In comparison to Kailua-Kona, Hilo is often described as "the old Hawaii." With significantly fewer visitors than residents, more historic buildings, and a much stronger identity as a long-established community, this quaint, traditional town does seem more authentic. It stretches from the banks of the Wailuku River to Hilo Bay, where a few hotels line stately Banyan Drive. The characteristic old buildings that make up Hilo's downtown have been spruced up as part of a revitalization effort. View more
Nearby, the 30-acre Liliuokalani Gardens, a formal Japanese garden with arched bridges and waterways, was created in the early 1900s to honor the area's Japanese sugar-plantation laborers. It also became a safety zone after a devastating tsunami swept away businesses and homes on May 22, 1960, killing 60 people.
With a population of almost 50,000 in the entire district, Hilo is the fourth-largest city in the state and home to the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Although it is the center of government and commerce for the island, Hilo is clearly a residential town. Mansions with yards of lush tropical foliage share streets with older, single-walled plantation-era houses with rusty corrugated roofs. It's a friendly community, populated primarily by descendants of the contract laborers—Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Puerto Rican, and Portuguese—brought in to work the sugarcane fields during the 1800s.
One of the main reasons visitors have tended to steer clear of the east side of the island is its weather. With an average rainfall of 130 inches per year, it's easy to see why Hilo's yards are so green and its buildings so weatherworn. Outside of town, the Hilo District has rain forests and waterfalls, a terrain unlike the hot and dry white-sand beaches of the Kohala Coast. But when the sun does shine—usually part of nearly every day—the town sparkles, and, during winter, the snow glistens on Mauna Kea, 25 miles in the distance. Best of all is when the mists fall and the sun shines at the same time, leaving behind the colorful arches that earn Hilo its nickname: the City of Rainbows.
The Merrie Monarch Hula Festival takes place in Hilo every year during the second week of April, and dancers and admirers flock to the city from all over the world. If you're planning a stay in Hilo during this time, be sure to book your room well in advance.
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Experience the unique natural beauty of one of Hawaii's most spectacular sites during this exciting helicopter tour of the legendary Kilauea volcano.
The 'Big Island' is the youngest of the Hawaiian Islands and remains in a stage of constant creation due to the constant flow of hot lava from the Kilauea Volcano into the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean. Whilst a trip to the Volcano National Park is a fascinating experience, it is only from the air that the dramatic lava spills blocked off to foot and vehicular traffic can be viewed.
Depart the pier for the brief transfer to the Hilo Airport. After a safety briefing, head to the departure pad and board your state-of-the-art helicopter for approximately 45 minutes of spectacular aerial sightseeing.
Your expert pilot is also a State of Hawaii certified tour guide, and with the helicopter's two-way communication between pilot and guests, your exploration of Madame Pele's spectacular, fiery wonders can be a powerful learning experience. Tour emphasis is on the most current areas of volcanic activity. Search out lava flows and view black-sand beaches, lush tropical rain forests and small cascading waterfalls while being enriched with fascinating facts about the history and culture of Hawaii.
At the conclusion of your flight, the helicopter returns to Hilo Airport. A personalised video/DVD is available for purchase before your transfer vehicle returns you to the pier.
Please note: This tour requires a minimal amount of walking with steps to get in and out of the coach and helicopter. It is suitable for guests with limited mobility, able to manoeuvre the steps. This tour operates in a 6-passenger, air-conditioned Super ASTAR helicopter with large windows for exceptional viewing. A minimum/maximum of six guests is required for exclusive use of the helicopter and the price is per person. Seat assignment will be made according to weight and is at the discretion of the pilot. Not all seats are adjacent to a window. Guests weighing 250 pounds (113 kilograms/17.8 stone) and over may be required to purchase an extra seat at a 50% discount on the tour price; empty seat purchase is required to safely balance the aircraft. Guests and personal belongings will be weighed upon check-in. A manifest with guest's names and weights must be provided by the Shore Concierge Manager prior to arrival in Hilo. Tour routes and sights visited may vary according to wind and weather conditions, and minimum participation requirements being met. Volcanic activity varies hourly; the flight time is approximately 45 minutes. This tour may be cancelled on short notice. Vehicle type can change. Guests wishing to purchase a DVD should bring local currency or a credit card.
Discover why Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is often acclaimed by visitors as 'the most beautiful area in Hawaii' during this half-day tour.
Meet your driver on the pier and board an air-conditioned van for the journey through Liliuokalani Garden and Banyan Drive. Listen as your local guide takes you on a scenic and narrated tour through Hilo's Japanese Garden, the Hilo Bay waterfront and the lush Hamakua Coast to The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden.
At the Garden, a map is provided to help you enjoy 1.5 hours of exploring on your own, photographing or simply relaxing amid the beauty. The Garden was created and designed by one man, Dan Lutkenhouse This tropical rainforest, with its waterfalls, meandering streams and rugged ocean coastline, is home to colourful 'Sexy Pink' and 'Lobster Claw' Heliconia, mysterious 'Bat plants', Giant Anthuriums, exotic Gingers, and more than 2,500 species of tropical flowers, fruits and plants collected from many parts of the world. The open-air Orchid Garden displays orchids growing in their natural environment. It is one of the largest orchid displays in any Botanical Garden, the brilliant variety of colourful orchids are a treat for everyone.
Walk the spiritual Palm Jungle, enchanted by a Cathedral of Alexandra Palm trees towering over you, which opens up to a hidden three-tier waterfall. Admire the natural beauty while gazing at Onomea Falls. A new, state-of-the-art Bird House is home to the Garden's eight colourful Macaws and Lily Lake teems with koi and aquatic plants. The beautiful ocean views beckon every visitor to sit and enjoy the serene atmosphere. This is the only Botanical Garden in the world situated on the ocean.
Following your self-exploration of this amazing garden, re-join your van for the return drive to the pier and your awaiting ship.
Please note: This tour requires a moderate amount of walking with a steep 500-foot (152.4-metre) long entrance boardwalk to negotiate. Guests should be able to walk trails that total more than one mile (1.6 kilometres). Some walking over damp and slippery surfaces require guests use extra caution. This tour is not suitable for guests who utilise a wheelchair. Those with limited mobility may not be able to explore the gardens fully. Guests should wear seasonal clothing, sun protection, and comfortable walking shoes. Please remember to bring your camera. Guests wishing to purchase items crafted by local artisans should bring local currency or credit cards.
Enjoy an overview of Hilo during this easy two-hour panoramic drive to some of the area highlights. Meet your guide on the pier and embark the coach as your begin your exploration.
Learn about the Big Island of Hawaii and the Hilo area as you make your way to Liliuokalani Gardens. A short drive allows you to see the beautiful foliage as your guide shares some information about the gardens and the tropical plants.
Next, head to Rainbow Falls to witness the resounding and deafening sound of the 80-foot (24-metre) waterfall as it rushes into a large pool below, almost 100 feet (31 metres) in width. The striking gorge is blanketed by lush, dense tropical foliage.
After viewing the Falls, head back into Hilo to visit the Shinmachi Memorial erected in honour of the many residents of Hilo who lost their lives to the Tsunami of 1946.
The King Kamehameha Statue pays tribute to Hawaii's warrior king. Kamehameha unified the Hawaiian islands under one rule and set the stage for the kingdom's proud-but-turbulent monarchy period. Stop for photos at this beautiful 14-foot (4.3-metre), five-ton (4.5-tonne) gold statue of King Kamehameha.
Return to the pier at the conclusion of your drive.
Please note: This tour requires a minimal amount of walking and is suitable for guests with limited mobility and those who utilise a wheelchair, able to embark and disembark the coach with minimal assistance. There will be short stops for photos at Rainbow Falls, Shinmachi Memorial and King Kamehameha statue. Guests may view these sites without disembarking coach. We suggest you dress in seasonal attire and wear sun protection. The order of sites visited may vary.
Volcanoes National Park is Hawaii's only UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take the road less travelled and explore Kilauea Volcano in a unique and memorable way at a 4000-foot (1219-metre) elevation on this hike.
Volcanoes National Park
Depart the pier in Hilo by van for a one-hour drive towards Volcanoes National Park. Upon arrival to the park, an experienced guide will take you on a five-mile (eight-kilometre) hike through lush rainforest known for native birds, incredible foliage and a crater floor that erupted only 50 years ago. This hike takes you up and down the crater walls by way of switchback trails and then covers the expanse of the crater floor. It is an amazing way to 'feel the heat' of an active volcano below your feet. Witness the explosive power of Halema'uma'u Crater and walk across new lava formations to actually see the rebirth of the native Hawaiian rainforest in its first stages of life.
Experience a stop at the Jagger Museum with its real time seismographs, eruption footage and beautiful displays of lava and Hawaiian geology.
Thurston Lava Tube
Stop at Thurston Lava Tubes for a quick picnic before heading through the famous Thurston Lava Tube on this one of a kind adventure at the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.
Return to the van for the drive back to the pier.
Please note: This tour requires an extensive amount of walking; there are approximately 5 miles (8 kilometres) of strenuous hiking. The terrain consists of dirt paths and uneven surfaces. This tour is recommended for guests in good physical condition only, and is not suitable for guests with back and/or neck problems, limited mobility, or those who utilise a wheelchair. Due to the natural sulphur gases this tour may affect those with respiratory problems. Guests must be at least 12 years of age; those under 18 years must be accompanied by an adult. Wear comfortable clothing in layers, a light jacket, flat closed-toe walking or hiking shoes (required), and bring a camera, sunglasses, hat, and binoculars from the ship. Wildlife sightings are not guaranteed. Operation of this tour is subject to favourable weather conditions or volcanic activity. Space on this tour is limited; we suggest you book well in advance to avoid disappointment.
Indulge your senses with a unique wine tasting experience in paradise during this picturesque, half-day excursion to the Volcano Winery.
Hilo and Volcano Winery Tour
Depart the pier for the scenic, approximately one-hour drive to the Volcano Winery. Located in the centre of the island's volcano country, the Volcano Winery is perched approximately 4,000 feet (about 1,219 metres) above sea level. Upon arrival, take a guided walking tour through portions of the vineyard and tea fields. Along the way, learn how tropical fruits like yellow guava and the exotic jaboticaba berry are blended with traditional wine grapes, and transformed into vibrant creations that capture the playful spirit of Hawaii.
Wine Tasting with Local Vintages, Tea Wines and Gourmet Cheese
Following your guided tour, proceed for a tasting of the Volcano Winery's most extraordinary local vintages, including their special tea wines, paired with gourmet cheese and crackers. At the conclusion of your visit, re-board your coach and commence the approximately one-hour drive back to the pier.
Please note: This tour involves a moderate amount of walking for approximately 166 yards (about 152 metres), at times over uneven surfaces, with a few steps to negotiate to get on/off the coach. This tour is not suitable for guests with a fear of heights, guests prone to motion sickness, guests with heart/respiratory conditions, guests with limited mobility, and guests who utilise a wheelchair. Lightweight, comfortable clothing with flat, closed-toe walking shoes and a sweater or light jacket is recommended. Guests must be at least 21 years old to participate on this tour, and in tastings of alcoholic beverages.
Take your visit to Hilo to new heights during this memorable half-day journey through picturesque Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Established in 1916, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is quite possibly the most dramatic of all U.S. national parks. It comprises two volcanoes, a desert, arctic tundra, and a rainforest. The park encompasses 333,000 acres (134,760 hectares) and stretches from sea level to a height of 13,677 feet (4,169 metres) at Mauna Loa's summit. Its smaller cousin, Kilauea, is the world's most active volcano, and offers panoramic views of dramatic landscapes. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is Hawaii's only UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Volcanoes National Park
Depart the pier in Hilo for the one-hour drive south towards Volcanoes National Park. En route, your guide will share personal stories of living with an active volcano in close proximity. Today's visit of this famous park reveals some of its amazing sights, from unique volcanic formations to dramatic landscapes.
Thomas A. Jagger Museum
While riding along the caldera's rim, a stop is made at the Thomas A. Jagger Museum. Established in 1912, the museum features videos of volcanic eruptions, geologic displays, working seismic equipment relating to the volcano's eruptions, and an adjacent observatory (not open to the public). There are spectacular overlooks into Kilauea Caldera and Halema'uma'u Crater. Oval-shaped Kilauea Caldera is 2-2.5 miles (3.2-4 kilometres) across, depending on where you stand, and it is about 400 feet (121 metres) deep in some places. Within this caldera is Halema'uma'u Crater. Here you can smell brimstone (an old-fashioned name for sulphur) and hear steam hissing out of fissures in the rock. Enjoy the views and photo opportunities of the caldera below before continuing along Crater Rim Drive.
Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory
After leaving the park, visit the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory. You will have approximately 30-minutes to browse the gift shop or visit the snack bar before re-joining the coach for the return drive to the pier and your awaiting ship.
Please note: This tour involves mostly driving, with brief periods of minimal walking. Volcano area is known for being cool and wet. Bring a light jacket and an umbrella. Guests should wear good walking shoes as the ground may be uneven at the photo stops. Remember to bring your camera. Although guests visit a volcanic area, molten lava will not been seen. The order of the sight seen may vary. Bring local currency for any purchases; credit cards are accepted.