If you’re planning a visit to the Hawaiian Islands, then there’s no way you can leave without visiting Hilo – the largest city on the island. Centered around Hilo Bay, Hilo is considered the “gateway” to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. In fact, the park itself is located just 45 minutes south from the city.
Check out these five awesome attractions and make visiting Hilo the best part of your Hawaiian vacation.
Hawaii Volcano National Park
If you’re going to be visiting Hilo, then you can’t pass up a day trip to the famed park, Hawaii Volcano National Park. Even if you don’t know that much about volcanoes, this amazing park features on the world’s most active volcanoes – Kilauea – and specializes in teaching visitors all about volcanoes.
Here at this historic national park, you can check out sights such as Crater Rim Drive. This 11-mile long road takes you through the summit caldera, rainforest and straight to a lava tunnel. You’ll also learn more at the Kilauea Visitor Center and Jagger Museum.
For a day in the outdoors, check out the fun hiking and biking trails that go around the park. There are over 150 miles of trails to be discovered, and they all range in length as well as difficulty. No matter your skill level, you’ll find plenty of explore on all the trails.
There are a number of great tours in Hilo that will help you see the best parts of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and teach you more about the volcanoes you’re seeing. These tours are especially great for those who have limited time to see the volcanoes.
Helicopter tours that leave from Hilo International Airport, for example, last about 50 minutes and provide the absolute best views of Kilauea and other volcanoes. You’ll have the best chances of seeing real lava flow down to the sea, and your guide will point out interesting sights and answer any questions as you go.
Rainbow Falls – Wailuku River State Park
If a day trip out to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park isn’t possible, you can still witness Hilo’s great beauty right in the city itself. Wailuku River State Park teems with lush trees and vegetation, but its true pride is Waianuenue – better known as Rainbow Falls.
This well-known waterfall is one of Hawaii’s most popular. The eighty-foot drop never fails to impress visitors, but that’s just the beginning. When the sun hits this waterfall just right, you’ll see a large and breathtaking rainbow materialize right before your eyes. The light refracted through the mist of the waterfalls causes these rainbows, and they can be seen best on sunny days.
Explore the park a little further and go to Peepee Falls. There you’ll see the famed Boiling Pots. When many people first see them, the pools look as if they’re actually boiling. Those pools are actually connected by water flowing next to hexagonal columns, which were originally made by basalt lava as it cooled. The effect is a seemingly boiling pool.
These locations are not safe for swimming, but if you’re looking for a great way to see nature while visiting Hilo, look no further.
Richardson’s Ocean Park
Bet you’ve never set foot on black sand before. This waterfront park is a perfect family getaway no matter what the different members of your family like to do. Located just south of Hilo, Richardson’s Ocean Park makes for great afternoon trip if you’re visiting Hilo.
For those who love to spend the day on the sand, the black sand beach here is one of a kind. When the lava came down the volcano and hit the ocean, it exploded, which created basalt. If you look hard enough, you can see bits of green rocks mixed in with the black ones.
The black beaches here are perfectly safe and beautiful to see. Because the beach is located on the bay, the water is much calmer and safe to swim in. Anyone looking to improve his or her surfing or boogie boarding skills will have an easier time practicing at this beach.
If you love to snorkel, then Richard’s Ocean Park is the perfect place to jump in and see the world below the surface. A reef filled with multi-colored coral rests right off the shoreline and attracts plenty of cool-looking fish. The calm waters make snorkeling easy, especially if you’ve never done it before or have children who haven’t gone snorkeling before.
Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory
Do you love snacking on macadamia nuts at home? Here’s your chance to where those delicious nuts come from and learn more about how they come from the orchard to your grocery store.
The Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory welcomes hundreds of visitors every day. For the past 30 years, the factory has been producing macadamias of the highest quality and providing tours of its factory and orchards. A vast orchard of macadamias surrounds the processing plant where the nuts are husked and dried to be used in a variety of products.
The tour offers plenty of free samples and insider looks into the making of these delectable nuts. The plant also creates the chocolate it uses in many of its products sold in the gift shop on the premise. If you’re looking for new macadamia nut and chocolate recipes to try, this factory will give you new recipes and ideas to try at home.
Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens
For anyone who’s ever wanted to visit the rainforest, this incredible zoo introduces you to a number of cool plants and animals that populate the rainforests.
Sure, you can see elephants, zebras and lions at just about any zoo across the United States, but only Pana’ewa has animals and birds exclusively from the rainforest. Learn all about kinkajous, spider monkeys, binturongs and a plethora of other cool animals – many of which are endangered. You’ll also see brightly-colored macaws, toucans and cockatoos as you stroll through the park.
The zoo also has a separate petting zoo where you and your children can meet and greet with plenty of rainforest creatures. Children will pet goats, ducks and other small animals and learn more about caring for wild animals.
Visiting Hilo should be an exciting and relaxing experience so don’t feel like you have to do everything at once. Before you arrive, check out local tours in the city. Many of them hit one or more of the locations mentioned above.
So tell us, which one of these locations will be your first stop when visiting Hilo?