The oldest city in the Hawaiian archipelago
Hilo is the county seat of the County of Hawaii and positioned on the windward (east) side of the island. A scenic drive around Hilo along the rugged Hamakua coastline is considered to be one of the most interesting routes to explore. East of the downtown core, the port of Hilo is safeguarded by a seawall stretching about three miles and providing a picturesque view of the surrounding area. The town overlooks Hilo Bay, situated upon two shield volcanoes; Mauna Loa, an active volcano, and Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano upon which are sited some of the world's most important ground-based astronomical observatories. Hilo is home to the University of Hawaii, which offers an exquisite oceanic program.
Circa 1100 AD, the first Hilo inhabitants arrived, bringing with them Polynesian knowledge and traditions. Although archaeological evidence is scant, oral history has many references to people living along the Wailuku and Wailoa Rivers. Hilo features a tropical rainforest climate, with substantial rainfall throughout the course of the year and this makes it the third wettest designated city in the United States behind the southeast Alaskan cities of Ketchikan and Yakutat and one of the wettest in the world. Being the oldest city in the Hawaiian archipelago, Hilo has a significant tourism section. Hilo is home to Hawaii's only tsunami museum, mostly dedicated to the understanding of the 1946 Pacific Tsunami and notable for the banyan trees planted by Babe Ruth and Amelia Earhart and many other famous celebrities. It is also home to the Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo.
Interesting places to visit include:
- The East Hawaii Cultural Center (EHCC) is a cultural center in Hilo, Hawaii, that has regular art exhibits and holds workshops and classes. Administered by the East Hawaii Cultural Council, an umbrella group of local arts organizations, the Center is housed in a historic former police station facing Kalakaua Park.
- The Lyman House Memorial Museum, also known as the Lyman Museum, is a Hilo, Hawaii-based natural history museum founded in 1931 in the Lyman family mission house, originally built in 1838.
- Pacific Tsunami Museum is a museum in Hilo dedicated to the history of the April 1, 1946 Pacific tsunami and the May 23, 1960 Chilean tsunami which devastated much of the east coast of the Big Island, especially Hilo. The museum also has a mission to educate people in general about tsunamis, including the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. It is located at 130 Kamehameha Avenue, Hilo.
Banyan Drive is a tree-lined street at the shoreline of Hilo. It is known as the "Hilo Walk of Fame" for the banyan trees planted by celebrities such as Richard Nixon, Polly Mooney, and George Herman "Babe" Ruth. These trees have withstood several tsunamis that have devastated the town. The drive circles the Waiakea Peninsula, near the Hilo International Airport.
- Panaʻewa Rainforest Zoo, located in Hilo, is a small 12-acre (4.9 ha) zoo is the only one in the United States located in a rainforest. The Zoo has more than 60 species of animals on display, and the grounds feature more than 40 different species of plants, flowers, and trees. The most popular attraction of the Zoo is a male white Bengal Tiger named Namaste' (named after the traditional Namaste greeting).
Each year, with festivities beginning on Easter, the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo draws the finest performing Hula Halau (hula troupes) from throughout the world, and brings together many people in celebration of the Hawaiian culture. The event is called the "Olympics of Hula". The passionate student of hula, the Hawaiian dance is much more than movement of body or precision in step. Hula is an all-encompassing way of life - a poetic sharing of both story, spirit and a creative ever-transformative art during which the mana - spiritual power grows. Hula is the language of the heart, therefore the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people." Merrie Monarch
Festival will be March 31 - April 6.