Say Hello to Hilo on the Big Island

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If you’re looking for a stark contrast from the sandy beaches and blazing sun on the west coast of the Big Island Hawaii, plan to head over to the Hilo area on the east side of the island for a completely different Hawaiian experience.


While the Kailua-Kona area on the west coast is all about the sun, beaches and water sports, the town of Hilo on the east side is ideal for those interested in ecology and botany. Like being transported back in time to a prehistoric rainforest, Hilo is home to an incredibly lush landscape with a huge variety of plant life and roaring waterfalls. Probably has something to do with the 150 or so inches of annual rainfall Hilo receives compared to only 40 inches on the rest of the island.

Hilo DriveHilo Trees

And boy did we get our share of rain on our visit in December! We had initially planned on staying for 5 days on the east coast, but after receiving only an hour or two reprieve from the rain on our first two days, and with the looming flood warning on the morning of our third day, we packed up early and headed back to the warmth and sunshine of Kailua-Kona.

Hilo Rainforest

Don’t get me wrong, Hilo and the east coast is a very memorable experience and I highly recommend a visit when on the Big Island. But unless you enjoy walking around in a constant downpour, a one or two day tour should suffice.

Hilo Rain

We really enjoyed exploring the thick jungle landscape and various waterfalls in the area including Akaka Falls State Park and Rainbow Falls, along with the awe-inspiring plants and exotic flowers in Liliuokalani Gardens.

Akaka FallsRainbow FallsHilo Jungle

We also did some fun and interesting snorkeling in the Kapoho Tide Pools. These little pools of various sizes are home to some pretty cool coral structures and colourful marine life.  It was really fun to climb from one pool to the next. Many are very shallow and great for snorkeling with children. And since you’re getting wet anyway, the rain didn’t really put a damper on our experience.

Kapoho PoolsKapoho Snorkeling

We also checked out Richardson Beach Park which is probably the best beach area on the east coast. It was overcast and the water was pretty rough when we visited, but we still really enjoyed hiking around the various lava islands along the shore. We loved the striking contrast between the jet black rock and the bright green vegetation.

Richardson Beach

The other good thing about visiting Hilo is that it puts you a bit closer to some other must see attractions like Mauna Kea Observatory, Volcanoes National Park and Waipo Valley. Stay tuned for future posts on some of our favorite hiking trails on the Big Island. For now, back to the cage.