Alexander Howard / Lonely Planet

Hilo

Kailua-Kona may host more visitors, but Hilo is the beating heart of Hawai‘i Island. Hidden beneath its daily drizzle lies deep soil and soul, from which sprouts a genuine community and aloha spirit. Hilo's demographics still mirror its sugar-town roots, with a diverse mix of Native Hawaiians, Japanese, Filipinos, Portuguese, Puerto Ricans, Chinese and Caucasians.

People might seem low-key, but they're a resilient lot. Knocked down by two tsunamis, threatened with extinction by Mauna Loa lava flows, deluged with the highest annual rainfall in the USA and always battling for its share of tourist dollars, Hilo knows how to survive and to thrive.

Hilo had a life before tourism, and it remains refreshingly untouristy. Yet it offers many attractions: compelling museums, a walkable downtown, two thriving farmers markets and dozens of indie restaurants. Hilo is an ideal base for exploring Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, Mauna Kea, Puna and the Hamakua Coast.

Explore Hilo

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Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Hilo.

Top experiences

Whether it’s a guided tour of a historic landmark, private tasting of local delicacies, or an off-road adventure — explore the best experiences in Hilo.