Hilo is a tropical flower paradise due to the town’s abundant rainfall year round. The historic town is also the capital and commercial epicenter of Hawai‘i Island’s eastside. But what Hilo is most famously known for are its luscious gardens and floriculture, historic buildings, museums, parks and proximity to the home of Madame Pele (Hawaiian fire goddess), otherwise known as Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Hilo is often a sleepy town but during April, the Merrie Monarch Festival brings the City of Flowers to life when hula halau (schools) from around the Hawaiian Islands, and beyond, travel to the “Big Island” to perform and compete.
This is one of the many things that attracts visitors here, yet Hilo doesn’t have many options as far as resorts are concerned. You can reach the hotels with ease, however, by taking a right as soon as you leave the airport terminal onto Kaneolehua Avenue and continue on to Banyan Drive where stately, historic banyan trees were planted by famous Americans including Babe Ruth.
Banyan Drive leads you not only to Hilo’s few hotels—where coqui frogs, an invasive species from South America are prevalent and whose loud chirps decent upon the town each evening—it also takes you to Liliuokalani Gardens. This lovely oceanside garden contains 30 acres of Hawaiian and East Asian plantings, walkways pagodas, ponds and bridges. Across a footbridge from the park is Moku Ola, commonly known as Coconut Island, a great place for viewing Hilo Bay and town, as well as Mauna Loa.
Continue along Kamehameha Avenue and the lush greenery persists at Wailoa River State Recreational Area that hosts the Waiakea Fishpond. You may also consider stopping at a visitor center located nearby on Piilani Street.
Hilo is rich in Polynesian, Asian and Western cultures. In downtown Hilo the eateries alone are rich with cuisine from every each of these cultures. This ethnic diversity is also present in Hilo’s many churches. Portuguese are represented at Central Christian Church on Kilauea Avenue and Haili Street and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on Kapiolani and Haili. Hilo Hongwanji Temple on Kilauea Avenue is a Japanese Buddhist center, and Ke Kilohana ka Malamalama Church on Manono Street and Haili Church on Haili Street, provide services in Hawaiian and English.
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