Banyan Drive and Coconut Island
Crossing the Waiakea Peninsula, Banyan Drive is home Hilo's major hotels. The road itself is lined with huge banyan trees, many of which were originally planted by such famous visitors as Amelia Earhart, King George V, Babe Ruth and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
On the mauka (inland) side of the drive you'll find the Naniloa Country Club, a small, semi-private 9 hole par 35, 2735 yard, golf course. On the makai (ocean) side you'll find a parking area and a bridge to Coconut Island also known as Mokuola (lit. healing island). From the island you can get great views of the hotel area and of downtown Hilo.
In ancient Hawaii, Mokuola was known for its curative spring waters - although those who were ill had to swim to the island. It was also a place of refuge for law breakers who could make offerings and then leave as free men. Today Mokuola is a popular spot for picnics and fishing.
Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden and Nani Mau Gardens
Located at Onomea Bay, just north of Hilo, off of Highway 19, the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is located in a valley bordering the ocean.
The Garden is a non-profit enterprise "dedicated to providing a plant sanctuary, a living seed bank, and a study center for trees and plants of the tropical world and to preserving the incredibly beautiful natural environment of Onomea Bay for generations to come."
As you wander the trails throughout the Garden, you pass through many different environments, including coconut groves, mango and monkeypod trees, palm jungles and a giant fern tree forest.
You pass waterfalls, streams and at several points you even reach the ocean. There are over 2,000 different species of plants in the Garden.
View our Gallery of 36 Photos of Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden.
Nani Mau Gardens - 421 Makalika Street
Nani Mau Gardens contains 53 acres of tropical flowers and plants. "Nani Mau" which translates as "forever beautiful" in Hawaiian is a perfect name for this beautiful garden that features twenty acres of landscaped displays of native and exotic tropical flowers and plants, a spectacular orchid garden, rare palms and tropical fruit orchards.
Hilo Farmers Market
At the Hilo Farmers Market over 100 local farmers and crafters sell their produce, crafts, gift items and tropical flowers in a festive outdoor atmosphere that recalls back to the old "plantation" days of early Hilo.
Located at the corner of Mamo Street and Kamehameha Avenue in historic downtown Hilo, it's open all year round, every Wednesday and Saturday, from "dawn til' it's gone."
Historic Downtown Hilo
No visit to the Hilo area is complete without a walk through downtown Hilo. It is a rare surviving example of a Hawaiian plantation town, but one which has been partially destroyed and rebuilt following two devastating tsunamis in 1946 and 1960.
Where once the government and commercial areas were situated right near Hilo Bay, they are now set back on the other side of a park and highway. Still, downtown has numerous historic buildings and interesting stores that are well worth a morning or afternoon stroll.
The Hilo Downtown Improvement Association has an excellent printed walking tour which you can pickup downtown.
Located about five miles north of downtown Hilo on Highway 200 (Saddle Road), Kaumana Caves is actually a large lava tube formed during the 1881 eruption of Mauna Loa. You can't miss signs for the cave on your right as you drive north.
You walk down a steep staircase and into a large opening. You will see and smell tropical foliage and wildflowers. Bring a flashlight if you want to hike further into the lava tube.
Lili'uokalani Park and Gardens
Protruding into Hilo Bay, just southeast of downtown, the Waiakea Peninsula is home to the Lili'uokalani Park and Gardens. The park and gardens cover about 30 acres of land. It is located along Banyan Drive and within easy walking distance of Hilo's major hotels.
The land was bequeathed by Hawaii's last monarch, Queen Lili'uokalani for public use. A major part of the park consists of the largest Yedo-style gardens outside of Japan and built in the early 1900's as a memorial to immigrant Japanese who worked on the old Waiakea sugar plantation. You'll find bridges, fishponds, a lovely gazebo and beautiful statues.
Lyman Museum and Lyman Mission House
The Lyman Museum showcases the natural and cultural history of Hawaii in it's exhibit halls and its 1839 Lyman Mission House.
The museum also features collections of seashells and minerals that are world-wide in scope, ancient art of China, artists of Hawaii, and changing special exhibitions.
The Lyman Mission House is the oldest wooden structure on the Island of Hawaii and one of the oldest in the State. It features furniture, tools, household items and artifacts used by the Lymans and other early missionary families.
Many community programs and events are held each year. Located near downtown Hilo, the Lyman Museum offers a unique educational and cultural experience for people of all ages.
Pacific Tsunami Museum
The Pacific Tsunami Museum provides residents and visitors with much needed tsunami education programs. It is a living monument to those who lost their lives in past tsunamis. By combining scientific information with actual testimony taken from oral histories of tsunami survivors, the museum keeps history alive in its exhibits and public programs.
The museum features a series of in-house permanent exhibits that interpret the tsunami phenomena, the Pacific Tsunami Warning system, the history of tsunamis in the Pacific Basin, tsunamis of the future, myths and legends about tsunamis, and public safety measures for tsunami disasters.
Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo
Situated about 4 miles south of Hilo, off of Highway 11, this 12 acre zoo is the only tropical rainforest zoo in the United States. The grounds are filled with tropical palms, orchids, clumping bamboos and tropical rhododendrons.
The Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo is home to more than 80 animal species including the endangered nene (Hawaii state bird), Namaste, a white Bengal Tiger, giant anteaters, two-toed sloths, lemurs, and spider monkeys. Best of all, admission is free.
View our gallery of 21 photos taken at the Panaʻewa Rainforest Zoo.
Rainbow Falls / Boiling Pots in Wailuku River State Park
Located just a short distance from downtown Hilo on Waianuenue Avenue you'll find Wailuki River State Park which consists of 16 acres along the Wailuku River (lit. waters of destruction), the longest river in Hawaii at 18 miles in length.
The first attraction you'll come to is Rainbow Falls. This 80 foot tall waterfall drops over an ancient cave that is said to be the home of Hina, the mother of the demigod Maui. In the early morning sun, rainbows are easily seen in the mist that rises as the water hits the pool below. You can view the falls from parking lot level or climb a series of slippery steps to view the falls from above.
A couple of miles upriver you'll find a small parking lot where you can stop and view Pe'epe'e Falls and Boiling Pots. This is a particularly rough area of the river. Water falls over Pe'epe'e Falls and then enters an area of rapids known as Boiling Pots where the water rushes through old lava rocks and lava tubes and appears to bubble up or boil as it makes it way downstream. There is a trail that takes you close to the river, but it is dangerously close to the lava tubes and numerous drownings have occurred in this area.