Hawaii is one of the top travel destinations in the world for a reason. It is a tropical paradise and is home to majestic views. With calmly swaying palm trees, pristine blue waters, mesmerizing corals & marine biodiversity, and shimmering white sand beaches, this Big Island is a haven of limitless adventures, explorations, and fun.
There are still a lot of underrated areas on the island that don’t get too much media and tourists’ attention. These areas are often overlooked because the first thing people notice is the magnificent beaches.
Hilo, Hawaii remains one of the unexplored places on the island despite being the CDP and largest town in Hawaii. It’s time to include Hilo on your next Hawaiian getaway. Find out the best things to do in Hilo, Hawaii… from the best scenic spots to visit, museums to see, historical landmarks to tour, and nature tripping adventures to go.
Where is Hilo, Hawaii?
Hilo, the oldest Hawaiian city, sits at the base of two (2) volcanoes and is located close to a curving coastal area on the eastern side of the Big Island.
It is geographically abundant in nature making it a must-visit place if you’re into some real, adrenaline-pumping adventure. It also has a colorful downtown district, a busy downtown Hilo Hawaii market, home to Hawaii’s astronomical observatories, multi-colored reefs perfect for snorkeling, and ocean waves ideal for surfing.
There are tons of reasons for you to visit Hawaii in general. Read on and find out the fun things to do in Hilo, Hawaii that is worthy to be included in your itinerary.
1. Try the Seven Line Tours of Kolekole Falls Big Island Zipline Adventure
Do you want to see the gorgeous view of the attractions in Hilo Hawaii from the top? Then try the Seven Line Tours Adventures in Kolekole Falls Big Island Zipline Adventure, also known as the best zipline in Hawaii. This is a true heaven for the adrenaline junkies but not recommended for the faint-hearted.
Ride through 7 different zip lines, and get an up-close canopy tour of the Big Island’s dense rainforest, ocean view, and rich natural wonders. Get the “flying feeling” as you glide above the 250-feet Kolekole waterfall which is near the famous Akaka Falls.
Located 30 minutes from Hilo, grab the chance to experience being like “Jane from Tarzan” with Seven Line Tours Adventures in Kolekole Falls Big Island Zipline Adventure is
Line 1 is called “Ua” derived from the Hawaiian term for rain. It is where you will ride an introductory training line that will prepare you for the longer zipline rides. It’s like a practice ride complete with a proper briefing on how zipline rides should be done, the proper body positioning, and some words of encouragement to help you conquer your fear.
Line 2 is called “Mai’a” which means “banana” in their local language. It’s probably named as such because the zip line passes through a lush banana plantation and other native vegetation.
Line 3 is named “Wai” which is a local term for freshwater. This is also the first zipline in the whole adventure where you will pass through a waterfall. The panoramic view of the 40-foot cascading water will leave you in awe of what nature can do.
Line 4 is called “Kalo” or the local translation for Taro plants. It is a longer zipline that lies in between huge Taro Plants.
Line 5 is named “Ko” which means sugarcane in the Hawaiian language. The zip line passes through an immense sugarcane plantation and as you fly from up above, you will see the stunning view of the Hamakua coast.
Line 6 is called “Pua’a, the local term for pig. The zip line hangs above the area where wild pigs are often seen so look around as you go because you might see one on your journey towards the other side.
Line 7 and the final zip line of the 7-line tours is called “Wailele”. Saving the best for last, Line 7 gives you longer airtime of more than a minute. Brace yourself for the magnificent view of 450-foot cascading water that falls into a 200-foot waterfall.
2. Paradise Helicopters – Volcano, Lava & Waterfalls Flight from Hilo
Do you have a peculiar taste for fun? Then try one of the unique things to do on the big island, the Helicopter Tour. Hop aboard one of Paradise Helicopters and scour Hilo from the sky exploring volcanoes, lava rocks and debris, and breathtaking waterfalls.
The Paradise Helicopter will take you on a 60-minute flight to explore the beauty of the Volcanoes National Park in Kilauea, the tropical rainforest in Puna, and a magnificent view of the waterfalls in North Hilo.
Fly above the current eruptive activity of Kilauea Volcano and see what it looks like up close. The helicopter will circle around the Volcanoes National Park highlighting the points of interest such as the crater which was previously known as Pu’u ‘O’o Vent. Get to see the stunning landscape created by lava and witness what’s left from the destructive aftermath of the eruption of one of the world’s most active volcanoes in the world.
3. Check out Akaka Falls
Your Hawaiian escapade is never complete without seeing the famous Akaka Falls. It’s not quite in the city but the 11 miles of the scenic drive is totally worth it once you see the naturally molded beauty of the waterfalls.
Located on the northern coast of Hilo, Akaka Falls plunges its strong and massive waters from a whooping 442 ft. height drop and cascades into a deep gorge lined with thick ferns and vegetation.
The Akaka Falls is nestled within Akaka Falls State Park which offers a breathtaking view to hikers with its lush tropical. It’s accessible through a 0.4-mile uphill hike into a rich tropical rainforest full of bamboo groves, dense ferns, and lush vegetation.
Going to Akaka Falls State Park allows you to witness the second waterfall that lies within the park, the Kahuna Falls which is a 100-foot waterfall that can be seen from the hiking trail.
4. Visit the Wailuku River State Park
Located outside of downtown Hilo, Wailuku River State Park is a huge 16-acre park where many of the most stunning waterfalls are nestled in. The park is sitting along the longest river in Hawaii, the Wailuku River.
Rainbow Falls is one of Hilo’s natural wonders. Named after the rainbows that form from the rays of early sunshine and mist from the cascading water.
Known to the locals as Waianuenue Falls, this 80 ft. water plunges into the Wailuku River and over a dark lava cave. The locals believe that the lava tube cave is the home of Hina, the goddess of the moon.
This broad 100-foot-wide waterfall is nestled in thick tropical rainforest giving tourists a magnificent view of a diverse ecosystem and unadulterated beauty of nature.
The second most popular falls in Wailuku River State Park are the Boiling Pots nestled in Pe’epe’e Falls Drive. It is composed of a set of large pools which are interconnected by an underground surge of water depicting boiling-like water as a result of water movement.
The second set of famous falls in the park are the Boiling Pots on Pe’epe’e Falls Drive, which is a series of large pools connected by underground flow or cascades that look like boiling water as the water moves over the rocks
5. Take a tour of the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is literally Eden’s Paradise on the Big Island. The 40-acre botanical garden is based on the picturesque area of Route 19 just outside the Old Mamalahoa Highway. It is a nature preserve that houses over 2,000 diverse tropical plant species, lush trees, and vegetation.
Dan J. Lutkenhouse stated Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden planted 200 palm trees, over 80 species of heliconia, more than 80 species of bromeliads, and a wide array of mango and coconut palms are over 100 years old.
The botanical garden is sitting in a valley giving tourists visual access to the scenic view of Onomea Bay and its lava-sculpted tubes, and Boulder Creek. In addition, it also features the famous Onomea Falls, a three-tiered waterfall.
6. Explore Coconut Island
The Coconut Island, locally known as Mokuola which means the Island of Life, offers a quiet and calming retreat to tourists who are looking to unwind and enjoy the serenity of nature. Situated at the center of Hilo Bay close to the Queen Liliuokalani Gardens, the island offers privacy with its tall palm and almond trees that surround and fence the area.
The Coconut Island on the big island of Hawaii Hilo features two (2) beach resorts, clean restrooms, and a well-maintained massive lawn. It also has a shaded picnic area where you can nibble some snacks, chill, and appreciate the stunning view of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes.
Chilling not your thing? There are a lot of activities to do on the island such as going for a dip in the tide pools, wading and paddling at the warm and calming waters of the beaches, exploring Hilo Bay in a kayak, or going extreme jump diving from a 20 foot stone tower.
Another attraction on this beautiful Hilo island is Queen Liliuokalani’s Japanese Gardens where tropical flowers bloom perfectly accentuating the majestic scene of Kilauea peak from afar.
7. Hilo Farmers Market
The Big Island also offers a great place for shopping, trying out local food and delicacies, and sightseeing- the Hilo Farmers Market.
Located at the corner of Mamo Street and Kamehameha Avenue, Hilo Hi 96720, Hilo Farmers Market is the venue where over 200 local farmers and crafters display to sell their products. It features a wide array of goods such as fresh and organic produce, arts and crafts, tropical flowers, homemade and home-baked products, souvenirs, memorabilia, and gifts.
You can check out this big island market any day of the week because it’s open every day all throughout the year. But if you want to get the best deals and more products to choose from, don’t miss their Big Market Days every Wednesday and Saturday.
The market is also nestled in downtown Hilo so after an exciting day of shopping, you can go straight and explore the rest of the area where you’ll find various attractions such as ancient wooden storefronts that are almost a century old and Mokupapapa Discovery Center.
It’s also home to historical landmarks such as the Pacific Tsunami Museum where you’ll learn about the dangerous geographical position of Hawaii on the coast and the tale of the catastrophic aftermath of the 1946 and 1960 Hilo tsunami.
The East Hawaii Cultural Center is also one of the must-see things to do in Hilo where you’ll find different masterpiece products of their local art and traditional culture.
After a day of sightseeing, shopping, and learning, wrap up the “aloha” vibe by checking out some of the local restaurants and cafes in the downtown area where they host live music to keep guests entertained.
8. Richardson Ocean Park
Richardson Ocean Park, located on Kalanianaole Avenue, is one of the top Hilo attractions and definitely worth visiting. Home to a black sand beach and location to some of the best swimming and surfing spots on the big island, this ocean park is a sweet haven for those seeking adventures in Hilo.
Richardson Ocean Park was named after the old Richardson family’s beach house which was converted into a family-friendly water park complete with various amenities such as swimming pools, water creeks, and rock pools filled with marine life so children can play and learn about marine biodiversity.
Nature has molded a lava-sculpted seawall from the lava flows of Mauna Kea which formed into different rock pools that fill with seawater during high tide making it a perfect spot for swimming and soaking.
If you’re an adrenaline junkie, go beyond the seawall and enjoy the popular surf break. You may also try other Hilo activities such as kayaking and snorkeling. Don’t forget to check out Richardson Ocean Centre and get new learnings about Hilo’s marine life and biodiversity.
9. The Lyman House Memorial Museum
The Lyman House Memorial Museum, popularly known as the Lyman Museum, holds the natural history of the town including the important events that transpired on Hawaii’s big island Hilo. It features several collections of artifacts and documents that contain the natural and cultural history of the island of Hawaii.
The Lyman Museum houses collections of ancient Hawaiian tools, weapons, feather capes, leis from the Hawaiian royals, cookwares, games, and much more. Mineral and seashell collections are also displayed in the museum. Wrap up your museum tour with a simulated lava tube experience.
10. Honoli’i Beach Park
Do you want to chill and live in the tropical vibe? Honoli’i Beach Park is one of the most sought places on the island in Hilo. Located on the east coast of Hilo, the beach park flaunts a stunning beach park with exciting waves lapping the rocky sandy beach. Swimming may not be fun for beginners given the size of the waves but it’s sure an adrenaline-triggering sight for surfers, skimboarders, and adventurous types.
Popular to both local and foreign tourists, the Honoli’i Beach Park offers excellent waves for surfers all year round. The summer waves are perfect for beginners while the winter season waves offer an extreme challenge to the pros. No wonder, surfing is one of the best things to do in Hilo Hawaii.
If you are more of a laidback type of person, you can enjoy the beach park with its tree-shaded areas perfect for picnic and book reading, clean restrooms, and shower amenities. You can also swim or soak in the pond located on the northern side of Honoli’i Beach. A lifeguard on the duty is also available to ensure the safety of the tourists and guests.
11. Learn about Hawaiian culture at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai
‘Imiloa Astronomy Center is a family-friendly education center that is dedicated to understanding the culture and history of Hawaii through the perspective of astronomy.
The center sits within the grounds of the University of Hawaii, Hilo campus. It aims to justify the connection between science and culture through stars and astronomical understanding.
‘Imiloa Astronomy Center features various exhibits revealing the vibrant culture and history of the big island of Hawaii and how these two are connected to science. The center makes it easier for people to understand the concepts they like to impart through interactive and immersive displays.
The exhibits also highlight Hawaiian Theories and Beliefs such as the sacred mountain of Maunakea and its importance to the locals. Astronomy Theories and Beliefs are also present in the exhibits which showcase the Hawaiian perception of the evolution of life.
12. Visit the Pana‘ewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens for a taste of the tropical rainforest
Go on a short scenic drive to 800 Stainback Highway to reach the sole U.S tropical zoo called Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. The 12-acre zoo is home to more than 80 rainforest animal species including endangered animals such as Bengal tigers, Nene geese, Spider monkeys, giant tortoises, and Lemurs. As soon as you enter the vicinity of the zoo, you will hear the cacophony of animal sounds that are both exciting and refreshing.
This unique tropical rainforest zoo is also home to a breathtaking water garden and a botanical garden that helps keep the equilibrium of the biodiversity of the rainforest. You will find wild orchids, different varieties of bamboos, and palm trees along with more than 40 species of tropical plants.
13. See the Kaumana Caves
Have you ever wondered what a lava cave looks like? Seize the opportunity and try one of the best things to do in Hilo, the Kaumana Caves exploration tours.
Go on a short road trip four miles away from downtown Hilo to reach the Kaumana Caves. The natural lava-sculpted tube is what’s left of a beautiful disaster.
In 1881, the Mauna Loa volcano erupted and the caves were formed from the shakes and gigantic lava flow. The lava tube is approximately 20 miles long but tourists are only allowed to wander for a limited distance.
14. Wailoa River State Recreation Area
Be one with nature and explore the Wailoa River State Recreation Area in Piilani Street, Hilo Hi 96720. This public park is the perfect place to wander and relax. You may also bring picnic tables and enjoy some snacks and drinks as you take in the natural beauty of the river, the lush greenery, and the soul-soothing breeze of the wind.
The recreation area nestles the Waiakea Pond which is a spring-fed waterway that houses different varieties of saltwater species. It also features two (2) memorials; one honors the victims of the devastating tsunami and the other one is for the courageous souls of the Vietnam War veterans.
15. Visit the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park by Bike
Is a helicopter ride not your thing or way out of budget? Try bike instead!
Bike Volcano is a local company that provides daily guided volcano bike tours of Kilauea and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. They offer full gear from Giant Sedona Comfort Hybrid Bikes, DOT-approved helmets, bike bags, rain jackets, meals, snacks, and beverages. Prior to the tour, you will get a full safety briefing and you will be accompanied by professional tour leaders. You will also get back and forth transportation to make the experience super convenient.
This tour is perfect for the outdoorsy type because it involves Hilo hikes and bike trips to active lava surface flows.
So there you have it, the 15 best things to do in Hilo Hawaii! In order to enjoy all these activities, we recommend you to look for an affordable place to stay where you could relax and enjoy as well. We hope this guide has helped you plan your trip and that you have a great time exploring all that Hilo has to offer. Aloha!