Hawaii’s Big Island: Exploring Hilo

IMG_8248_LUCiDAs part of our perimeter tour of Hawaii’s Big Island, we spent a leisurely day driving from Volcano Village to Waimea via Hilo. We heard Hilo, and the Big Island in general, referred to as ‘old Hawaii,’ and it was certainly the experience I had in my mind. Laid back, welcoming and beautiful.

After sleeping in and enjoying a late-morning breakfast at our hotel in Volcano Village, we checked out and headed to Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Farm, just south of Hilo.

It was a good time of year to go– I can see how these tours can become huge tourist traps, and I was thankful we were basically the only people there and could stay as long as we wanted. It was easy to park and walk over to the factory to experience the self-guided tour.

There were placards of information as well as brief videos that explained what you were seeing as you walked along looking in the windows at the production floor below.

There wasn’t much taking place in the factory– a few people working and machines running– so there wasn’t a great deal to see. The information also felt pretty high-level and was more about the varieties of nuts they manufacture and sell versus the actual manufacturing process, which is what we were interested in.

Also, since it was self-guided, there was no one to answer our questions about how the nuts are grown and harvested. Overall, it was just ok– if it had been busy or if we had to travel out of our way to go, I would probably have been disappointed.

As it was, we were able to navigate the tour easily and fairly quickly, taste test some delicious coated nuts, and buy and ship some huge bags of the roasted and salted nuts to our families. The latter made the stop worth it!

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After purchasing a giant bag of roasted nuts for our own snacking pleasure, we headed north toward Hilo and our second stop of the morning, Rainbow Falls.

We had an easy drive to the falls, making our way around Hilo and through several residential neighborhoods on our way. There weren’t many people or cars out, and when we arrived at the park we were able to get a parking spot right away.

It was a short walk from our call over to the falls overlook. Since it was still early, the sun wasn’t completely lighting up the falls and causing the big arching rainbow effect we saw in pictures online. However, it was creating some fun mini rainbows in the mist where the falls splashed into the pool below. We were able to walk along the overlook and over to a viewing area to see the falls from a few different angles before setting out on the trail to the top of the falls.

The trail was easy and along a wooded area with neat flowers and plants. We spent some time at the top of the falls and exploring the woods and river leading up to the falls before heading back to the car.

We had arrived at the falls at just the right time. By the end of our stay, several tour buses pulled in with people piling out. Luckily we seemed to be a step ahead and were ready to check out downtown Hilo.

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I didn’t have too many things on our list for downtown Hilo– I wanted to visit some of the parks in town and Brian had a lunch recommendation from a work colleague whose son lives in Hilo.

We started at Wailoa River State Park, which is a beautiful park along the water that also has its own rivers and lake. The sky was clear and bright blue as we walked the grounds, Mauna Kea looming in the backdrop.

We spent time taking in the lush grass, palm trees and flowers, as well as stopping for a little while to read about Hawaii’s history near King Kamehameha’s statue.

At the car, Brian noticed that we had managed to pickup a hitchhiker, probably while we were at Rainbow Falls. I took a few pictures before we both attempted to scare him off our trunk– no such luck!

We tried several tactics but were afraid we might scare him under the car where he would get hurt so we gave up. He had ridden safely from the falls to the park so we thought he would be ok on the very short drive over to our lunch spot.

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I hadn’t found any lunch spot in Hilo leading up to our trip so I was excited when Brian mentioned that his colleague’s son had recommended the poke at Suisan Fish Market.

There was a fair lunch crowd when we arrived, which was fine because the menu was a little overwhelming! We decided on a couple of small containers of the honey poke and the sesame seed poke and took them to a small table just outside.

They were both delicious, and it was so relaxing sitting in the shade, people watching, and enjoying our lunch. I was glad it was recommended to us, and I certainly recommend it myself!

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After lunch we walked around the nearby area, taking in the views of the volcano and ocean. It was so beautiful and peaceful! I could have sat in the shade and just taken it in all day.

In addition to walking around the area we also drove through Liliuokalani Gardens, another beautiful city park right along the water. There were tons of people walking and playing in the park as well as swimming and paddle boarding in the water.

It was a gorgeous day to be outside and making our drive along the eastern coast of the Big Island. I was struck by how lush everything was around Hilo compared to the lava fields in the southern part of the island or even the coffee plantations and rocky coastline of the western part of the island.

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Our last planned stop along our drive up the coast was Akaka Falls State Park. The drive to the park took us up and away from sea level past several produce stands selling coconut water.

We wound around to the park and made our way to the trail head for our afternoon hike. The falls are part of a loop trail, and we decided to take the long way around, ending with the Akaka Falls before returning to the trail head.

The wooded walk was easy and I enjoyed stopping to check out the patches of bamboo and the interesting flowers. It was fairly warm out and I had to keep taking my sunglasses on and off as we came in and out of the sunshine.

While the growth kept us from getting a good look at Kahuna Falls, the path opened up and you could very clearly see Akaka Falls. The sun wasn’t in the right direction for us to get great pictures, but seeing the 422-foot free-falling water in person was impressive.

After all of the activities the previous couple of days, it was really nice having a low-key day to explore Hilo and its surrounding parks and drive the eastern coast. What a beautiful segment of our Big Island adventures!

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4 thoughts on “Hawaii’s Big Island: Exploring Hilo

  1. Pingback: Hawaii: Downtown Honolulu – Heather's Compass

  2. Pingback: Hawaii: Oahu’s North Shore – Heather's Compass

  3. Pingback: Hawaii’s Big Island: Sunset on Mauna Kea | Heather's Compass

  4. Pingback: Hawaii’s Big Island: North Island Adventures | Heather's Compass

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