On the Big Island of Hawaii, Hilo and Kailua-Kona are the bigger cities with international airports. The smart Hawaii itinerary will include both cities since they are so different with a fair distance and a lot of sights to see between them. Hilo ended up being my favorite side of the island so make sure you don’t sleep on exploring the whole of the Big Island on your next Hawaiian vacation.
My mom and I flew into Kona (on American from mainland US) and out of Hilo (on Southwest to Oahu for more vacation!) so we were able to see the vast majority of the Big Island on our week-long jaunt here. The new Southwest inter-island flights are really key for making a multiple island Hawaiian vacation affordable.
Hilo was surprisingly my favorite of the two main tourist spots. Kailua-Kona was more touristy but with less fun restaurants as it is mostly condos. Hilo seemed like a place where more Hawaiians live, where there is more industry, and had some amazing natural sights.
Hilo is much cheaper than the Kona side of the island but is still pricier than most beach destinations. The Castle Hilo Hawaiian Hotel fit the bill for our needs with great bay views, very near to the Banyan Tree park, and within a mile of the cute downtown Farmer’s Market, shops, and restaurants.
The Castle Hilo Hawaiian Hotel is near the Tsunami Clock of Doom which stopped/broke at 1:04am when the big tsunami hit on May 23, 1960 after a giant earthquake off the coast of Chile, killing 61 Hilo residents.
Most of the land in the area hit by the tsunami are parks now except for the beach hotels, including ours.The clock stands as a memorial to those victims from the 1943 and 1960 tsunamis.
Mom in her beach chair at the empty pool; it was a little cloudy that day:
Instead of a cloudy pool day, we opted to get out and explore in our rental car. Mom and I discussed going to a waterfall but I put in the wrong waterfall into Google Maps and ended up at an even better waterfall than the one I meant to drive to, a happy accident! Akaka Falls was beautiful and had two short, albeit steep, trails to get you to the main event. The drive back down to the main road might have even been the coolest part. But no photos because I was driving.
There are also caves to explore in Hilo proper. They were only okay in my claustrophobic opinion but very sparkly.
Rainbow Falls are in Hilo and easy to access (no hiking). Parking is difficult here at Rainbow Falls but on the second attempt to visit we were successful. It did not help that there was a cruise ship in port that day.
The downtown area had great food and shops. We found a used bookstore, Big Island Bookbuyers, that was amazing and not surprisingly ended up walking out with 5 used books. The nice lady owner helped me find all Stephen King books hiding in the back (my latest book obsession). After all that book buying, I ate yet another ahi tuna poke bowl. I cannot get enough of these in Hawaii.
The Hilo Farmers Market was my favorite place in Hilo. On Saturday morning we bought so many fun snacks, fruits, and coffee for me. I would be here every Saturday if I lived here. But apparently I did not take any photos, so just take my word for it and spend your Saturday morning here buying all the tropical fruits and homemade snacks from the locals.
More from Oahu coming up next!
Reader Question: Are you a used bookstore fan? What are you reading now?