- The beautiful Hawaiian city by the bay!
HILO IS THE SOUL OF THE BIG ISLAND! It is the historic and political capital of East Hawaii and of a county rapidly changing from a plantation economy to the most diversified economy in the State. The history of Hawaii has been successive waves of immigrants. The first came from the far edges of Polynesia followed by Western businessmen. Various nationalities provided labor during the plantation era. But with jet planes, a Hawaiian vacation was in reach of many, and many come to stay. No nationality is a majority and while we have very diverse backgrounds, no one wants to make the Big Island into a Waikiki!
So besides being the county seat, what makes Hilo special? For one thing, it's the wettest city in the United States averaging about 125 inches of rain per year. That may seem like a lot, but most of it comes down at night and the patter on the roof creates the most restful kind of sleep. The rain cleans the air and with the trade winds sending us air that crosses thousands of miles of ocean, the windward side of the Big Island has the cleanest air! In November of 2000, over 30" of rain came down in 24 hours! There was some damage, but most took it in stride, cleaned up the mess, and went about living. Hilo is not a place for wimps! Spectacular thundering waterfalls follow after a rainstorm. Even during the summer months waterfalls present a romantic backdrop for honeymoon vacations.
The moisture makes East Hawaii the horticultural and floriculture center of Hawaii State. Exotic tropical anthuriums, haleconias, gingers, orchids, and other tropicals are exported to the world. Roses, carnations, and other flowers are sent throughout the state. Tropical houseplants are sent in 40' long containers and plant nurseries produce more income and use far less land than the former sugar plantations. East Hawaii continues with different agricultural crops.
Edible ginger and passion fruit once flooded the market but are back to being niche specialties. Now papayas, bananas, macadamia nuts, cocoa, vanilla, kava and a host of other tropical crops are being produced. A socially acceptable E-beam kills fruit fly larvae and this is opening up export markets for these and other exotic tropical fruits. Forestry, greenhouse hydroponics, and even aquaculture have champions.
Hilo has been hit by a host of natural disasters, threatened by lava flows, and shook mightily by large earthquakes that would have caused unlimited damage in more developed areas. There's a lot of interest in volcanology but with the current eruption in progress since 1983, it's become a part of our life. East Hawaii produces electricity with greater diversity from wind, biomass, and hydroelectric. Geothermal energy was once controversial but with greater dependability, there's growing acceptance.
Giant tsunami waves once caused great loss of life. Wise leaders moved homes and businesses out of the inundation zone and the city by the bay now has beautiful parks dedicated to recreational and cultural activities. The Shinmachi Tsunami Memorial, Pacific Tsunami Museum, evacuation routes, and artifacts are reminders of the continuing danger and it's not a question of IF another will come, but WHEN it will come. As more astronomy observatories are built on Mauna Kea, Hilo is developing a major astronomy center.
With a deep-water port, it hosts cruise ships. It also hosts the Merrie Monarch Festival, the premier celebration of hula and Hawaiian culture (just after Easter). A host of activities during the July 4th weekend include major canoe races, an orchid show, and a bonsai show. The International Festival of the Pacific in late summer also fills the town with visitors celebrating our cultural diversity. Hilo is becoming a college town as the University of Hawaii at Hilo continues to grow and garner accolades as one of the top liberal arts colleges.
Hilo has the largest percentage of residents of Japanese ancestry outside of Japan. Japanese tend to be fiscally conservative and this is reflected in the old-timers of Hilo having the highest savings rate in the United States. Most Japanese came as plantation labor about 100 years ago during a period when Japan was known for gracious courtesy.
In isolated Hawaii, the customs and the values of each race was shared and respected, and regardless of race, all Hilo old-timers have a gentle nature. There are many active community leaders who bump into each other continually. So even when we disagree with each other, there's always respect and courtesy. All of these influences make Hilo an interesting place to visit and a great place to live!
A CELEBRATION OF HULA AND HAWAIIAN CULTURE!
Each April, East Hawaii comes alive with the Merrie Monarch Festival that has grown to include a parade, Hawaiian quilt exhibits, craft fairs, and many associated events. Veteran participants make reservations for next year before they leave and every accommodation is booked solid with a no-refund policy for the week. While it fills Hilo to overflowing, no other community can provide the necessarty support to keep participant costs down or support in unheralded ways. The "Spirit of East Hawaii" is the quiet hero behind the heart-warming spectacle by and for the multi-cultural Hawaiian community.
The first Merrie Monarch Festival in 1964 began with the goal of enticing visitors to Hilo as it was recovering from the devastating May 1960 tsunami. Hula master George Naope and Dorothy Thompson have been the catalysts and provided the energy and vision that honors King Kalakaua. In 1971 it evolved into a cultural event and hula women's competition. With the introduction of a men's division in 1976, the event exploded with pride and creativity! "Kahiko" (style of the ancients) convey a deep reverence for nature and Hawaiian culture. "Auana" (evolving contemporary freedom style) is creating a lively hula renaissance. The festival is the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people and a celebration of a unique and gentle host culture!
INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THE PACIFIC (Being researched)
UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII AT HILO (UH-Hilo)
A community is judged by how it supports it's youngest and oldest residents Hawaii rates very high. East Hawaii especially has the finest senior citizen activities, facilities, and support infrastructure. There is also community pride in the progress being made at UHH to provide a low-key nurturing and learning environment. UH-Hilo is a comprehensive state university offering a resident campus experience to students who welcome close interaction with faculty. It's mission is to inspire critical thinking in every student through personal interaction, research, and applied learning. It's ranked 3rd among Public Western Region Liberal Arts Institutes! www.uhh.hawaii.edu
UH-Hilo is an integral part of the community with assistance to new small businesses. The UH-Hilo Conference Center provides services for planning and coordinating conventions, conferences and seminars, including special events, hotel and dining accommodations, ground and air transportation and tours. It coordinates Hawaiian EDventure, Educational Field Study and Eco-tourism, and Elderhostel Programs. http://conference.uhh.hawaii.edu/
SPECIAL PLACES IN THE HILO AREA
- RAINBOW FALLS & BOILING POTS
- Even during summer, there's a steady waterfall and when the light is just right, there will be rainbows in the mists! After a rainstorm, water is hurling out across the entire cliff face with a roar and everything misty! Rainbow Falls is a popular stop because it's right in town. But there are numerous waterfalls between Hilo and Waipio Valley along the Hamakua Coast. From Rainbow Falls, signs direct you to Boiling Pots farther upstream where unusual volcanic formations produce extraordinary water turbulence that make swimming there very dangerous.
- DOWNTOWN HILO
- A historic town steeped with Hawaiian history, headquarters of missionaries, the second largest city in the state, and a center of commerce and politics. Much of downtown Hilo escaped tsunamis only to get brutally battered by new shopping malls. Today many of the vintage buildings have been restored and the town is alive with a popular Farmers' Market and revitalized businesses. It's adding new layers of "character" to an already charming city.
- For a preview walking tour visit: www.downtownhilo.com/history.html
- EAST HAWAII CULTURAL CENTER. The former police station is now the home for culture and art groups with an exhibit area.
- Address. Phone/FAX; E-mail: ________________ URL: _______________________
- LYMAN HOUSE MUSEUM. The original home of the missionary Lymans and the artifact collections of their family.
- Address. Phone/FAX; E-mail: ________________ URL: _______________________
- PACIFIC TSUNAMI MUSEUM. An interpretive center with exhibits about the major tsunamis that has devastated Hilo
- Address. Phone/FAX; E-mail: ________________ URL: _______________________
The city of Hilo with snowcapped Mauna Kea taken through the branches of a Kamani Tree at Coconut Island near the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel. Left photo by Gil Unilongo February 28, 2002.
- BANYAN DRIVE
- Banyans are trees with aerial roots and the most famous banyans are from the Fig or Ficus family. Hilo's Banyan Drive include some of the best examples of "rainforest banyans." Many of the Chinese Banyans were planted by visiting celebrities and due to the high humidity, there's a profusion of aerial roots. Banyan Drive swings around Liliuokalani Gardens, Coconut Island and the larger Hilo hotels. We regret to report that the popular fish auction at Suisan that attracted many visitors each morning was forced to close due to very questionable Federal governmental regulations.
- Tsunamis devastated Hilo town in 1946 and 1960 and to assure there would not be future loss of life, the entire area was condemned, consolidated and turned into recreational areas. The land was built up and became the home of governmental buildings. It's also the home of a KING KAMEHAMEHA STATUE, VIETNAM MEMORIAL, SHINMACHI TSUNAMI MEMORIAL, and WAILOA CENTER, the community's exhibit center where the Annual All-Big Island Bonsai Show is held during the July 4th weekend. Hawaiian canoe races are held in Hilo Bay and canoe sheds line the shore.
- LILIUOKALANI GARDENS
- A Japanese-Hawaiian garden that includes an Urasenke Teahouse, a sumo wrestling ring, and picnicking areas. Walkways, bridges, ponds, islands, stone lantern, and other features make this an enjoyable stroll garden that effectively utilize the natural lava formations. Okinawan Dragon Boats are stored there and the annual races are an exciting part of the Okinawan Festival. All along Wailoa River, on Coconut Island and the bayfront, residents are often seen fishing.
- NANI MAU GARDENS. A floral theme park, botanical museum, restaurant, fruit orchards, orchids, and more on 20 acres!
- 421 Makalika Street, Hilo, HI 96720. Phone (808) 959-3541 E-mail: ____________________ URL: ___________________
HOTELS & ACCOMMODATIONS
- HILO-HAWAIIAN HOTEL
- On Banyan Drive, on Hilo Bay, adjoining Coconut Island and Liliukalani Park. The Queen's Court Dining Room serves breakfast, lunch, dinners, and Sunday Brunches. Swimming pool, meeting, conference and banquet facilities.
- 71 Banyan Drive, Hilo, Hawaii 96720
- Phone (808) 935-9361; Toll-free: 1-800-367-5004; FAX (808) 961-9642
- URL: www.castleresorts.com/HHH/
- HAWAII NANILOA RESORT
- The Home of the Merrie Monarch Festival and a full service ocean garden resort. On Banyan Drive, on Hilo Bay with 325 air-conditioned rooms, spa, beauty salon, two restaurants, meeting and banquet rooms, the Crown Room showcasing Hawaii's talent and an executive 9-hole golf course.
- 93 Banyan Drive, Hilo, Hawaii 96720
- Phone: (808) 969-3333; Toll-free: 1-800-367-5360; FAX (808) 969-6622
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org URL: www.naniloa.com
- UNCLE BILLY'S HILO BAY HOTEL
- A casual 150-room Polynesian resort owned, operated, and staffed by the Hawaiian Kimii family. On Banyan Drive, on Hilo Bay with air-conditioned rooms with private balconies. Their family style restaurant includes a free hula show nightly.
- 87 Banyan Drive, Hilo, Hawaii 96720;
- Phone (808) 961-5818; FAX (808) 935-7903
- Toll-free: 1-800-442-5841 (Hawaii State); Toll-free: 1-800-367-5102 (US, Alaska)
- E-mail: email@example.com URL: www.unclebilly.com
- DOLPHIN BAY HOTEL
- A small 18-unit family hotel in a quiet residential area in the middle of a small jungle four blocks north of downtown Hilo. Lots of parking. Studios, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments all include full kitchen and bath. See Lava & Volcanoes National Park.
- John Alexander, 333 Iliahi Street, Hilo, Hawaii 96720
- Phone (808) 935-1466; FAX (808) 935-1523
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org URL: www.dolphinbayhotel.com
- SHIPMAN HOUSE BED & BREAKFAST INN
- Hilo's Historic Guest Accommodation! One of the few remaining Victorian mansions and home of one of Hilo's influential families of the past. It sits high on a ridge overlooking a deep canyon with magnificent stands of palms, bamboo and ferns!
- Barbara Ann and Gary Andersen, 131 Kaiulani Street, Hilo, Hawaii 96720
- Phone/FAX (808) 934-8002, Toll-free: 1-800-627-8447
- E-mail: email@example.com URL: www.hilo-hawaii.com
- INN AT KULANIAPIA
- WHAT A WATERFALL! 15 minutes above downtown Hilo, you'll be in private country seclusion in elegant suites. The waterfall is 120' tall with a 300' wide pool at the base on 22 lush acres. Explore 2 miles of trails and 2 more waterfalls!
- Len and Jane Sutton, PO Box 11338, Hilo, Hawaii 96721
- Phone/FAX (808) 966-6373; Toll-free: 1-888-838-6373
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org URL: www.waterfall.net
- HOLMES' SWEET HOME BED & BREAKFAST
- Near Rainbow Falls and Boiling Pots in cool upper Hilo on a quiet cul-de-sac with a sweeping view of Hilo Bay and the city. Wheelchair accessible with private entrance and bath. You'll be a pampered family member from the minute you're welcomed!!
- John and Charlotte Holmes; 107 Kaula Street, Hilo, Hawaii 96720
- Phone (808) 961-9089; FAX (808) 934-0711
- E-mail: email@example.com URL: www.stayhawaii.com/holmes.html
- ARNOTT'S LODGE & HIKING ADVENTURES
- AFFORDABLE ACCOMMODATIONS & MEMORABLE EXPEDITIONS! A haven for budget travelers or those seeking no-frills hostel style accommodations. Adventures include: Volcanoes National Park Lava Hike, Mauna Kea Daylight Summit Adventure, Mauna Kea Sunset & Stargazing, The Ultimate Bike Challenge, and private customized expeditions (upon request).
- Douglas Arnott; 98 Apapane Road, Hilo, Hawaii 96720
- Phone (808) 969-7097, FAX (808) 961-9638
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org URL: www.arnottslodge.com
RESTAURANTS & OTHER LINKS
- A full range of appeteasers, salads, soup & salad bar, Mexican Fiesta, sandwiches, hamburgers, entrees, deserts, and beverages.
- YOU'LL LOVE THE PLACE . . . YOU'LL LOVE THE TASTE!
- 200 Kanoelehua Avenue, Hilo, Hawaii 96720
- (Volcano Highway 11 between the 0 and 1 mile markers)
- Phone (808) 935-7666
- KEN'S PANCAKE HOUSE
- GOOD FOOD, FRIENDLY SERVICE, GREAT VALUE! Hilo rolls up the sidewalks at 8PM. So after a movie or late at night, the favorite place for the locals is Ken's Pancake House. OPEN 24 HOURS . . . Ono Grinds . . . Anytime! Jamming since 1971!
- 1730 Kamehameha Ave, Hilo, Hawaii 96720
- (Where Banyan Drive becomes Volcano Highway 11at the "0" mile marker)
- Phone (808) 935-8711; FAX (808) 961-5124
- SEASIDE RESTAURANT