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Have you ever been to Hilo? Here are some ideas of what to do in Hilo Hawaii – time to plan a visit!
For years, rental car companies prohibited travel across the Big Island of Hawaii on State Route 200, known as the Saddle Road. In 2010, the road was entirely repaved, meaning you can cross the island in under two hours.
So you want to spend a day on the other side of the Big Island?
Here are some ideas of what to do in Hilo Hawaii:
Head to Just Cruisin’ Coffee for coffee, breakfast, and some lunch sandwiches to go. Then head about 40 minutes south of Hilo to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Though the park has changed following the 2018 eruptions, there are still plenty of options for activities, ranging from casual strolls to strenuous hikes. Choose something that fits you and your travel companions and enjoy the day.
Or you can grab a hearty breakfast at Ken’s – open 24 hours – and then head into Hilo Town. You can tour the University of Hawaii – Hilo campus, visit Rainbow Falls, and/or grab some fresh strawberry (with chocolate!) mochi at Two Ladies Kitchen. Then drive south to Punalu’u Black Sand Beach for a near-guarantee to see sea turtles, as well as experience one of the island’s “newer” beaches. Just south is the town of Nahulau where you can grab lunch – and a malasada or two – at Punalu’u Bakery before either continuing to the Kona side, or returning to Hilo for some Thai food at Sombat’s Fresh Thai Cuisine.
Hilo Hidden Gems:
Do you need more ideas of what to do in Hilo Hawaii? Hilo draws many fewer tourists than the Kona side of the island, which means that it can be less crowded and has some real hidden gems. Some of the options mentioned above are featured in my list of Big Island Favorites, others are here:
Feeding a crowd while traveling is always challenging – so breakfast sandwiches are a great answer. My crew loved their sandwiches so much, they demanded we go back the next morning. I was happy to sit in their tiny postage-stamp of a cafe sipping my almond milk latte while they plowed through my massive order of breakfast sandwiches. Breakfast – check!
A tiny place, just the width of the poke counter and the register – but delicious, fresh poke at a great price- $10 gets you your choice of rice, your choice of poke and your choice of two sides – the sweet potatoes are highly recommended – but they were all solid.
After giving up (most) dairy a few years ago, I’ve learned to cut back on pizza, or choose versions using cashew cheese, parmesan or other low lactose options. But ice cream – that has been harder to replace. My current favorite store-bought brand is the non-dairy line from Haagen Daaz. But that is definitely a (tasty) frozen treat – and not a true ice cream.
Hawaiian Licks, though, takes coconut milk and other non-dairy bases and creates amazing (and amazingly vegan) ice creams. Even after sampling them, I was torn, so I ended up with a little bit of three flavors in my (compostable bamboo) ice cream boat. The Pina colada, dark chocolate and Chile mango are all choices I can vouch for personally – but it sure seemed like a place you couldn’t go wrong!
Not a restaurant, but definitely a hidden gem, Banyan Gallery occupies one of the small out-buildings in front of the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel (others hold the fitness equipment and a convenience store). On multiple occasions, I have found just the right gift here for hard-to-shop-for recipients – and I also love that I am supporting local artists.
Do you have a favorite idea of what to do in Hilo Hawaii? Share in the comments below!