Hilo Then and Now
In ancient times, Hilo was famous for its rich coastal land and waterways which supported a thriving population of native Hawaiians. Its pristine rivers, streams, fertile lands and coastline are well recorded in ancient chants and today's contemporary music. With the new renaissance of Hawaiian cultural and its hula and language, Hilo is at the forefront of the growing awareness of the rich heritage of its indigenous people.
Hilo and its historic architecture are recognized as the best preserved Pacific township in the entire State of Hawai'i. At the turn of the 20th century when the heyday of the sugar plantations was the economic engine of the Territory of Hawai'i, the commercial districts of each island were understandably located as close to their major harbors as possible. These harbors included the railroad links for the loading of commercial raw sugar for shipment to processing in California (C&H Sugar) and offloading of imported food, hardware and other supplies for local consumption.
With this growth, commercial districts such as downtown Hilo offered new opportunities for Caucasian businessmen and entrepreneurial former immigrant contract laborers of Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Filipino and Portuguese ethnic diversity. This original "rainbow" of Hawaii's new era of growth is the foundation of today's melting pot of people and places. To this day, downtown Hilo reflects this cultural heritage in both architecture and business enterprises. The host culture of native Hawaiians and the core culture of its "rainbow" diversity makes the Hilo experience unforgettable.
Modern Hilo, as was in ancient times, is truly the Crown Jewel of the Big Island of Hawai'i.
A Brief History
The Polynesians arrived in the Hilo area about 1100 A.C. They eventually inhabited the shores of Hilo Bay, farmed their crops, fished and traded their goods along the Wailuku River.
In the late 1700's, the days of King Kamehameha's rule, Hilo was the center of political activity and social growth. It was the prime place for the King to build his army of ships designed for conquering the Hawaiian Islands. By 1791 native Hawaiians had traveled as far as the United States and China. The King befriended many of the foreigners who traveled to the islands. With such considerable traveling, the Hawaiian way of life soon became influenced by products ranging from iron to livestock to non-native seeds.
Hilo - 1940's
More changes to the local lifestyle came with the arrival of missionaries who selected Hilo as a prime location on the Big Island to start the future of the church. Along with Puritanism, they brought Western education and Christianity. Their arrival wrought many changes to Hilo and even affected trading practices.
Tsunami - 1960
Hilo became a stopping place for explorers, whaling ships, traders and those curious about active volcanoes. By the 1900's, Hilo had grown into a commercial center. The sugar industry was booming, a number of wharves had been constructed, the breakwater was begun and a new railroad connected Hilo with other parts of the island. Then in 1946, and again in 1960,two destructive tsunamis swept Hilo's Bayfront causing the relocation of Hilo's government and commercial life. When the town was rebuilt, a large park and roadway were situated between the buildings and the shoreline to absorb future tidal waves.
Besides being a rare surviving example of an Hawaiian plantation town, cultural diversity is one of Hilo's special charms. The local term, "mixed plate", describes well the impact made by Polynesians, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Koreans, other Pacific Islanders and Europeans on Hilo's mixed-race culture of today. All these ethnic groups blend in the faces of the people who give Hilo its charm. Its diverse shopping opportunities, its small scale and its friendliness makes Hilo the perfect town in which to linger just a little longer.
Hilo Farmers Market
The Hilo Farmers Market is a must-see when you are on the Big Island.
Started 1988, the Hilo Farmers Market had a humble beginning with only four farmers who sold their goods from their parked cars and trucks.
Now over 200 local farmers and crafters offer farm-fresh produce, crafts, gift items and tropical flowers in a festive outdoor atmosphere that harks back to the old "plantation" days of Hilo. Located at the corner of Mamo Street and Kamehameha Avenue in historic downtown Hilo, it's open Wednesday and Saturday, from dawn til' it's gone, year round.
The Hilo Farmers Market has a large variety of tropical fruits and vegetables grown right here in the Hawaiian Islands. We have several vendors with certified organic produce too. The list is always changing.
Both long time residents and travellers all over the world come here for it's abundant offerings and the people-watching is incomparable.
The Hilo Farmers Market is sometimes considered to be one of the better open markets on the Big Island, and in the State of Hawaii.
Go to our gallery to see more images of the Hilo Farmers Market.
Visit the Hilo Farmers Market Website.
The Pacific Tsunami Museum
If you are visiting Hilo on the big island of Hawaii, a stop well worth your time is the Pacific Tsunami Museum right in downtown Hilo. The museum offers stark evidence of the power of tsunamis and discusses the destructive waves that have hit Hilo and the rest of the Pacific Basin.
The Museum is located just across the street from Hilo Bay, and a live webcam keeps its electronic eye on the bay to watch for Tsunamis. In addition an evacuation plan is conspicuously posted as you come in, since the Museum is within the tsunami zone in Hilo. However dont worry too much, with all of the monitoring that occurs within the Pacific, you should have plenty of warning if there is a tsunami and be able to escape to higher ground.
The Museum is located on Kamehameha Avenue and literally a stones throw away from Hilo Bay. Much of downtown Hilo with the rest of Hilo mostly behind (and up the hill) from the Museum.
The Museum is open daily from 9 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon. Admission fee for the Tsunami Museum are: Adults:$7, seniors:$6, students:$2 and kids under 5: free.
The Pacific Tsunami Museum is a fairly simple museum. It occupies a single level and there are a number of different exhibits and presentations located throughout the space detailing the historical tsunamis that Hilo and the rest of Hawaii have faced, tsunamis around the world and efforts today to detect, track and warn the public about current or future tsunamis.
Expect to spend some time at each exhibit as almost all of them are a mix of photographs, text and some video. Some of the videos are quite long and almost all of them are quite interesting for anyone with an interest in earthquakes and tsunamis. The videos detailing the tsunami destruction in Hilo are especially interesting considering you can look out the windows of the museum and imagine the damage and destruction around you.
In 1994, the Pacific Tsunami Museum in Hilo incorporated. Its mission statement: "We believe that through education and awareness, no one should ever again die in Hawaii due to a tsunami."
The museum serves as a living monument to the people who lost their lives in past tsunamis. Featured are a series of permanent exhibits that detail the history of tsunamis in the Pacific region; myths and legends about tsunamis; public safety measures in the event of a tsunami; and oral histories that make the tsunami experience "hit home" for each museum visitor.
Visit the: www.tsunami.org Website
Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is a spectacular Garden in a Valley on the Ocean - acclaimed as one of the most beautiful areas in all Hawaii. The Garden is located on the Big Island of Hawaii, 8 1/2 miles north of Hilo on the four-mile Scenic Route at Onomea Bay
In this garden valley, nature trails meander through a true tropical rainforest, crossing bubbling streams, passing several beautiful waterfalls and the exciting ocean vistas along the rugged Pacific coast.
The Garden displays a vast variety of palms, heliconias, gingers, bromeliads, and hundreds of other rare and exotic plants from all parts of the tropical world - presently more than 2,000 species, and the collection is always growing! This non-profit nature preserve is dedicated to providing a plant sanctuary, a living seed bank, and a study center for trees and plants of the tropical world and to preserving the incredibly beautiful natural environment of Onomea Bay for generations to come.
Visitors walk the 500 foot dramatic, beautifully landscaped boardwalk down into the Garden on the ocean. This boardwalk alone is a photographer's paradise that should not be missed.
The boardwalk is not wheelchair accessible. The Garden provides golf carts to transport wheelchair-bound visitors with their companion and their wheelchairs up and down the boardwalk. Once you've exited the boardwalk, you may use your wheelchair through most of the Garden. Only non-electric wheelchairs are permitted entry into the Garden.
The Garden is open from 9am to 5pm everyday, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day, with Garden admissions ending at 4pm. This self-guided tour takes an average of about an hour and a half. The walking distance is just over a mile, round trip.
Admission for a day is $15 for adults, children ages 6 - 16 are $5. Children under 6 are free. For a $5 fee, Golf Cart assistance can be provided to those visitors that are not wheelchair-bound but otherwise physically limited.
To preserve the serenity and non-pollution of this beautiful garden we discourage the use of golf carts on the boardwalk unless absolutely necessary.
Visit the Hawai'i Tropical Botanical Garden Website here.
The Pana`ewa Rainforest Zoo
Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, this 12 acre zoo is the only tropical rainforest zoo in the United States. It is home to more than 80 animal species including the endangered Nene (Hawaii State Bird) and Namaste', a white Bengal Tiger.
Visitors can stroll through the shade of over 100 varieties of Palm or pinic with Peacocks among extensive collection of Orchids, Clumping Bamboos, ferns and Tropical Rhododendrons. The planting effort by volunteers is continuous and the Zoo grounds are considered a botanical garden.
Best of all: admission is FREE!
Pana`ewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens is located off Hwy. 11 in Hilo on the big island of Hawaii
Open 9 - 4 daily except Christmas and New Year's Day
Call 808-959-9233 for more information
Petting Zoo every Saturday 1:30 - 2:30
Tiger feeding 3:30 daily
Visit the Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo's Website.
Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park
Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, displays the results of 70 million years of volcanism, migration, and evolution processes that thrust a bare land from the sea and clothed it with unique ecosystems, and a distinct human culture. The park highlights two of the worlds most active volcanoes, and offers insights on the birth of the Hawaiian Islands and views of dramatic volcanic landscapes.
Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park is easily visited by car in just a few hours or may be explored in more depth over several days. Here are some recommendations when planning your visit to the Park:
If you have only one to three hours, explore the summit of Kilauea volcano via Crater Rim Drive; an 11-mile road that encircles the summit caldera, passes through desert, lush tropical rain forest, traverses the caldera floor, and provides access to well-marked scenic stops and short walks.
If you have four to five hours, you may also explore the East Rift and coastal area of the Park via Chain of Craters Road. This road descends 3,700 feet in 20 miles and ends where lava flows crossed the road in 2003.
Hikers will find an abundance of trails to satisfy their curiosity. Day hikes and wilderness hikes offer great adventures for visitors who wish to explore beyond the roadways. You can also find some beautiful pieces of lava if you look carefully.
Depending on changing volcanic activity, there may be opportunities for viewing active lava flows from the end of the road. No food, water, or fuel is available along the Chain of Craters Road.
Due to the volatile and trasient nature of the active volcanoes, visitors are advised to visit the official website of the Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park: http://www.nps.gov/havo for current conditions and advisories.
Additional photos are in our photo gallery
The Lyman Museum
The nationally accredited Lyman Museum showcases the natural and cultural history of Hawai`i in its exhibit halls and its 1839 historic missionary home. The museum also features collections of seashells and minerals that are world-wide in scope, ancient art of China, artists of Hawai`i, and changing special exhibitions. Many community programs and events are held each year. Located in downtown Hilo, the Lyman Museum offers a unique educational and cultural experience for people of all ages.
The Lyman Museum began as the Lyman Mission House, originally built for New England missionaries David and Sarah Lyman in 1839. Nearly 100 eventful years later, in 1931, the Museum was established by descendants of Sarah and David. Today, the Mission House has been preserved, and is on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places. It may be visited by guided tour.
The Lyman Museum building, next door to the Mission House, houses a superb collection of artifacts, fine art, and natural history specimens as well as an archives, special exhibitions and a gift shop. Visitors touring the two facilities can see the old Mission House and life as it was 150 years ago, as well as state-of-the-art exhibits on many aspects of Hawaiian natural history and culturea rare and well-rounded view of the real Hawai`i, as it was, as it is today, and where it may be in years to come.
The Lyman Museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums, one of only four such museums in the State. It is located on Haili Street in downtown Hilo (see map).
Lyman Museum & Mission House
276 Haili Street
Hilo, Hawaii 96720
Hours: Monday - Saturday, 9:30am - 4:30pm.
Guided Mission House tours at 11, 1 & 3pm.
Closed Sundays, January 1, Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and December 25.
Visit The Lyman Museum Website
The 'Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai'i
An Authentic Hawaiian Voyage through Time & Space.
Originally called the Maunakea Astronomy Education Center, Imiloa was developed in the mid-1990s by a team of educators, scientists and community leaders who understood the need for a comprehensive educational facility that would showcase the connections between the rich traditions of Hawaiian culture and the groundbreaking astronomical research conducted at the summit of Maunakea.
The 'Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai'i tells dual stories of the renowned Maunakea volcano, with its world-famous astronomy and rich traditions of Hawaiian culture. 'Imiloa, which means "exploring new knowledge," reflects both the Hawaiian voyages of discovery and the explorations of astronomy.
Located on a nine-acre campus above the University of Hawaii-Hilo, with spectacular views of Hilo Bay, 'Imiloa Astronomy Center (formerly called Maunakea Astronomy Education Center) provides a unique experience for visitors, students, and families seeking to explore the connections between Hawaiian cultural traditions and the science of astronomy.
Framed by a rich Polynesian tradition of exploration,'Imiloa is Hawai'i's premier facility for interpreting the deepest mysteries of the universe, being unraveled by the Maunakea observatories -- the world's largest and most important collection of telescopes. 'Imiloa inspires and educates, helping us to connect with our origins while we reach for the stars.
'Imiloa features interactive exhibits, planetarium shows, group tours, a wonderful store, a cafe, and a full schedule of events.
For more info, visit: http://www.imiloahawaii.org/
Banyan Drive, aka "Hilo Walk of Fame." refers to the more than 50humungous banyan trees,with long aerial roots dangling from their limbs and filled withorchids and ferns, which were planted some 60 to 70 years ago by visiting celebrities and dignitaries. Visitors will find such names as Amelia Earhart, Babe Ruth,and Franklin Delano Roosevelt on plaques affixed to the trees.
For manyyearscelebrities visited Hilo tohave plant small banyan saplingsthat have growninto giant memorials that still stand in their honor. These trees have withstood natural disasters such as the several tsunamis that have devastatedmuchofHilo, located on the Big Island of Hawaii. The drive circles the Waiakea Peninsula, near the Hilo International Airport,where the largest hotels on the Eastern side of the Big Island are located.
In 1933, several park commissioners decided that it would be a good idea to have celebrities plant banyan tree saplings along the peninsula. In 1934, with the arrival of President Franklin Roosevelt in Hilo, it was decided to build a drive through the trees, then only of crushed coral. At the time, the peninsula hosted the Hilo Yacht club and several homes. In late 1933, Cecil B. DeMille was on the island filming "Four Frightened People". Several of the actors along with Mr. and Mrs. DeMille, all planted trees in their own honor. According to records, 8 trees were planted in October of 1933. In addition to the movie stars, one tree was also planted by the famous baseballer, George Herman "Babe" Ruth.
Planting of trees by celebrities continued with an additional 10 trees planted in 1934, 15 in 1935, 6 in 1936, 5 in 1937, 4 in 1938. Two trees were planted in 1941, one in 1952 by Senator Richard Nixon, and two in 1972, one by Pat Nixon to replace the tree planted by her husband and lost in an election year storm and the other to honor her as first lady. In 1991 Polly Mooney replanted a tree lost to a tsunami honoring Civitan International leader Courtney Shropshire. Mrs. Mooney was also honored by being the first woman president of the previously male-dominated Civitan. The tree bears both their names.
Today, most of the trees with the original plaques still thrive along Banyan Drive, providing a continuous canopy for a nostalgic and enchanted stroll through Hilo history.
Merry Monarch Festival
Begun forty years ago by the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce and continued by the private Merrie Monarch Festival community organization, the major purpose of the festival is the perpetuation, preservation, and promotion of the art of hula and the Hawaiian culture through education. The festival is considered the world's premier forum for people of all ages to display their skills and knowledge of the art of ancient and modern hula.
The annual presentation of the Merrie Monarch Festival has led to a renaissance of the Hawaiian culture that is being passed on from generation to generation. The week-long festival includes art exhibits, craft fairs, demonstrations, performances, a parade that emphasizes the cultures of Hawaii, and a three-day hula competition that has received worldwide recognition for its historic and cultural significance.
Through the celebration of the Merrie Monarch Festival, thousands of people in Hawaii and throughout the world are learning about the history and culture of Hawaii.
The Merrie Monarch Festival is committed to: 1) Perpetuating the traditional culture of the Hawaiian people; 2) Developing and augmenting a living knowledge of Hawaiian arts and crafts through workshops, demonstrations, exhibitions and performances of the highest quality and authenticity; 3) Reaching those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to participate; and, 4) Enriching the future lives of all of Hawaii's children.
In preparation of the Merrie Monarch Festival, hula studios and instructors in Hawaii and on the U.S. Mainland hold classes, workshops, and seminars throughout the year to teach the art of hula, the meaning of Hawaiian chants and songs, the Hawaiian language, the making of Hawaiian clothing and crafts, and the history of the Hawaiian people.
Through this ongoing year-round learning process, students also gain a knowledge and appreciation of the unique harmony and balance the ancient Hawaiian people maintained with their island environment. The chants, songs and dance tell stories of the Hawaiians' relationship with nature-the birds and fish, trees and flowers, mountains, oceans, rivers, wind, rain and Hawaii's active volcanoes.
Proceeds from the Merrie Monarch Festival support educational scholarships, workshops, seminars, symposiums and the continuation of the festival.
The Merrie Monarch Festival is the focal point and catalyst that supports and draws together an extensive network of instructional hula studios, hula masters, instructors, researchers, professors of Hawaiian studies and students of all ages who are committed to the perpetuation and advancement of the Hawaiian history and culture.
Please visit the Merrie Monarch Festival website.
Visit these other pages on our Website:
News About Downtown Hilo and the Big Island on Hawaii
Emissions From Kilauea Volcano
A Brief History of Hilo
Hilo Rain - Ukelele Slack Key
Merry Monarch Hula Festival in Hilo Hawaii
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
The Eruption of Kilauea - 1959/1960
Places to Visit and Things to Do Around Hilo
'Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hilo
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
Hilo Farmers Market
The Pana`ewa Rainforest Zoo in Hilo, Hawaii
The Pacific Tsunami Museum
The Lyman Mission House and Museum
Banyan Drive in Hilo, Hawaii
East Hawaii Cultural Center
Rainbow Falls and Boiling Pots on the Wailuku River in Hilo, Hawaii
Lili'uokalani Park and Gardens
The Palace Theater
Mokupapapa Discovery Center
Hilo & Big Island Calendar of Events
Merry Monarch Festival
Talk Story -- Stories about Hilo & The Big Island of Hawaii
Hilo's Changing Face & Graffiti Update
Graffiti: Art or vandalism?
Super Soaked Hilo
Stories About Hilo
Big Island Events
Sam Pulu'ole's Sam's Around Downtown Hilo
Hilo's Unique Stores and Shops
Welcome to the Hilo Community Forums
Images of Hilo and the Big Island of Hawaii
Hilo Picture Gallery
Photos of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and Lava
Photo Gallery of the Hilo Farmers Market
Tropial Fruits found on the Big Island of Hawaii Photo Gallery
The Hilo Downtown Improvement Association
Contact The Hilo Downtown Improvement Association
Join The Hilo Downtown Improvement Association
Bylaws of The Hilo Downtown Improvement Association