the rich cultural heritage of Hilo at attractions like the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens and the Liliuokalani Gardens, where you can witness traditional Hawaiian ceremonies and performances.
  • Experience the natural beauty of Hilo through scenic drives along the Hamakua Coast and visiting iconic waterfalls like Akaka Falls and Rainbow Falls.

Must-Visit Attractions in Hilo

Hilo, located on the eastern coast of Hawaii’s Big Island, boasts a plethora of must-visit attractions that offer a glimpse into the natural beauty and cultural heritage of the area. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, an adventure seeker, or a history buff, Hilo has something to offer for everyone. Here are some of the top attractions in Hilo that are worth exploring during your visit:

Akaka Falls State Park

If you’re a fan of breathtaking waterfalls and lush tropical scenery, Akaka Falls State Park is a must-see destination. This park is home to the iconic Akaka Falls, a towering 442-foot waterfall that cascades into a beautiful gorge. Take a leisurely stroll along the well-maintained trails that wind through the park, allowing you to soak in the beauty of the surrounding rainforest and enjoy stunning views of not only Akaka Falls but also Kahuna Falls.

Another spectacular waterfall in Hilo is Rainbow Falls, named for the rainbows that often appear in the mist. Located just a short drive from downtown Hilo, Rainbow Falls offers a picturesque setting with its 80-foot cascade. The falls flow into a large pool, guarded by majestic banyan trees and lush vegetation. It’s a popular spot for photographers, and you might even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a rainbow shimmering in the mist if you visit during the morning hours when the sunlight hits the spray just right.

Liliuokalani Gardens

For those seeking tranquility and a beautiful setting for a leisurely stroll, Liliuokalani Gardens is the perfect destination. This Japanese-style garden is the largest of its kind outside of Japan and honors the friendship between the United States and Japan. Take a peaceful walk along the meandering paths lined with koi ponds, pagodas, and lush foliage. The garden also offers stunning views of Hilo Bay and Moku Ola (Coconut Island), making it a favorite spot for picnics and photography enthusiasts.

Kulaniapia Falls

Located just a short drive from Hilo, Kulaniapia Falls is a hidden gem that offers a unique and awe-inspiring experience. This privately-owned waterfall cascades down a 120-foot cliff into a tranquil pool, creating a magical and serene atmosphere. Visitors can enjoy guided tours of the falls, embark on hiking adventures, or even experience the thrill of rappelling down the cascades. With its breathtaking beauty and lush surroundings, Kulaniapia Falls is a must-visit for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

In conclusion, Hilo is home to a variety of must-visit attractions that cater to different interests and provide unforgettable experiences. Whether you’re marveling at the majestic waterfalls, immersing yourself in the serenity of the gardens, or embarking on thrilling adventures, Hilo offers a diverse range of attractions that are sure to make your vacation a memorable one.

Attraction Highlights
Akaka Falls State Park Spectacular 442-foot waterfall, lush rainforest, well-maintained trails
Rainbow Falls 80-foot cascade, picturesque setting, potential for rainbows in the mist
Liliuokalani Gardens Largest Japanese-style garden outside of Japan, koi ponds, stunning views
Kulaniapia Falls 120-foot waterfall, tranquil pool, guided tours, rappelling adventures

Unique Experiences in Hilo

In addition to its natural beauty, Hilo offers unique experiences that provide insight into the local culture and history.

Imiloa Astronomy Center

Immerse yourself in the fascinating world of astronomy at the Imiloa Astronomy Center. This educational institution features interactive exhibits and captivating shows that explore the wonders of the universe. Learn about the significance of Maunakea, Hawaii’s sacred mountain, and discover how ancient Polynesians navigated the Pacific Ocean using the stars. The center’s state-of-the-art planetarium offers immersive experiences that are both educational and awe-inspiring.

Lyman Museum

Delve into the rich history of the Big Island at the Lyman Museum. Located in a beautiful historic building, this museum features exhibits that chronicle the island’s geological and cultural past. Marvel at the world-renowned mineral collection, learn about the volcanic origins of Hawaii, and journey through the island’s vibrant history. The museum also offers interactive displays and engaging programs that appeal to visitors of all ages.

Hilo Farmers Market

Indulge your senses at the Hilo Farmers Market, a vibrant gathering place for locals and visitors alike. Stroll through the bustling market and explore a wide array of stalls offering fresh produce, tropical fruits, handmade crafts, and unique souvenirs. Sample delicious Hawaiian delicacies such as poi, poke, and shave ice, and experience the flavors that make Hilo’s cuisine so special. With its lively atmosphere and friendly vendors, the Hilo Farmers Market is a must-visit destination for food enthusiasts and culture seekers.

These unique experiences give visitors a deeper understanding of Hilo and its vibrant community. Whether you’re gazing at the stars, exploring the island’s history, or immersing yourself in the local culture, Hilo has something special to offer.

Outdoor Adventures in Hilo

Hilo is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering an array of thrilling activities and breathtaking landscapes to explore. Whether you’re seeking relaxation or excitement, Hilo has something for everyone.

1. Hiking in the Hamakua Coast

Embark on a hiking adventure through the lush rainforests of the Hamakua Coast. Immerse yourself in nature as you traverse scenic trails, surrounded by towering trees and vibrant flora. Discover hidden waterfalls and breathtaking viewpoints along the way, capturing stunning photos to cherish.

2. Biking Along Scenic Coastal Paths

Experience the beauty of Hilo’s coastline by biking along its scenic paths. Enjoy the refreshing ocean breeze as you pedal along the shores, taking in panoramic views of the sparkling blue waters. Stop at lookout points to appreciate the rugged cliffs and pristine beaches that adorn the coast.

3. Enjoying the Ocean at Carlsmith Beach Park

Cool off and take a dip in the crystal-clear waters of Carlsmith Beach Park. This picturesque beach offers a calm and tranquil swimming experience, perfect for families and those seeking a relaxing day by the ocean. Explore the vibrant underwater world while snorkeling or simply unwind on the golden sand.

4. Thrilling ATV Tours and Helicopter Rides

If you’re craving an adrenaline rush, embark on an ATV tour or take to the skies with a helicopter ride. Zoom through rugged terrains and discover hidden gems that can only be accessed off-road. Alternatively, soar above Hilo’s magnificent landscapes and witness the island’s natural beauty from a unique perspective.

From hiking and biking to beach relaxation and thrilling adventures, Hilo offers an array of outdoor experiences that will leave you captivated and rejuvenated.

Cultural Delights in Hilo

Hilo, renowned for its rich cultural heritage, offers an array of attractions that showcase the unique traditions and customs of the area. Immerse yourself in the vibrant essence of Hilo by exploring these cultural delights:

Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens

The Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens is the only tropical zoo in the United States and provides visitors with the opportunity to see exotic animals in a lush, tropical setting. Take a leisurely stroll through the grounds and marvel at the diverse range of wildlife, including lemurs, tigers, and a variety of bird species. The zoo also offers educational programs and a petting zoo, making it an exciting and educational experience for visitors of all ages.

Liliuokalani Gardens

Located in Hilo, the Liliuokalani Gardens is a stunning Japanese garden that spans over 30 acres and is named after Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s last reigning monarch. Visitors can immerse themselves in tranquility as they wander through meticulously manicured lawns, over arched bridges, and past koi ponds. The gardens also host traditional Hawaiian ceremonies and captivating hula performances, allowing visitors to embrace the beauty and grace of Hawaiian culture.

These cultural attractions provide a deeper appreciation for the history and traditions of Hilo, offering visitors a glimpse into the vibrant tapestry of the local community.

Scenic Drives and Waterfalls in Hilo

Hilo is surrounded by stunning natural landscapes, making it a haven for nature enthusiasts. One of the best ways to experience the beauty of Hilo is through scenic drives and waterfall tours. These allow visitors to immerse themselves in the breathtaking landscapes and marvel at the iconic waterfalls that dot the area.

The Hamakua Coast, located just north of Hilo, offers mesmerizing views of the Pacific Ocean and lush, green landscapes. Driving along this coastal route is a feast for the eyes, with every turn revealing a new vista. Visitors can witness the power and beauty of nature as they navigate the winding roads and take in the awe-inspiring sights.

Along the scenic drives, there are several iconic waterfalls that are not to be missed. Akaka Falls, located in Akaka Falls State Park, is a majestic 442-foot waterfall surrounded by dense rainforest. A short hike through the park leads visitors to a stunning viewpoint where they can witness the cascading water in all its glory.

Rainbow Falls, another must-see waterfall in Hilo, is known for its impressive size and the rainbows that appear in the mist when sunlight hits the water. The waterfall is easily accessible and offers a beautiful vantage point from a viewing platform. The lush greenery and the sound of the rushing water create a serene and picturesque setting.

Waterfall tours are a popular option for those who want to explore multiple waterfalls in a single day. These guided tours take visitors to hidden gems and lesser-known waterfalls that are off the beaten path. Tour operators provide expert commentary and insights into the geology, flora, and fauna of the area, adding depth to the experience.

Whether it’s a leisurely drive along the Hamakua Coast or an adventurous waterfall tour, exploring the scenic drives and waterfalls of Hilo is a must for every traveler. These natural wonders showcase the beauty of the Big Island and provide a captivating experience that will leave visitors in awe.

Scenic Drives and Waterfalls in Hilo Description
Hamakua Coast A picturesque coastal route that offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and lush, green landscapes.
Akaka Falls A majestic 442-foot waterfall surrounded by dense rainforest. A short hike leads to a stunning viewpoint.
Rainbow Falls A beautiful waterfall known for its size and the rainbows that appear in the mist. Easily accessible with a viewing platform.
Waterfall Tours Guided tours that take visitors to hidden and lesser-known waterfalls, providing expert commentary and insights.

Delicious Culinary Experiences in Hilo

Hilo is a food lover’s paradise with an array of culinary experiences that will delight your taste buds. From exploring local farmers markets to indulging in coffee tastings and farm tours, Hilo offers a unique culinary adventure for every palate. Immerse yourself in the flavors and ingredients that make Hilo’s cuisine truly special.

Local Farmers Markets

One of the best ways to experience the vibrant food culture of Hilo is by visiting the local farmers markets. Here you’ll find an abundance of fresh produce, locally sourced ingredients, and unique artisanal products. The Hilo Farmers Market, located in the heart of downtown, is a must-visit destination for food enthusiasts. Discover a wide variety of tropical fruits, organic vegetables, homemade jams, and handcrafted souvenirs. Sample delicious treats and interact with the friendly local vendors.

Farm Tours

Experience the farm-to-table concept firsthand by taking a farm tour in Hilo. Learn about sustainable farming practices and the methods used to grow the area’s famous coffee beans, exotic fruits, and cacao. Taste the difference as you sample freshly picked fruits, sip on aromatic coffee, and savor artisanal chocolates. Discover the fascinating stories behind these local businesses and gain a deeper appreciation for the dedication and passion that goes into creating Hilo’s culinary treasures.

Hilo Brewing Company

For beer enthusiasts, a trip to Hilo would be incomplete without visiting the Hilo Brewing Company. This local craft brewery offers a wide range of unique and flavorful beers that showcase the distinct flavors of the Big Island. Take a tour of the brewery and learn about the brewing process while enjoying generous samples of their handcrafted brews. From hoppy IPAs to refreshing ales, Hilo Brewing Company has a beer for every taste.

Two Ladies Kitchen

No visit to Hilo would be complete without tasting the famous mochi from Two Ladies Kitchen. This charming family-owned business has been serving the community for over 20 years and is renowned for its delectable Japanese confections. From classic flavors like strawberry and azuki bean to exotic creations like lilikoi and matcha, Two Ladies Kitchen offers an array of mouthwatering mochi that will leave you wanting more. Stop by their shop and indulge in these sweet treats.

Delicious Culinary Experiences in Hilo

Experience Description
Local Farmers Markets An opportunity to explore a wide variety of fresh produce, artisanal products, and interact with local vendors.
Farm Tours Discover the secrets of sustainable farming practices and sample freshly harvested fruits, coffee, and chocolates.
Hilo Brewing Company Take a brewery tour, learn about the brewing process, and savor the unique flavors of local craft beer.
Two Ladies Kitchen Indulge in the famous mochi of Two Ladies Kitchen, offering a wide range of flavors and delicious Japanese confections.

Day Trips from Hilo

Hilo, with its wealth of attractions, is not only a fantastic place to explore on its own, but it also serves as a gateway to other incredible destinations on the Big Island of Hawaii. One of the most popular day trips from Hilo is a visit to Volcanoes National Park. Here, visitors can witness the power of volcanic activity and marvel at the unique landscapes shaped by past eruptions. From the smoking Halema’uma’u Crater to the lava fields and lava tubes, Volcanoes National Park offers a truly awe-inspiring experience.

Another must-visit destination near Hilo is the Mauna Kea Summit. Rising to an elevation of over 13,000 feet, the Mauna Kea Observatory is renowned for its stargazing opportunities and breathtaking views. Visitors can take a guided tour or drive up to the summit to marvel at the clear night sky and learn about the scientific significance of this sacred mountain.

For those seeking relaxation and beach time, the stunning beaches of the Kohala Coast are also within reach from Hilo. With its golden sands, crystal-clear waters, and palm-fringed shores, the Kohala Coast offers a paradise-like setting for sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, and various water activities. Visitors can take a day trip to one of the many beach parks in the area and immerse themselves in the beauty of Hawaii’s coastal landscapes.

These day trips from Hilo provide visitors with the opportunity to expand their exploration and make the most of their time on the Big Island. Whether it’s witnessing the power of volcanic activity, stargazing from the Mauna Kea Summit, or enjoying the sun and sand on the Kohala Coast, there are plenty of incredible experiences waiting to be discovered just a short distance from Hilo.


What are the top attractions in Hilo, Hawaii?

The top attractions in Hilo include Akaka Falls State Park, Rainbow Falls, Liliuokalani Gardens, and Kulaniapia Falls.

What unique experiences can I have in Hilo?

You can visit the Imiloa Astronomy Center and the Lyman Museum to learn about the area’s history and scientific significance. You can also explore the Hilo Farmers Market to sample local produce and Hawaiian dishes.

What outdoor adventures can I experience in Hilo?

In Hilo, you can hike through rainforests, bike along coastal paths, take a dip at Carlsmith Beach Park, and enjoy ATV tours and helicopter rides for a thrilling perspective of the island’s natural beauty.

What cultural delights can I find in Hilo?

You can visit the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens to see exotic animals and take part in traditional Hawaiian ceremonies and hula performances at the Liliuokalani Gardens.

What are the best scenic drives and waterfalls to see in Hilo?

The Hamakua Coast offers breathtaking views, and you can stop at iconic waterfalls such as Akaka Falls and Rainbow Falls along the way to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Hilo.

What delicious culinary experiences can I have in Hilo?

You can explore local farmers markets, take farm tours, and enjoy coffee tastings. Don’t miss the delicious mochi at Two Ladies Kitchen and the local craft beer scene at the Hilo Brewing Company.

What are some day trips I can take from Hilo?

You can take a day trip to Volcanoes National Park to witness volcanic activity and explore unique landscapes. You can also visit Mauna Kea Summit and the stunning beaches of the Kohala Coast.

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