Things to do in Hilo

Top attractions in Hilo

About Hilo

The must-see attractions in Hilo include the breathtaking Rainbow Falls, the tranquil Liliʻuokalani Gardens, the informative 'Imiloa Astronomy Center, and the ever-imposing Mauna Kea summit, which offers spectacular stargazing opportunities at its observatories.
For kids, the Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo provides an enchanting encounter with animals amid a lush setting, while the Submarine Museum invites young minds on a nautical discovery, and the Carlsmith Beach Park presents safe swimming areas for family fun.
Outdoor activities in Hilo include exploring the dramatic landscapes of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, hiking to Akaka Falls, and enjoying water sports at Reeds Bay, providing an invigorating blend of adventure and natural wonder.
The best indoor activities feature a trip to the diverse exhibits at the Lyman Museum, experiencing the educational displays at the 'Imiloa Astronomy Center, or perusing art at the Hilo Art Museum, perfect for enriching days inside.
Top tours in Hilo include a historic journey through the city's landmarks, guided walks through the mesmerizing Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, and audio-guided tours that delve into the mysteries of the stunning Volcanoes National Park.
The most popular museums are the Pacific Tsunami Museum, which delves into Hilo's history with natural disasters, and the Lyman Museum, home to extensive natural history and cultural exhibits showcasing Hawaii's past and present.
For rainy days, tours in the Pacific Tsunami Museum and the Lyman Museum provide sheltered educational environments. Additionally, the 'Imiloa Astronomy Center offers indoor exhibits and a planetarium for weather-proof exploration.
Quick tours in Hilo include a brief exploration of the scenic Hilo Bayfront, a 1-hour audio-guided tour of the Hilo Farmers Market, and an efficient visit to Rainbow Falls where the surrounding park can be enjoyed in a short timeframe.

Best Things to Do In Hilo

Explore the heart of Hawaii's Big Island with our guide to the best attractions Hilo has to offer.

Hilo: Merrie Monarch Festival

What is it?
A renowned annual hula competition and festival celebrating Hawaiian culture.
Why you should go?
The Merrie Monarch Festival stands out as a pinnacle cultural event, making it one of the most anticipated things to do in Hilo. The week-long festival honors King David Kalākaua, known as the Merrie Monarch, who revived many of Hawaii's nearly forgotten traditions. Visitors are treated to incredible hula performances, Hawaiian arts, and crafts, as well as parades and various festivities. The experience is as vibrant and colorful as the costumes and provides a heartfelt immersion into the aloha spirit that is central to Hawaiian identity.

Hilo: Banyan Drive

What is it?
An iconic tree-lined avenue with banyan trees planted by famous personalities.
Why you should go?
Banyan Drive is more than just a scenic roadway; it is a living gallery showcasing the signatures of celebrities and dignitaries within the trunks of majestic banyan trees. This shaded pathway offers a tranquil respite and a historical journey where one can appreciate the quiet grandeur of Hilo. Couples often meander through the lush avenue, taking in the serene ambiance while discovering plaques that tell tales of those who have walked this path. If seeking things to do in Hilo that offer both beauty and a dash of history, Banyan Drive should be on the list.

Hilo: Kaumana Caves Park

What is it?
An adventurous lava tube experience offering a glimpse into the island's volcanic past.
Why you should go?
Adventure seekers will be enthralled by the natural marvels of Kaumana Caves Park, one of the more intriguing Hilo excursions. Created by the 1881 lava flow from Mauna Loa, the caves allow visitors to descend into a subterranean world of rock formations and geological wonders. It's an off-the-beaten-path attraction that evokes the thrill of exploration. With flashlights in hand, explorers can venture into the depths and marvel at the power of nature's ancient forces that shaped the Big Island.

Hilo: Queen Liliuokalani Park and Gardens

What is it?
A picturesque Japanese-style garden park celebrating Japanese and Hawaiian heritage.
Why you should go?
Queen Liliuokalani Park and Gardens extend a serene welcome to visitors, offering a tranquil escape with its ornate landscapes that are among the best places to visit in Hilo. The park showcases beautifully manicured gardens, calming koi ponds, and elegant bridges, evoking the peaceful atmosphere of Japan. The blend of cultures celebrated here makes this park not only a locale of stunning natural beauty but also an embodiment of the harmonious relationship between Japan and Hawaii. It is an ideal spot for a leisurely walk, photography, or simply to savor the moment.

Hilo: 'Imiloa Astronomy Center

What is it?
A planetarium and museum connecting the rich heritage of Hawaiian culture with modern astronomy.
Why you should go?
The 'Imiloa Astronomy Center is where ancient tradition intersects with modern science. Here, visitors can embark on a stellar journey that is as educational as it is awe-inspiring—one of the best Hilo tours for those intrigued by the cosmos. The center features interactive exhibits, stunning planetarium shows, and native gardens that showcase the botanical diversity of Hawaii. An excursion to 'Imiloa invites families, couples, and solo travelers to reach for the stars while firmly rooted in the rich soil of Hawaiian culture.

Hilo: Mauna Kea Summit

What is it?
A dormant volcano offering astronomical observatories and stunning summit views.
Why you should go?
Standing as a colossal monument, Mauna Kea Summit is not just one of the best things to do in Hilo; it's a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with the heavens from Earth's highest point. The drive up the mountain unfolds panoramic views that redefine beauty, while the summit, dotted with world-class observatories, is a testament to human curiosity. To indulge in stargazing here is to witness the universe's grandeur in profound clarity—a journey that transcends the ordinary and touches the edge of the cosmos.

Hilo: Akaka Falls State Park

What is it?
A state park known for its towering waterfall and scenic nature trails.
Why you should go?
Akaka Falls State Park, a sanctuary of lush rainforest, is home to the spectacular Akaka Falls—a 442-foot tall cascade of pure majesty. The easy loop trail offers an accessible adventure for all, leading through verdant foliage that whispers the ancient stories of the land. This natural spectacle is a top choice for Hilo activities, where the power and beauty of nature's artistry are on full display. For lovers of the outdoors and cascading water, this park is an unmissable stop on any Hilo excursion.

Hilo: Hilo Art Museum

What is it?
A vibrant art museum celebrating diverse artworks, from local Hawaiian pieces to international collections.
Why you should go?
For art enthusiasts and curious minds, the Hilo Art Museum is a haven of creativity and culture. Housing a vast array of artworks, the museum is a mirror reflecting the multiple facets of human expression. From ancient Hawaiian artifacts to contemporary art, each exhibit invites visitors on a journey through history and imagination. Engage with the stories each piece tells and understand why this museum is a prized gem among the places to visit in Hilo.

Hilo: Richardson Ocean Park

What is it?
A popular beach park with unique black sand and rich aquatic life, perfect for snorkeling.
Why you should go?
As Hilo's premier spot for marine exploration, Richardson Ocean Park offers calm turquoise waters that are a sanctuary for sea turtles and tropical fish. The black sand beach is not only distinctive but provides a stunning contrast to the vibrant blue sea. Snorkeling here is among the fun things to do in Hilo, allowing for up-close encounters with Hawaii's underwater world. Whether sunbathing or exploring the tidal pools, this park offers joy and discovery in equal measure.

Hilo: Hilo Farmers Market

What is it?
A bustling outdoor market featuring fresh local produce, artisanal goods, and exotic flowers.
Why you should go?
Savor the flavors of Hawaii at the Hilo Farmers Market, where the island's agriculture shines. This vibrant marketplace, with its array of fruits, vegetables, handmade products, and craft vendors, is an adventure for the senses. The market is not just a place to shop; it's a cultural experience. Engaging with farmers and artisans offers insight into the local lifestyle, making it one of the best Hilo tours for those seeking authentic Hawaiian interactions.

TOP-5 tours in Hilo for first time visitors

  • Discover Hilo’s rich history with a captivating stroll around the treasured Historic Hilo Bayfront, where past and present merge.
  • Embrace nature’s splendor at Rainbow Falls, where legends come alive, amidst the thundering cascade and vibrant rainbows.
  • Wander the verdant paths of the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, unlocking secrets of tropical flora in this eco-paradise.
  • Experience the awe of creation on the Volcanoes National Park tour, navigating through landscapes shaped by the earth’s fiery forces.
  • Delve into island culture with the Hilo’s Cultural Mile, featuring museums, galleries, and historical landmarks steeped in Hawaiian heritage.

Fun things to do in Hilo with kids

Joyful adventures await families in Hilo, with a trove of activities suited for young adventurers. Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo, the nation’s only tropical rainforest zoo, is a haven for children to encounter exotic and indigenous animals, including the regal peacock and playful spider monkeys, free of charge. At the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center, interactive exhibits bring Hawaii’s underwater world and conservation efforts to life, educating and immersing kids in marine ecology. For a splash of fun, the Leleiwi Beach Park and Richardson Ocean Park offer protected coves and tide pools for snorkeling and observing Hawaii's gentle sea turtles. Here, families can spend the day enjoying Hilo's unique black sands and tranquil waters. These attractions combine learning with play, making Hilo a delightful destination for families seeking exciting, child-friendly experiences.

Things to do in Hilo with family

Hilo is a treasure trove for families looking for an engaging holiday destination. The pristine Carlsmith Beach Park offers a safe and enjoyable ocean experience with its clear lagoons and frequent sea turtle visitors, making it an excellent spot for swimming and snorkeling. For an educational and unforgettable excursion, the Lyman Museum presents a comprehensive look at the natural and cultural history of the Hawaiian Islands. Families can explore everything from volcanic rock formations to interactive science exhibits. Additionally, the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden provides a breathtaking day out, with over 2,000 species of tropical plants and cascading waterfalls set along a scenic ocean boardwalk. Young and old alike can revel in the vibrant flora and fauna of this lush paradise, learning about the ecosystem while delighting in the beauty of nature.

Free things to do in Hilo

Exploring Hilo doesn't have to come with a hefty price tag, as the city is dotted with activities that are free of charge and rich in experience. First on the agenda is a nature lover's dream, the Liliʻuokalani Gardens, boasting exquisite Japanese garden designs and picturesque landscapes, ideal for a leisurely stroll or family picnic by the pond. Then, there is the impressive Rainbow Falls, renowned for its lush backdrop and the rainbow that often forms in the mist of its 80-foot cascade – a perfect photo opportunity and a spectacle of nature's wonder. Finally, enrich your knowledge of the local area by spending an evening at the Hilo Astronomy Center's Stargazing program, where you can gaze up at the night sky through telescopes and learn about celestial wonders. These attractions offer unforgettable memories and showcase the best of Hilo without spending a single dollar.

Cheap things to do in Hilo

For travelers on a budget, Hilo is a playground of affordable attractions set against the backdrop of Hawaii's stunning natural beauty. Take an enjoyable walk along the scenic Hilo Bayfront, where you can witness the harmony of daily life and nature, and maybe even join in a casual fishing experience off the pier. The self-led Hilo Heritage Tour is another enriching and inexpensive way to absorb the town's rich history, with visits to historic landmarks and buildings that hold the stories of Hilo's past. Moreover, consider visiting the Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens, a delight for all ages that offers free admission to view an array of animals, including the exotic white Bengal tiger, and a resplendent botanical garden. A trip to Hilo proves that you don't need to spend much to enjoy the finest offerings of Hawaii's landscapes and culture.

Things to do in Hilo for couples

Hilo offers an array of romantic outings for couples who love unique experiences. Begin with a trip to the enchanting Akaka Falls State Park where a short hike through lush rainforest leads to the stunning Akaka Falls. The sound of the waterfall and the intimate atmosphere make for a memorable moment shared. Couples can also indulge in the decadent flavors of locally grown coffee with a visit to a Hilo coffee farm, offering tours and tastings that tantalize the taste buds and provide insight into the coffee-making process. As the evening sets in, the tranquil Coconut Island, crossing over by a footbridge from Liliʻuokalani Gardens, is perfect for watching the sunset and stargazing. This peaceful island escape is just a stone's throw from downtown Hilo, offering an easy yet romantic retreat. Each of these experiences blends adventure with the chance for couples to connect amidst the natural allure of Hilo.

Things to do in Hilo at night

Hilo's evenings are as vibrant as its days, offering varied nocturnal adventures for night owls. Stargazing at the Mauna Kea Observatories is arguably one of the most breathtaking experiences, where the heavens display their splendor away from the city lights—couples and astronomy enthusiasts count it as a must-do. Downtown Hilo's nightlife offers an inviting atmosphere with live music, often featuring performances of Hawaiian slack-key guitar and ukulele, providing an authentic audio backdrop for an intimate evening out. Film lovers can take pleasure in an open-air film screening at the Palace Theater, a historic venue that regularly hosts movie nights, concerts, and cultural events. These eclectic activities present various ways to enjoy the calm and charm of Hilo after the sun sets, ensuring that every visitor finds something to love in the cooler hours.