25 Of The Best Things to Do in Hilo, Hawaii (2024 Edition)

Trying to find great activities and attractions in the Orchid Capital? Our guide to the best things to do in Hilo, Hawaii is all you need to plan the perfect trip!

If you’re dreaming of a tropical escape that’s as vibrant as it is serene, welcome to Hilo – a hidden gem nestled on the lush eastern coast of the Big Island, Hawaii. From cascading waterfalls to fiery volcanoes and bustling markets, Hilo boasts a kaleidoscope of experiences that are sure to awaken your senses and leave you utterly enchanted.

Picture yourself standing before the breathtaking Rainbow Falls, where the water seems to descend from the heavens, surrounded by lush greenery that whispers secrets of ancient legends. But that’s just the beginning.

Ever wanted to witness the raw power of Mother Nature? Look no further than the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where fiery lava flows and molten landscapes tell a story of the Earth’s ever-changing canvas.

And for those with a penchant for all things local and flavorful, the Hilo Farmers Market beckons – a vibrant tapestry of colors and aromas that paint a portrait of the island’s rich agricultural heritage.

So, fasten your seatbelts, because we’re about to dive into a whirlwind tour of the top things to do in Hilo that will leave you with memories as radiant as a Hawaiian sunset.

Read Next: Check out all of the other great places to visit in Hawaii.

Table of Contents

The Best Things to Do in Hilo, Hawaii

Hilo, located on the Big Island of Hawaii, offers a wide range of activities for travelers to enjoy. Here’s a list of the top 25 activities to see and do in Hilo:

Rainbow Falls: Admire the beautiful 80-foot waterfall and take in the scenic surroundings

Rainbow Falls, a sublime masterpiece of nature’s artistry, ranks among Hilo’s most captivating attractions. Cascading gracefully amidst lush greenery, this 80-foot waterfall derives its name from the rainbows often visible in the misty spray.

The scene is truly enchanting, with the falls framed by dramatic volcanic cliffs and the Wailuku River flowing beneath. The serene ambiance of the viewing area allows visitors to appreciate both the majesty of the falls and the tranquility of the surrounding landscape.

As a quintessential postcard image of Hilo, Rainbow Falls offers an indelible memory of the island’s natural beauty and is an absolute must-see on any traveler’s list of things to do in Hilo.

Botanical Gardens: Visit the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden or Nani Mau Gardens for diverse plant life

Immersing yourself in the enchanting beauty of Hilo’s botanical gardens, such as the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden and Nani Mau Gardens, is an enriching experience that adds a touch of tranquility to the list of things to do in the city.

These gardens offer a lush and vibrant sanctuary, featuring an astonishing variety of tropical plants, rare orchids, and exotic flora from around the world. Strolling through winding paths shaded by towering trees and fragrant blossoms, visitors are transported to a realm of serenity and natural wonder.

Whether exploring hidden trails or simply pausing to marvel at the intricate colors and shapes of each bloom, Hilo’s botanical gardens provide a respite for the senses, offering a chance to reconnect with the innate beauty of the world’s diverse plant life.

Read Next: Plan your Hawaiian vacation with our suggested Hawaiian itinerary.

Hilo Farmers Market: Browse local produce, crafts, and foods at this bustling market

Whether you’re savoring exotic fruits, sampling mouthwatering pastries, or perusing unique crafts, the Hilo Farmers Market encapsulates the essence of Hilo’s local spirit and offers an immersive and delightful journey through the island’s culinary and artisanal treasures.

The Hilo Farmers Market stands as a vibrant hub of local culture and culinary delights, making it an essential stop for those seeking authentic experiences and flavors in Hilo.

Nestled in the heart of the city, this bustling market offers a kaleidoscope of colors, scents, and flavors, with vendors showcasing a diverse array of fresh produce, tropical fruits, handcrafted goods, and delectable treats.

The market’s lively atmosphere invites exploration and interaction, providing a direct connection between visitors and the island’s rich agricultural heritage.

Akaka Falls State Park: Witness the stunning Akaka Falls and stroll through the lush rainforest trails

When visiting Hilo, a must-see destination is Akaka Falls State Park, an enchanting haven that encapsulates the raw beauty of Hawaii’s lush rainforests. A short walk through vibrant foliage leads to the awe-inspiring Akaka Falls, a cascading 442-foot waterfall surrounded by verdant cliffs and exotic flora.

As you stroll along the well-maintained trails, you’ll be immersed in the tranquility of the surroundings, the scent of tropical blooms filling the air.

With its captivating vistas and serene ambiance, Akaka Falls State Park exemplifies the essence of things to do in Hilo, offering travelers a glimpse into the island’s natural wonder and captivating landscapes.

Akaka Falls State Park
Immerse yourself in the lush landscapes of Akaka Falls State Park!

Liliuokalani Gardens: Enjoy the tranquility of these Japanese-style gardens with koi ponds and bridges

Liliuokalani Gardens, a harmonious fusion of Japanese aesthetics and Hawaiian charm, graces Hilo’s landscape as a serene oasis and a vital component of things to do in the city.

These immaculately designed gardens invite visitors to wander along winding pathways adorned with traditional pagodas, arched bridges, and tranquil koi-filled ponds. With Mount Hualalai as a backdrop and Hilo Bay stretching before it, the gardens offer a contemplative space to unwind and reconnect with nature.

Whether strolling the moon bridge or finding solace in the Zen gardens, Liliuokalani Gardens encapsulates the essence of Hilo’s multifaceted allure, embodying both cultural enrichment and scenic tranquility.

Read Next: Check out all of these great things to do in Oahu.

Wailuku River State Park: Discover the Boiling Pots and Pe’epe’e Falls within this park

Wailuku River State Park, home to the enchanting Boiling Pots and Pe’epe’e Falls, is a testament to the raw power and beauty of nature, enriching the list of things to do in Hilo. The Boiling Pots, a series of churning pools formed by ancient lava flows, create a mesmerizing spectacle as the Wailuku River rushes through them.

Nearby, Pe’epe’e Falls plunges dramatically into a pool, surrounded by lush vegetation and volcanic rock formations. Visitors can explore the park’s walking paths and viewpoints to fully appreciate the dynamic forces that have shaped this remarkable landscape.

The park’s serene ambiance and captivating scenery make it a must-visit destination, allowing travelers to connect with the natural wonders that define the essence of Hilo’s allure.

Coconut Island: Relax at this park and small island offering great views of Hilo Bay

Coconut Island, a serene gem nestled in Hilo Bay, presents a tranquil retreat for both locals and travelers, offering a quintessential escape and enriching the list of things to do in Hilo.

Connected to the mainland by a footbridge, this park boasts panoramic ocean views, lush green spaces, and leisurely walking paths. Its calm waters and shallow tide pools make it an inviting spot for swimming, picnicking, or simply soaking in the tropical ambiance.

As the gentle waves lap against the shore, Coconut Island embodies the relaxed and idyllic essence of Hilo, providing a perfect respite for those seeking both rejuvenation and a genuine connection with the natural beauty that defines the island.

Related: Read this post to learn about other awesome things to do on the Big Island.

Carlsmith Beach Park (Four Mile Beach): Swim in clear waters and snorkel with sea turtles

Known as one of the must-visit things to do in Hilo, Carlsmith Beach Park, also known as Four Mile Beach, offers a captivating blend of natural beauty and underwater wonder. This serene beach is renowned for its calm, clear waters that invite visitors to swim, snorkel, and revel in the tranquility of the ocean.

What makes Carlsmith Beach Park truly enchanting is the opportunity to snorkel alongside graceful sea turtles, an experience that resonates deeply with nature enthusiasts and travelers seeking an authentic marine encounter.

With its picturesque surroundings and the chance to connect with Hawaii’s marine life up close, a visit to Carlsmith Beach Park is a quintessential part of the Hilo experience.

Imiloa Astronomy Center: Learn about astronomy and Hawaiian culture through interactive exhibits

Enrich your Hilo experience with a visit to the Imiloa Astronomy Center, where the marvels of the cosmos intertwine with Hawaiian culture. This captivating center bridges the gap between ancient Polynesian navigation techniques and modern astronomy, offering a fascinating insight into the cultural significance of the stars in Hawaiian mythology.

Through interactive exhibits, planetarium shows, and educational displays, visitors can delve into the mysteries of the universe while also gaining an appreciation for the deep connection that Hawaiians have with the night sky.

Imiloa not only ignites a sense of wonder but also serves as a tribute to the intersection of science and heritage, making it an engaging and enlightening stop for travelers intrigued by the celestial wonders above.

Mauna Kea Summit: Take a guided tour to the summit for breathtaking stargazing

Venturing to the summit of Mauna Kea, one of the world’s premier stargazing sites, is an awe-inspiring experience that solidifies its place among the top things to do in Hilo. Rising majestically over the Hawaiian landscape, Mauna Kea’s summit reaches above the clouds, providing an exceptional vantage point for observing the night sky.

At the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station, visitors can acclimate to the altitude and learn about the observatories atop the mountain. As night falls, the astronomical spectacle unfolds, offering an unobstructed view of celestial wonders.

With its clear air and minimal light pollution, Mauna Kea offers a captivating and humbling encounter with the universe, making it an unforgettable highlight of any visit to Hilo.

Read Next: Plan a trip to Maui and enjoy all of these great things to do!

Mauna Kea
Enjoy surreal views from the top of Mauna Kea.

Mokupapapa Discovery Center: Explore marine life and the ecosystems of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

The Mokupapapa Discovery Center, a unique and captivating attraction in Hilo, invites visitors to dive into the extraordinary marine ecosystems of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Through interactive exhibits and immersive displays, the center showcases the remarkable biodiversity, cultural significance, and conservation efforts of this remote and protected region.

From learning about the diverse marine life that calls these waters home to understanding the delicate balance of the ecosystem, the Mokupapapa Discovery Center offers an educational and enriching experience that underscores the importance of preserving our oceans.

As a reflection of Hilo’s commitment to both environmental awareness and cultural heritage, this center provides a meaningful and enlightening addition to the list of things to do in the city.

Kaumana Caves Park: Venture into lava tubes and caves created by past volcanic activity

Kaumana Caves Park, a hidden wonder near Hilo, beckons adventurers to explore its subterranean mysteries. The park features a lava tube system formed by ancient volcanic activity, offering visitors a unique opportunity to journey through these natural passages.

Equipped with sturdy shoes and a sense of wonder, explorers can traverse the cool and dimly lit tunnels, marveling at the intricate rock formations and eerie beauty.

Kaumana Caves Park provides an intriguing glimpse into the geological history of the area and is an exciting addition to the array of things to do in Hilo, presenting an underground adventure that captivates both the curious and the adventurous at heart.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Explore the dramatic landscapes, walk through lava tubes, and view the active Kilauea volcano

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park stands as an unparalleled testament to the raw power and dynamic beauty of nature, making it a pinnacle of exploration in Hilo. This expansive park encompasses a surreal landscape defined by rugged lava fields, volcanic craters, and the ever-evolving Kilauea volcano.

Visitors can venture through ancient lava tubes, witness the billowing plumes from Halema’uma’u Crater, and marvel at the intricate patterns etched by molten lava. The park is a living laboratory of geological wonder, offering an opportunity to witness the earth’s transformative processes in action.

Unquestionably one of the most remarkable things to do in Hilo, a guided tour or an independent visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park promises an immersive encounter with the forces that have shaped these islands over millions of years.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
See lava flowing with your own eyes at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park!

Lyman Museum & Mission House: Explore Hawaiian culture, natural history, and artifacts in this historic museum 

The Lyman Museum in Hilo stands as a captivating repository of Hawaiian history, culture, and natural science, enriching the list of things to do in the city. This cultural treasure trove offers a diverse array of exhibits, ranging from fascinating artifacts of Hawaii’s past to enthralling displays on volcanic activity and the islands’ unique ecosystems.

Set within a historic building, the museum provides an immersive journey through time, allowing visitors to explore the rich tapestry of Hawaiian heritage and gain insights into the geological forces that have shaped the islands.

With its commitment to education and preservation, the Lyman Museum is a must-visit destination for those seeking a deeper understanding of Hilo’s captivating story and its place within the broader context of Hawaii’s dynamic evolution.

Snorkeling at Richardson Ocean Park: Discover vibrant marine life and coral reefs close to the shore

Immerse yourself in a vibrant aquatic realm by embarking on a snorkeling adventure at Richardson Beach Park, an essential highlight of any Hilo journey. Nestled within a picturesque cove, the park’s black sand beaches and crystalline waters provide an idyllic setting for exploring the underwater wonders of the Pacific.

As you glide through the gentle waves, you’ll encounter a kaleidoscope of marine life, from colorful tropical fish to intricate coral formations. A true sanctuary for snorkel enthusiasts, Richardson Beach Park promises an unforgettable experience that allows you to connect with the captivating marine ecosystems that define Hawaii’s coastal charm.

Paddleboarding and Kayaking: Enjoy calm waters for paddleboarding or kayaking in Hilo Bay

Embarking on a paddleboarding or kayaking escapade in Hilo Bay offers a unique vantage point to appreciate the coastal beauty and tranquility that the area is renowned for. Gliding atop the gentle waves, whether on a stand-up paddleboard or in a kayak, grants you a serene perspective of the lush shoreline, framed by swaying palms and volcanic landscapes.

Paddle at your own pace, explore hidden coves, and perhaps even encounter marine life such as sea turtles gracefully swimming beneath you. This aquatic adventure not only presents an opportunity for physical activity but also allows you to forge a deeper connection with the ocean’s serenity and the untamed allure of Hilo’s natural surroundings.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo: Visit the only tropical rainforest zoo in the United States and see a variety of animals

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo, nestled in the heart of Hilo, offers a unique and captivating experience for visitors seeking to engage with a diverse array of wildlife and natural beauty. As the only tropical zoo in the United States, Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo is home to an assortment of animals, including exotic birds, playful primates, and endangered native species.

The lush surroundings mimic their natural habitats, creating an immersive environment that educates and entertains. With its focus on conservation and education, a visit to this remarkable zoo is not only one of the most intriguing things to do in Hilo but also a chance to foster a deeper appreciation for the world’s rich biodiversity.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach: Experience the unique black sand and possibly spot sea turtles

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, an iconic natural wonder situated near Hilo, offers a striking contrast to the traditional golden shores. Its shimmering black sands, a result of volcanic activity, create a unique and captivating landscape.

As part of the Punalu’u Beach Park, this beach not only invites relaxation and scenic contemplation but also presents a chance to witness Hawaii’s remarkable marine life. Green sea turtles are often spotted basking on the beach, adding to the beach’s allure.

Exploring this rare gem and its distinct beauty is undoubtedly one of the most compelling things to do in Hilo, providing an opportunity to immerse yourself in the island’s geological history and its intricate relationship with the ocean.

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach
Punalu’u Black Sand Beach is a unique natural wonder.

Pacific Tsunami Museum: Learn about the history of tsunamis and their impact on Hawaii

The Pacific Tsunami Museum in Hilo stands as a testament to resilience and the indomitable spirit of a community marked by history’s upheavals. Exploring this museum is not only a compelling addition to the list of things to do in Hilo but also a poignant journey through the region’s past.

With exhibits that delve into the devastating impact of tsunamis on Hawaii, the museum offers insight into the resilience of communities and the scientific efforts to understand and predict these natural disasters.

By immersing oneself in the stories of survival and recovery, visitors gain a deeper appreciation for the island’s strength and the importance of preparedness in the face of nature’s forces.

Helicopter Tour: Take a thrilling helicopter tour over Hilo and the surrounding volcanoes for breathtaking views

Taking a helicopter tour over Hilo and its surrounding volcanic landscapes is an exhilarating journey that unveils the true majesty of this Hawaiian paradise. As the helicopter gracefully soars above, you’ll be treated to a bird’s-eye view of the dramatic contrasts that define the region—vast, verdant rainforests, cascading waterfalls, and the awe-inspiring silhouette of active volcanoes.

The experience offers an unparalleled perspective, allowing you to witness the raw power of nature as molten lava flows into the ocean, and offering an unforgettable opportunity to capture breathtaking photographs of the rugged coastline, lush valleys, and the vibrant heart of Hilo itself.

A helicopter tour is not only an adventure but a visual feast that will etch the beauty and energy of Hilo into your memory forever.

Hamakua Heritage Corridor: Drive the scenic route along the Hamakua Coast for stunning coastal views

Embarking on a journey through the Hamakua Heritage Corridor is a captivating way to uncover the scenic treasures and hidden gems that characterize the Hilo region. This winding route takes travelers through lush landscapes, cascading waterfalls, and charming small towns, showcasing the natural beauty and rich history of Hawaii’s Big Island.

As you wind your way through the verdant terrain, you’ll be treated to breathtaking vistas of rolling hills, dramatic cliffs, and the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean.

Exploring the Hamakua Heritage Corridor is not just a drive; it’s an immersive experience that allows you to immerse yourself in the spirit of Hilo and its surroundings, offering a diverse tapestry of sights and stories that reflect the heart and soul of the island.

East Hawaii Cultural Center: Experience local art and cultural exhibitions in Hilo

The East Hawaii Cultural Center, nestled within Hilo’s vibrant arts scene, serves as a dynamic hub for creativity, fostering a deeper connection with the local culture and enhancing the spectrum of things to do in the city.

Housed within a historic building, this center hosts a diverse range of exhibitions, performances, workshops, and cultural events that showcase the artistic talents of the community and beyond. From contemporary art installations to traditional cultural displays, the center offers an immersive experience that invites visitors to explore the rich tapestry of Hilo’s creative expression.

By engaging with the East Hawaii Cultural Center, visitors gain an enriched understanding of the city’s artistic heritage and its role in shaping the dynamic cultural landscape of Hilo.

Downtown Hilo: Take a leisurely walk through the historic downtown area, lined with charming shops, art galleries, and cafes

Wander through the heart of Hilo’s captivating essence as you explore the historic charm of downtown Hilo, a quintessential entry on the list of things to do in Hilo. With its enchanting blend of local shops, art galleries, and cozy cafes, downtown Hilo invites you to stroll its streets and uncover a tapestry of cultural treasures.

From vibrant farmers markets showcasing an array of fresh produce and crafts to the intricate designs of local artisans, every corner reveals a piece of Hilo’s identity.

Whether you’re savoring local cuisine, admiring unique artwork, or simply relishing the authentic ambiance, downtown Hilo presents a captivating experience that captures the spirit of this coastal Hawaiian gem.

Downtown Hilo
Downtown Hilo is full of colorful buildings and captivating architecture.

Hilo Brewing Company: Visit this local brewery to enjoy craft beers inspired by the flavors of Hawaii. Try their unique brews and soak in the laid-back atmosphere

Whether you’re a craft beer enthusiast or simply seeking an authentic taste of Hilo’s essence, the Hilo Brewing Company is a local gem that promises a delightful and flavorful experience that beautifully embodies the city’s welcoming spirit.

Immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture of downtown Hilo at the Hilo Brewing Company, a focal point of the city’s social scene and a must-visit during your exploration of the area.

This charming brewery captures the essence of Hawaii in its craft beers, infusing each brew with the flavors and spirit of the islands. As you step into the laid-back atmosphere of the Hilo Brewing Company, you’ll discover not only a range of unique and delicious beers but also a community hub where visitors and locals come together to savor exceptional flavors, engage in lively conversations, and create lasting memories.

Hilo Hot Ponds: Soak in thermally heated pools created by volcanic activity

Indulge in pure relaxation amidst the natural wonders of Hilo at the Hilo Hot Ponds, a must-experience attraction on your list of things to do in Hilo. Nestled in a lush tropical setting, these thermally heated pools offer a unique opportunity to soak in soothing warm waters while surrounded by the beauty of the Hawaiian landscape.

Created by volcanic activity, these hot ponds provide not only a rejuvenating escape but also a glimpse into the powerful geological forces that shaped this island. Whether you’re seeking tranquility or a chance to connect with nature, the Hilo Hot Ponds provide an idyllic oasis to unwind and embrace the serenity of this enchanting destination.

Explore the best of the Big Island on this amazing day trip!

Where to Stay

High-End Luxury Hotel: Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo Bay 

Positioned near Coconut Island and Liliuokalani Park, this luxury hotel offers stylish accommodations and oceanfront views. With a golf course, outdoor pool, and contemporary comforts, the Grand Naniloa Hotel is an excellent choice for travelers looking for upscale relaxation.

Mid-Range Family Accommodation: Hilo Bay Hale Bed and Breakfast

The Hilo Bay Hale Bed and Breakfast is a charming bed and breakfast that offers comfortable and spacious rooms with a family-friendly atmosphere. Located near Hilo’s attractions, it provides a convenient base for exploring while serving a delicious breakfast to start your day right.

Budget Hostel/Hotel: Arnott’s Lodge and Hiking Adventures

Combining budget accommodations with adventure, this lodge offers affordable dormitory-style rooms and private options. Arnott’s Lodge and Hiking Adventures also organizes hiking tours, making it an ideal pick for budget-conscious travelers looking to explore Hilo’s natural beauty.

Wrapping Up

As our journey through the enchanting wonders of Hilo comes to a close, we’re left with memories that are as vivid as the colors of a Hawaiian rainbow. From the awe-inspiring cascade of Rainbow Falls to the fiery spectacle of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hilo’s natural marvels have a way of etching themselves into our hearts.

And let’s not forget the lively rhythm of the Hilo Farmers Market, where the island’s flavors and culture converge, reminding us that every corner of this town holds a piece of Hawaii’s soul.

So whether you find yourself lost in the midst of waterfalls, wandering the ancient trails of volcanoes, or savoring the vibrant produce at the market, Hilo has woven its magic into your travel tale. It’s a place where the forces of nature and the essence of community dance together in perfect harmony.

As we bid aloha to this captivating destination, let’s carry the spirit of Hilo with us – a reminder that adventure, beauty, and connection are always waiting, just around the corner, ready to embrace us with open arms and the warm embrace of the Aloha spirit.

DISCLAIMER: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means if you book accommodation, tours or buy a product, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help us keep creating more free travel content to help people plan their holidays and adventures. We only recommend the best accommodations, tours and products that ourselves or our fantastic editorial team have personally experienced, and regularly review these. Thanks for your support, kind friend!

About the Author - Alesha and Jarryd

Hey! We are Alesha and Jarryd, the award-winning writers and professional photographers behind this blog. We have been travelling the world together since 2008, with a passion for adventure travel and sustainable tourism. Through our stories and images we promote exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations and fascinating cultures as we go. As one of the world's leading travel journalists, our content and adventures have been featured by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, CNN, BBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Washington Post, Yahoo!, BuzzFeed, Channel 7, Channel 10, ABC, The Guardian, and plenty other publications. Follow our journey in real time on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

Leave a comment