Waterfall Near Hilo, Hawaii, one of the best things to do in the city.

25 Best Things To Do In Hilo, Hawaii 2022

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If you’re looking for the best things to do in Hilo, you’ve come to the right place.

A trip to the Big Island of Hawaii is on most people’s bucket list and if you’ve already booked your trip, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the best things to do in Hilo.

Take it from us! We spent over a month exploring the Big Island of Hawaii (Hilo) in 2021!

From must-see attractions, hidden gems, and romantic spots, this post has you completely covered. With 25 different options for your next vacation destination, it will be hard deciding which one to choose first.

Is Hilo Worth Visiting?

Many first-time travelers to the Big Island are curious about the lesser-visited side of the island. As the largest city on the Big Island, Hilo often piques tourists’ interest.

So the question remains.. is Hilo worth visiting?

Things To Do In Hilo? Kaumana Caves

If you are at all interested in outdoor adventures like hiking, snorkeling, hot springs, waterfalls, and caves, then the answer is yes; Hilo is one of the best places to visit on the Big Island.

What Is Hilo Known For?

Hilo is most known for being the largest city on the Big Island with more than 45,000 residents.

However, for travelers, Hilo is best known for its many waterfalls, hot springs, beautiful beaches, close proximity to the island’s only national park and lava flow, diverse restaurants, and shopping centers.

25 Ultimate Things To Do In Hilo

After spending a month exploring the east coast of Hawaii, we’ve been able to discover the most incredible adventures including must-do activities and hidden gems that many tourists may never be able to find on their own.

To help you plan your Big Island itinerary, here is a comprehensive list of the 25 best things to do in Hilo:

Can’t-Miss Things To Do Near Hilo

Let’s start with the activities that you must-do during your Big Island holiday. These are the can’t-miss things to do near Hilo, Hawaii.

1. Akaka Falls

Distance From Hilo: 22 minutes
Price: $5 (credit card machine)

Surrounded by beautiful tropical rainforest, Akaka Falls is one of the best things to do near Hilo and its one of the top natural wonders on the island.

Start your adventure at Akaka Falls by following the paved nature trail through a tropical forest. This trail is very easy and is approximately half a mile in length. It can be completed by travelers of all fitness levels.

Along your hike, you’ll be able to spot a few different waterfalls from a distance, but none quite as magnificent as Akaka Falls, which you will see at the end of the half-mile loop.

Since this is a rather quick visit, I recommend adding this to your itinerary on a day with other activities planned. In total, you’ll likely spend about an hour at Akaka Falls.

Akaka Falls is also a popular place for couples to elope in Hawaii. The waterfall surrounded by rainforest makes for absolutely stunning wedding photography!

Note: We were pretty disappointed to find out that drones are NOT allowed here. If you’re planning to take epic drone shots while visiting Akaka Falls, think again.

2. Watch The Sunset Over Lava Flow

Distance From Hilo: 45 minutes
Price: Free

One of the best things to do near Hilo, Hawaii is to watch the sunset over a lava flow.

For an unforgettable experience, I recommend driving down to Kalapana located in the Puna District. This is approximately 45 minutes south of Hilo, but it is definitely worth the drive.

Kalapana is home to one of the largest lava flows on earth. In 1990, lava from the Kilauea Volcano completely covered this area, which is still visible today.

In fact, lava will be the only thing you’ll see in Kalapana for miles.

For the best view of the sunset, take a scenic drive down HI-130 until you reach a dirt road. Continue down the dirt road until you are fully surrounded by lava.

Kalapana is one of the most unique places in the world to watch the sunset.

3. Go Inside The Kilauea Crater

Distance From Hilo: 40 minutes
Price: $30 per car
Directions: Google Maps Link

The Kilauea Crater is the world’s most active volcano. It has been erupting since January 1983, and continues to grow larger everyday.

So why not make your trip to the Big Island even more exciting? Going inside of the Kilauea Crater is one of the best things to do near Hilo.

Perhaps you’ve already added Hawaiii Volcanoes National Park to your to-do list when visiting Hilo, but I wanted to share one of the best things to do inside of the park: Hiking the Kilauea Iki Trail.

This is a relatively easy 3-mile hike that brings you into the crater of Kilauea.

While inside of the crater, you’ll feel like you’re hiking on Mars. The landscape is so much different than anything you’ll experience elsewhere.

The best part about this hike is that it’s mostly downhill. You will experience some uphill hiking on the far side of the crater, but nothing that anyone in decent physical shape can’t handle.

Note: I highly recommend starting your hike early. Not only will you avoid the flocks of other tourists, but it will also keep you from boiling in the hot Hawaiian sun. Regardless, bring plenty of water to stay hydrated.

4. Summit Mauna Kea

Distance From Hilo: 45 minutes (to the visitor’s center)
Price: Free
Directions: Google Maps Link

If you’re up for a challenge, one of the best things to do near Hilo is summiting Mauna Kea. It’s one of the most memorable hikes we’ve ever been on.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Mauna Kea Volcano, this is actually the tallest mountain on earth. Yep, that’s right, the TALLEST mountain on EARTH!

You might be wondering, “isn’t Everest the tallest mountain on earth?” But that’s where the confusion lies..

Everest is the highest mountain on earth, but when measured from the ocean floor, Mauna Kea is the tallest. Mauna Kea stands at 33,496 feet (13,803 feet of that above sea level) while Everest reaches 29,029 feet.

Crazy, right?

So why not add the tallest mountain to your Big Island bucket list?

Keep in mind, summiting Mauna Kea is no easy feat. I only recommend this adventure for very avid and experienced hikers since you’ll likely be coming from sea level to an elevation of 13,808 feet. Altitude sickness is NOT something you want to mess with (trust me).

Trail Details

It’s best to set off in the early morning to give yourself plenty of time to complete this hike. We started our hike at 6am from the visitor center, which sits at around 9,200 feet. The entire trek is approximately 14 miles and will take at least 6 hours to complete, if not longer.

If you do want to tackle Mauna Kea, come prepared with plenty of water (at least 3 liters per person) and enough snacks and food to fuel you for 14 miles.

Although this will be extremely demanding, it is by far one of the best things to do near Hilo and on the Big Island as a whole. You’ll have incredible views, especially looking out towards the Hamakua coast.

Note: I highly recommend acclimating at the visitor’s center for at least an hour before beginning your hike since you’ll be coming directly from sea level.

If you aren’t ready to hike to the top of Mauna Kea, you can also take a tour of the summit. This Hawaiian Eyes Mauna Kea Tour is perfect for adventurers, stargazers, and anyone who wants to see the Big Island from above.

But if you’re seasoned outdoor enthusiasts, we recommend camping overnight for the ultimate star gazing experience. Mauna Kea is one of the best astronomical observation points on the world.

5. Day Trip To Waipio Valley

Distance From Hilo: 1 hour
Price: Free
Directions: Google Maps Link

Once we heard about the magic of this valley, we were itching to explore it. And after our day trip to Waipio Valley, we can confirm that this is one of the best things to do near Hilo.

The best part about this valley is that it’s difficult to get to, which means that people need to work to get here. Because of this, many tourists are turned off from the idea of visiting.

In order to reach the beach and nearby cliffs, you’ll either need to hike down the steep road (this is the option we chose) or take a 4X4 vehicle with high clearance.

Waipio Valley Hike

Once you reach the valley, you can continue your hike to the other side of the cliffs for more spectacular views of the surrounding area.

In total, the hike can extend for nearly 2.5 miles up the other side of the valley before you must turn around.

Although the first part of the hike is considerably easy since you’ll be going down hill and across the flat beach, remember that you’ll need to ascend up the steep road to get back to your car.

If you aren’t much for physical activity, I would suggest driving down to the valley and enjoying the beach.

Note: At the bottom of the valley there is a river crossing (Wailoa Stream) if you decide to continue your trek. This river can be quite dangerous, so only cross if you’re confident.

Waipio Beach

If you decide to relax at the beach rather than spend your day hiking, then I recommend bringing a picnic lunch, sunscreen, and your swimsuit.

Since most people opt to enjoy the beach rather than continue their trek, you’ll find that the valley sees a lot more visitors. Luckily, it still won’t be as crowded as beaches on the Kona side.

At the beach, choose to sunbathe, wade in the water, or practice your surfing skills.

If surfing is on your agenda, remember that this beach has some pretty intense swells. I only recommend it for experienced surfers.

6. Visit The Steam Vents of An Active Volcano

Distance From Hilo: 40 minutes
Price: 30 per car
Directions: Google Maps Link

One of the can’t-miss things to do near Hilo is visiting the Kilauea steam vents.

Volcanoes National Park Steam Vents

Inside of Volcanoes National Park just 40 minutes from Hilo, you’ll find active steam vents that are created when water comes in contact with the hot lava rock.

Kilauea has been active for over 30 years, and you can see it pumping out its smoke right from your car window. Or get out of your car to feel the steam directly on your skin.

I recommend visiting the steam vents between 11am and 12pm because this is when they are the most active. Or, for an even more unique experience, go at dusk and watch as the sun reflects off the steam to create a glowing golden color.

Puna Forest Reserve Free Steam Vents

There are other places near Hilo to visit steam vents where you don’t have to pay to get into the national park. The best place is located near Leilani Estates in the Puna Forest Reserve.

The best way to get there is to drive from Hilo toward Kalapana on HI-130. After you pass Pahoa, keep an eye out on the right-hand side of the road. The steam vents will be very hard to miss. Pull over and check out these steam vents on a budget (free)!

7. Richardson Ocean Park

Distance From Hilo: 15 minutes
Price: Free
Directions: Google Maps Link

One of the best things to do near Hilo on a budget is visit Richardson Ocean Park.

The park is free to enter, and it’s a great place for families, couples, and those looking for excellent snorkeling near town.

Going to the Big Island without getting into the ocean would be a shame, so rent some snorkeling gear from Hilo Ocean Adventures and set out for a day of underwater exploration.

At Richardson Beach Park there are plenty of opportunities to see green sea turtles, migratory shorebirds, and other marine life.

Not into snorkeling? Don’t worry about it! You can swim in the calm waters at this ocean park, enjoy a picnic lunch, and watch the kids excitedly jump off of the jetty.

We loved that this park is well-maintained with bathrooms, picnic areas, outdoor showers to clean up after getting salty in the ocean, and lifeguards for extra safety.

Note: Fins are extremely helpful because the current can be a bit strong at certain parts of the day.

8. Pohoiki Black Sand Beach

Distance From Hilo: 1 hour
Price: Free
Directions: Google Maps Link

Pohoiki is one of the most popular beaches on the Big Island and definitely one of the can’t-miss things to do near Hilo.. and for good reason! It is one of the best black sand beaches in the world.

The sand that covers this beach is directly from the Kilauea lava flows from various eruptions over the years.

In 2018, the beach was closed after being covered in lava from Kilauea’s most recent eruption, but it has since reopened; the black sand is once again visible for tourists to experience.

I recommend arriving at Pohoiki Black Sand Beach early in the day. This will allow you to enjoy the beach without too many people and you’ll avoid the hottest part of the day. The sun radiating off of the black sand can be hard to handle.

Note: The ocean here can be a bit rough. It might not be the best place for swimming, especially since the boat ramp has been destroyed. Alternatively, they have an amazing warm pond that is great for swimming and relaxing (see #24 below for more info).

9. Dive

Distance From Hilo: 5 minutes (Hilo Ocean Adventures office)
Price: From $119 per diver
Directions: Google Maps Link

Going to a tropical island without scuba diving would be like going to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower. Some of the best things to see are under the sea!

Hilo is the best place on the Big Island for scuba diving with an abundance of marine life including coral reefs, turtles, dolphins, tropical fish, sea urchins (one of my favorite things to see), manta rays, and white-tip reef sharks.

If you’re looking for an excellent diving experience on the east coast of Hawaii, we recommend going with Hilo Ocean Adventures. We mentioned this company before because we also recommend renting snorkel gear from them.

Their professionalism and well-informed guides will give you an unforgettable experience.

Best Time To Dive On The Big Island

The best time to dive on the Big Island of Hawaii is from May to October. June is the best time of year for visibility, but you will see more turtles and marine life when it’s warmer in August.

Scuba diving on the Big Island is possible year-round but because of higher tides, you’ll experience lower visibility, making it difficult to see Hawaii’s diverse underwater world.

Things To Do In Downtown Hilo

Now that we’ve covered can’t-miss things to do in the area, let’s head into the town of Hilo. From the Mokupapapa Discovery Center to the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo, Hilo has so many fun activities to choose from.

For those staying inside of Hilo town, these are the most convenient adventures to add to your itinerary.

10. Makani’s Magic Pineapple Shack

Price: $8+
Directions: Google Maps Link

Makani’s Magic Pineapple Shack is a small cafe in Hilo town that offers some of the most delicious and unique smoothies, acai bowls, and ice cream creations.

As one of the most popular things to do in Hilo and thanks to their colorful desserts, we couldn’t pass up the chance to visit and you shouldn’t either!

The menu has some of the most photogenic ice cream creations you’ll ever see – from their rainbow swirls to their pineapple-topped cones to chocolatey frappes and more.

But forget about being photogenic.. You’re probably wondering how these concoctions taste, right?

Makani’s Magic Pineapple Shack uses fresh and locally sourced fruits and ingredients so you can expect one of the most tasty tropical treats you’ve had in your life.

We ordered the Strawberry Explosion Bowl and could’ve went back for more after we were finished.

Note: Due to its popularity, expect to wait in line to get your hands on one, but it’ll be worth it.

11. Two Ladies Kitchen For Incredible Mochi

Price: $6+ (we found it VERY affordable)
Directions: Google Maps Link

One of our favorite things to do in Hilo is visit Two Ladies Kitchen for authentic mochi. This is a family-owned bakery that is extremely popular among locals and once you visit, you’ll know why.

From their traditional butter mochi to their Oreo mochi to their strawberry shortcake mochi, you will be blown away by their flavors just like we were. And many of the delicious dishes are adorned with beautiful tropical flowers. – They almost look to pretty to eat!

In fact, we came back to Two Ladies Kitchen three times during our month-long stay on the island and it’s one of the things we miss the most about Hilo.

As one of the most famous places in Hilo and one of the best bakeries on the Hawaiian islands, you can expect a line of at least 10 people. But again, it’s worth every minute that you have to wait.

Note: You can even buy a box of mochi to take back to mainland USA with you. The only mochi you cannot take with you are the ones that have fresh strawberries due to customs regulations.

12. Self-Guided Food Tour

Price: $-$$
Location: See recommended restaurants below

If you’re looking for a way to explore the city and its food scene, we recommend going on a Hilo self-guided food tour. Food plays a huge part in Hawaiian culture!

This is a great option if you have limited time in town or want to eat at unique places that feature authentic Hawaiian food.


Poke is a traditional Hawaiian dish consisting of cubed raw fish mixed with seaweed, rice, vinegar, assorted pickled vegetables, sesame seeds, among other ingredients of your choice.

You’ve likely heard of or have tried poke before, but eating it while visiting Hawaii is a must.

If you’re looking for the best Poke in Hilo, then Poke Market, LLC should be your first stop. This small, deli-style eatery offers several different styled poke bowls and you can order it as a salad or in a bowl with rice and it’s priced affordably.

Looking for something a little more structured? Check out the best Big Island Food Tours here.

Loco Moco

Another must-have Hawaiian dish is Loco Moco.

This is a comforting mix of hamburger patty, brown gravy, and rice and the bowl is topped with a fried egg. Some native Hawaiians like to add cheese and onions to their bowls as well.

Although it may sound strange, trust me on this one. It is a delicious mix of ingredients and it’s a staple of any local Hawaiian’s diet.

You can find Loco Moco at nearly any restaurant in Hilo, but we recommend Hawaiian Style Cafe for their affordable prices and friendly staff. And of course, you’re going to love their Loco Moco dish.

13. Go Surfing

Price: Private surf lessons start at around $140

If you are a surfer then Hilo is the perfect place for you to spend your holiday.

The waves in Hilo can reach up to 15 feet and it’s not uncommon for surfers of all levels to come here just so they have the opportunity to catch those big ones.

The best surfing beach near Hilo is Honoli’i Beach, which is just 6 minutes north of downtown. Whether you come here to catch some waves yourself or to watch the surfers conquer the swells, you’ll have an incredible time.

You can find Honoli’i Beach using this Google Maps Link.

New To Surfing?

If you’ve never surfed before, I don’t recommend taking on the Hawaiian waves without an experienced instructor.

Sign up for surf lessons with The Surf Cottage located in downtown Hilo.

Shawn is a great teacher that will help you feel confident in the water and ride a few waves while you’re at it. He is an experienced instructor that can teach both adults and children.

14. Hilo Farmers Market

Price: $-$$$
Directions: Google Maps Link

If you only have a few days to spend in Hilo, Hawaii you can’t leave without checking out the weekly Hilo Farmers Market, one of the best things to do on the entire island.

Visit the local farmer’s market on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7am to 3pm. You’ll find all your favorite local produce and flowers at this bustling yet charming market.

It is also a great place to shop for souvenirs if you are looking for something that will remind you of your time in Hawaii long after you’ve left.

Although this market is busiest on Wednesdays and Saturdays, you can visit any day of the week. But, if you’re looking to shop at over 200 different vendor stalls, we recommend those two days in particular.

15. Coconut Island

Price: Free
Directions: Google Maps Link

Coconut Island is one of the most popular attractions in Hilo Bay and it was one of our favorite places too.

Connected to Hilo via a short bridge, Coconut Island is a short jaunt from downtown. This small island is the perfect place to spend your day if you’re looking for some peace and quiet.

Popular among families and locals, it’s also a great place for a picnic and swimming. Or, if you’re in the mood to catch a beautiful Hawaiian sunrise, get here early to watch the sun peek over the ocean.

And if you’re an adventure seeker, check out the popular dive spot atop the island’s tower.

Note: Looking for more cliff jumping on the Big Island? Check out the cliff jumping spot at South Point for an even more exhilarating experience.

16. Liliʻuokalani Park and Gardens

Price: Free
Directions: Google Maps Link

Another one of the best things to do in downtown Hilo is visit the Lili’uokalani Park and Gardens (or Liliuokalani Gardens). And we recommend cruising down the picturesque Banyan Drive on your way there.

This park is home to the Hilo Japanese Garden which pays homage to the first Japanese immigrants on the island, showcasing traditional Japanese artistry and paying tribute to Hawaii’s first queen, Queen Liliuokalani. It features a Shinto-style torii gate, rock gardens and koi pond, among many other gorgeous sights.

The Liliuokalani Park is also where you will go to access Coconut Island.

Overall, this is an ideal place to go within Hilo town to enjoy a peaceful stroll. Or, you can visit a nearby restaurant to get lunch to-go; there are many places for scenic picnics in this park.

Free Things To Do Near Hilo

One of the great things about Hilo is all of the free outdoor activities. Unlike other Hawaiian cities that will cost you an arm and a leg, holiday-goers can spend an entire day in this area without spending a penny.

Here are the best free things to do near Hilo, Hawaii:

17. Kaumana Caves

Distance From Hilo: 10 minutes
Directions: Google Maps Link

The Kaumana Cave are a series of lava tube caves on the west side of Hilo. They are open to the public everyday of the week, making this an awesome thing to do during your trip to the Big Island.

We spent several hours exploring both of the caves located here. There are two entrances and two cave systems located on either side of the steep stairway.

We especially enjoyed the cave located on the right side at the bottom of the stairs.

Both caves have unique features such as stalactites and stalagmites that were created from lava that rushed through these chambers.

Note: One thing to remember about visiting this location is it can get very dark inside. We strongly suggest bringing a headlamp with you for exploring.

Although your phone flashlight can work, it will be hard to navigate and crawl through the cave while holding your phone in one hand. Not to mention, both caves are very wet.

18. Rainbow Falls

Distance From Hilo: 5 minutes
Directions: Google Maps Link

Rainbow Falls is one of the most popular attractions on the Big Island.

Thanks to its convenient location, this is a really easy destination to fit into your Hilo itinerary. And if you are looking for amazing views without much effort, you’ll be pleased that this waterfall can be seen right from the parking lot.

To see the rainbow that the waterfall creates, I recommend showing up in the morning so that the sunlight hits the water at the perfect angle.

The cool thing about this waterfall is that you can easily fit this into a day with several different activities planned. Rainbow Falls is located near Kaumana Caves and Akaka Falls State Park, so consider visiting all of them in one go.

19. Carlsmith Beach Park

Distance From Hilo: 10 minutes
Directions: Google Maps Link

Another free thing to do near Hilo is spending the day at Carlsmith Beach Park.

Whether you want to snorkel in the tide pools, swim, or have an afternoon barbecue in the family-friendly grassy area, Carlsmith Beach Park is a great place to spend a few hours.

This park is known for its fantastic snorkeling and swimming. Bring your snorkel gear and search for sea turtles or tropical fish like the Humahumanukanukaapuaa (the state fish of Hawaii). The reef can be found about 15 feet off shore so there’s no need to worry about strong currents bringing you out too far.

We also liked that there were public bathrooms and showers to use after spending a day exploring the ocean.

If you’re in Hilo and want a fun day at the beach, Carlsmith Beach Park might be your best option.

Hidden Gem or Unique Things To Do Near Hilo

Because Hawaii is such a trendy destination for travelers, we think it’s important to explore beyond the popular tourist spots.

During our month-long stay on the Big Island, we found a few hidden gems near Hilo that are worth checking out for anyone looking to get off the beaten path.

20. Lavaloha Chocolate Farm Tour

Distance From Hilo: 12 minutes
Price: $40 per person for the tour (visit the gift shop for free)
Directions: Google Maps Link

One of our favorite adventures on the east side of the Big Island was visiting the Lavaloha Chocolate Farm.

During our tour, we were blown away by how much we were able to learn about chocolate and how it’s made. From the cacao fruit to the packaging, Lavaloha gave us an inside look into the business of chocolate.

Oh, and I can’t forget to mention the best part of the entire tour.. the chocolate tastings!

Let’s just say that you’ve never tasted true chocolate until you’ve had it at a chocolate farm. This was some of the richest and most flavorful chocolate I’ve ever had in my life.

It was so good that we ended up spending boatloads of money at the gift shop just to bring as much chocolate home with us as possible (although we devoured it before even departing for home.. oops!).

Do yourself a favor and add Lavaloha Chocolate Farm to your Hilo itinerary.

21. Honomu Goat Farm

Distance From Hilo: 17 minutes
Price: Free (but bring $$ for goat treats and goat-made products)
Directions: Google Maps Link

Have you ever heard of goat therapy before?

Don’t worry.. before our trip to Hilo, I had never heard of it either.

Upon arrival at Honomu Goat Farm, I asked the owner that one simple question, “what is goat therapy?” And her answer was perfect. “You go in, play with the baby goats, smile and laugh a lot, and leave happy!”

So that’s exactly what we did at Honomu Goat Farm.

Mike and I purchased a few dollars worth of goat treats and spent at least an hour feeding the baby goats, watching them frolic, and letting them jump on our backs.

To say that goat therapy did its job is an understatement. This is one of the most unique and fun things to do in Hilo and in the state of Hawaii as a whole.

Note: Be sure to bring money to buy their homemade goat cheese. It was the richest and most delicious goat cheese we’ve ever had.

22. Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Farm

Distance From Hilo: 25 minutes
Price: Free self-guided tour & nut samples
Directions: Google Maps Link

Another unique stop near Hilo is the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Farm.

You can take a self-guided tour of this eco-friendly farm to see how macadamia nuts are grown and harvested. The tour ends by sampling different kinds of fresh roasted Hawaiian macadamia nuts.

In addition to the tours, they also have a gift shop where you can buy all sorts of macadamia-related items like chocolate covered mac nuts and even some homemade products that are made with their own ground roasted Mauna Loa Macadamias.

I recommend getting the ice cream with mac nuts because it is to die for!

The self-guided tour and macadamia nut samplings are free, but you’ll definitely want to spend some money on those delicious blue bags.

23. Helicopter Tour Over Volcanoes NP

Distance From Hilo: Hilo International Airport
Price: $335 per person
Directions: Google Maps Link

As one of the most exhilarating things to do in Hilo, Hawaii, we recommend a helicopter tour over Volcanoes National Park.

What better way to see the world’s most active volcano than from above?

Mike and I were pretty disappointed that we were late to the party and couldn’t see the glow of the lava at night. So instead, we decided to get up close and personal.

Paradise Helicopters is the company we recommend because they are professional and knowledgeable about the terrain and most importantly, the active volcanoes!

Although it’s a pricey activity, it is more than worth the extra cost.

Romantic Things To Do Near Hilo

Perhaps you’re traveling to the Big Island with your significant other to celebrate something special.

If you’re looking to make your vacation extra special, here are a few romantic things to add to your island itinerary:

24. Soak In The Warm Ponds

Distance From Hilo: 1 hour
Price: Free
Directions: Google Maps Link

We were unfamiliar with this unique destination when we arrived on the island. But with so many volcanoes, why wouldn’t we be able to find hot springs?

To our dismay, we heard that the warm ponds at Isaac Hale State Park were completely covered by the lava flow in 2018. But after talking to a local, we learned that many warm ponds still remained.

To make for a romantic outing, arrive to the warm ponds at Pohoiki Black Sand Beach (Isaac Hale State Park), early in the morning to secure the best pond for yourself. Or go at night when the sun has set and the ambiance gives off a romantic vibe.

To get to the warm ponds, drive to Pohoiki Beach. You’ll notice right away that there is a large pond with a boat ramp in front of the parking lot. Walk behind this pond into the woods.

The trail will be distinct and the best warm pond will be at the end of the trail. There will be signs at the pond asking for those who use it to be respectful and clean up after themselves.

Those signs will help you find the right warm pond.

Note: There are several other warm ponds, but most of them aren’t sanitary. You’ll know they aren’t sanitary because they will be quite green in color and there will be a sign that says “swim at your own risk”.

Use our Youtube video above to find the right warm pond!

25. Couple’s Massage

Price: Starting at $155
Directions: Google Maps Link

A couple’s massage is the perfect way to relax with your partner and it’s one of the most romantic things to do in Hilo.

The spa we recommend is called Mana Wellness and it’s located in the middle of Hilo, which is extremely convenient.

At Mana Wellness, get pampered by Lawrence, a wonderful and very skilled massage therapist.

Couple’s massages start at $155 for one hour and $235 for an hour and a half. If you’re interested, I also highly recommend getting the deep tissue massage to release all of that built up tension.

How To Get To Hilo

If you aren’t flying directly into Hilo, there are several ways to get there from Kona, some more convenient than others.

Here are the four ways you can get to Hilo from the west side of the Big Island:

Rental Car

The easiest way to get to Hilo is by rental car. We rented a vehicle from the National Kona Airport location and dropped it off at the Hilo Airport the next day.

We paid about $100 for this, but it was very simple and easy, which is why we splurged on the price.

Mike at the Trailhead of Mauna Kea at Sunrise. This is One of The Best Things To Do In Hilo, Hawaii.

If you’re looking to stay on a budget while visiting the Big Island, I highly suggest renting a vehicle from Automotive Solutions Hawaii in downtown Hilo.

After we returned our National rental car, we went to pick up our monthly rental from Automotive Solutions. They are one of the most affordable rental companies and the owner is really professional and helpful.

Note: The cars from Automotive Solutions are very basic. They are not new by any means, so if you’re looking for a beautiful rental, this isn’t your solution. These cars are for budget travelers that aren’t picky.

If you’re planning on doing some exploration on the island and you want to rent a car, a 4-wheel drive vehicle might be best for you.


Not keen on driving over the pass from Kona to Hilo? Well, the cool thing is you can actually fly directly into Hilo.

In order to fly directly into Hilo from mainland USA, I recommend leaving from Los Angeles. Otherwise, you can connect in Honolulu from any other destination.

If you’re looking to fly from Kona to Hilo, you will need to connect in Honolulu, so at that point, I do recommend just driving.

A Beautiful Waterfall In Hilo, Hawaii

Hire Private Taxi

If you’re able to splurge and you want a no-hassle way to get from Kona to Hilo, I recommend hiring a private taxi.

But, keep in mind that this will cost you a pretty penny.. I mean, you’re in Hawaii, remember?

Expect to pay a few hundred dollars for this option, but you can check prices yourself here: Shuttle Fare.

Where To Stay In Hilo

One of the most important parts of your trip is planning where to stay.

Do you prefer a resort with all the amenities and services that come with it? Or are you looking for more of a budget-friendly stay so that you can splurge on experiences?

Because there are so many accommodation options to choose from in Hilo, we wanted to make the decision easier for you:


The best upscale accommodation option in Hilo is Orchid Tree B&B.

This B&B is an idyllic getaway with two unique rooms with plenty of the same amenities that you would get at a resort. Enjoy their scenic swimming pool, jacuzzi, and daily breakfasts.

Waipi'o Valley Beach, Which Is An Awesome Day Trip From Hilo And One of the Best Things You Can Do.

Expect to pay $170+ per night at this B&B. In my opinion, this is a steal for what you are getting.

Another upscale option is The Inn At Kulaniapia Falls.

But, keep in mind that you’ll pay significantly more for this hotel than the B&B we mentioned above. And personally, we don’t think it offers more value. So keep that in mind when booking.


The only mid-range place you should consider in the city of Hilo is Hawaiian Ohana Home.

With scenic ocean views, free daily breakfast, and a central but quiet location, you cannot go wrong at this bed & breakfast.

The staff will make you feel like family and help in any way possible. This kind of service is difficult to find elsewhere in the city.

Budget-Friendly & Most Unique

When we visited the Big Island, we opted to stay in budget-friendly accommodation since we were going to be exploring the island for an entire month.

And boy did we luck out with our awesome find.

Rainbow Over The Lava Fields In Kalapana, Hawaii.

If you want a unique experience while still staying on a budget, you HAVE to stay at Lava Lookout. Located in Kalapana, you can expect a bit of a drive from Hilo, but the price and the views are more than worth it.

Not to mention, the host, Matt, is an amazing person and you’ll love chatting with him about the area, the volcanoes, and sustainability. Don’t pass up this unique experience to stay on lava during your trip to Hilo.

Best Restaurants & Places To Eat In Hilo

My favorite part of any vacation.. eating! Here are our favorite restaurants and the best places to eat in Hilo:

The Booch Bar

We don’t typically go out of our way to find organic restaurants, but we just couldn’t resist when we heard about The Booch Bar.

We spent several mornings sipping coffee, eating their Old School Brekky Sammy, and getting work done. It’s a small cafe with a lot of spunk and flavor.

Hilo Burger Joint

Craving the best burger in Hilo? You can’t pass up Hilo Burger Joint.

This Irish pub serves up unique burgers that will definitely excite your taste buds. Wash it down with one of their many cold beers on tap including my personal favorite, Guinness!

Hawaiian Style Cafe

We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Hawaiian Style Cafe.

With so many comfort foods to choose from, it might be difficult to decide, but I highly suggest a flavorful bowl of Loco Moco.

This restaurant also has a nice little patio, which is perfect for sunny days.

Frequently Asked Questions: Hilo, Hawaii

At this point, you’ve learned quite a bit about Hilo: all the things to do, where to stay, and what to eat. But I’m sure there are a few more questions swimming around in your head.

Here were the questions that I had about Hilo, Hawaii before visiting:

When Is The Best Time To Visit Hilo?

Visitors can add Hilo to their holiday plans any month of the year thanks to its tropical weather. With that said, there are certain times that are better for visiting Hilo thanks to less rain and more sunshine.

To experience the least rainfall, consider going to Hilo during one of the following months: January, February, May, June, July, September, or October.

May is by far the best month because you’ll stay dry and have more daylight hours to explore the area.

Which One Should I Visit: Hilo or Kona?

Both Kona and Hilo are worth visiting, but they are vastly different.

Kona is much more expensive than Hilo. Expect to pay triple the price for hotels, food, and excursions on the west side of the island. With that said, if you’re looking for pristine white sand beaches, Kona might be your answer.

Laura With Two Nenes, The State Bird of Hawaii. Visiting Volcanoes National Park Is One of The Best Things To Do In Hilo.

On the other hand, Hilo is full of outdoor adventures. We chose to spend our time on the east side of the island because we wanted to explore waterfalls, caves, the national park, and the best hiking trails.

Not to mention, we wanted to stay on a budget.

But, keep in mind that even if you decide to stay in one city over the other, they are only separated by an hour and a half of driving. Day trips are totally doable, so don’t feel that you need to stick to just one side of the island.

What Should I Pack For Hilo?

Packing for our trip to Hilo, Hawaii was extremely difficult considering the variation of weather patterns this side of the island experiences.

It typically isn’t AS warm in Hilo as it is in Kona, so take that into consideration. And to make the process easier for you, here is a quick packing list of things you should not forget:

1. Sunscreen

2. Swimsuit

3. Hiking or Athletic Shoes

4. A Light Jacket For Colder Days

5. Clothes For Warm Weather and Sunshine

6. A Winter Hat (if you plan on going up to Mauna Kea)

What Are The Best Hikes Near Hilo?

The Big Island is chock-full of amazing hiking trails, which is one of the biggest reasons why we added it to our bucket list.

Sitting Next To A Snowman At The Top of Mauna Kea In Hawaii.

Thankfully, we were able to explore many of the best hikes near Hilo.

Here are our suggestions:

✔ Mauna Kea – Expert

✔ Waipio Valley – Moderate to Difficult

✔ Kilauea Iki – Easy to Moderate

✔ Green Sands Beach – Easy to Moderate

✔ Akaka Falls – Easy

Hilo, Hawaii: Know Before You Go

Before we arrived in Hilo, I had many thoughts about what we would encounter. However, there were many things that surprised me about Hilo.

Here are a few things I didn’t expect:

✅ Hilo Is NOT A Resort Town

Having been to Kauai, I thought that all places in Hawaii would be similar: fancy, clean beaches, golf courses, the whole nine yards.

But I was very surprised when we arrived in Hilo.

Laura And Mike Sitting At The Kona Brewery With Beer.

It is not a resort town by any means. For us, this was awesome. We don’t typically like hanging out in resort towns because we prefer adventure.

But, if you are coming to Hawaii for a resort and spa vacation, Hilo probably isn’t your answer.

✅ If It’s Raining In Kona, It Probably ISN’T Raining In Hilo

One of the strangest phenomenons that we experienced on the Big Island was the drastic change in weather from one place to another.

Palm Trees In Kona, Hawaii With Blue Skies Behind.

It could be down-pouring where you are staying but 5 miles away, it could be as sunny as ever. Don’t let the rain stop you from going out to explore.

On our list of things to do above, many of our suggestions are slightly outside of Hilo. If it’s raining in the city, choose an adventure beyond the city limits.

The Wrap-Up: Things To Do In Hilo

Overall, Hilo is a great place to visit on the Big Island because it’s full of hidden gems, romantic excursions, and free activities to enjoy.

Use this guide to plan your trip with the best things to do and make the most of your holiday. Revel in this incredible area of the Big Island of Hawaii.

And when you’re done exploring this part of the world, check out these other places like Hawaii.

Want To Travel Full-Time?

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