So you only have one day to explore Hilo! No fear, you can see Hilo’s top attractions in one day and still fit in a beach side dinner to catch the sun setting over Mauna Kea. Here’s how:
Start out early. Calling all the early risers! Did you know Hilo has incredible sunrises? Because Hilo is on the east side of the Big Island, you can wake up around 6 a.m. (depending on the time of year) and experience an incredible sky full of colors. Every sunrise is different, depending on the time of year and the amount of rain Hilo is experiencing at the time, so don’t miss it!
Recommended viewing location: Honoli’i Beach, 1.5 miles north of Hilo along Highway 27. Get there in time for the sunrise and also get a glimpse of people surfing.
Grab breakfast. Many of Hilo’s restaurants open for breakfast. Get ready for the day by grabbing a quick bite at a cute coffee shop like Nectar Cafe or a bakery like Short and Sweet.
Experience Hilo’s famous Rainbow Falls. Take the 10 minute drive from downtown Hilo to Rainbow Falls, Hilo’s largest waterfall. The falls are visible from the parking lot, so you don’t need to worry about hiking attire. Walk along the stairs above the falls for a view of the Wailuku river. Flash floods and rain have shaped the river and the falls over the years, and it is spectacular to view at any time of the year.
Hilo Farmers Market. Hilo Farmers Market is a feast for the eyes! This is my number one recommended must-do activity in Hilo. The best days to visit the market are Wednesdays and Saturdays. This is when the market comes alive with food, produce, flowers and miscellaneous merchandise vendors. Bring cash or visit the ATM at the market. Wind your way through the rows of colorful stalls; the variety of fruits and vegetables is quite impressive! Plastic shopping bags are banned on the Big Island, so bring your own.
Lunchtime. You have many options for lunch in Hilo. There are great restaurant choices along Bayfront and Kamehameha Avenue. One of my favorites is the Poke Market on Kamehameha Avenue. They make the most amazing fresh poke and side dishes, and if you’ve never tried poke (or even if you have), this is the place to go! Another option is to check out Cafe 100 or Hawaiian Style Cafe for tasty local food from restaurants you will only find on the Big Island.
Go to the beach. After lunch, I recommend going to the Keaukaha area and hanging out at one of Hilo’s black sand beaches. A couple favorites are Richardsons beach or Carlsmith beach (called Four Miles). Check weather conditions before you go! The beaches on this side of the island have beautiful black sand and lava rock rather than your typical white sandy beaches, and in my opinion they are equally as beautiful. There are many turtles in the shallow water, so I always tell visiting friends to stay far back and allow the turtles a lot of room to eat and roam. They are protected and endangered wild animals, and giving them space is way cooler than getting a selfie with them.
Bonus tip: Take a picnic lunch or grab some beverages along the way to enjoy at the beach.
Dinner time. Some of my favorite restaurants are just a short drive from the beach. Catch the sun setting over Mauna Kea from Hilo Bay Cafe or Hula Hula’s restaurant at the Nani Loa Hotel. If you’re looking for a nice spot to wind down after dinner, check out Pineapple’s in downtown Hilo. It’s the perfect spot to unwind after a full day of exploring.
I hope you enjoy your Big Island explorations! If you have any questions about where to stay or what to do on the island, comment them below or send me a message on my Instagram: @_janasoli_ .