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 Lili'uokalani Park and Gardens

Protruding into Hilo Bay, just southeast of downtown, the Waiakea Peninsula is home to the Lili'uokalani Park and Gardens.

This beautiful and peaceful park in Hilo is dedicated to Queen Lydia Lili'uokalani - the greatly beloved and final Monarch of the Hawaiian islands. Queen Lili'uokalani ruled Hawai'i from January 17, 1891 until her illegal deposition on January 17, 1893 by American business, political, and military interests.

The 30 acre park grounds were donated by Queen Lili'uokalani for the purpose of creating this fantastic ornamental Japanese park which was built to honor the many hardworking Japanese immigrants who came to the Big Island to work the Waiakea Sugar Plantation. With over 30 acres this Yedo-style park is the largest true ornamental Japanese park outside of Japan, and is popular for tourists and locals alike.

What you will experience while you wander the parks landscaping totally depends on which direction you entered the garden from. Since the garden is free and open year round, it has no fence or 'real' entrance and can be approached by all directions.

Many of the resorts are just a short walk from the garden and the park is only a mile or two from the airport and downtown Hilo, making it a quick and easy get-away for that perfect walk in the park or picnic lunch.

Because the park sits on Hilo bay facing east, it has a perfect view of the morning sun as it rises over the majestic Pacific Ocean. This makes it one of the nicest places to come to, just before sunrise. Before the sun comes up you can find locals flinging fishnets into the ocean just on the other side of the park, catching the early morning hungry fish. Since fishnets have changed little from the early Hawaiians, it is interesting to see how they stand, calm and very quiet, until just the right moment where a complex flick of the wrist sends the net spinning into the water.

As the sun comes up you will find the park with many walkers and joggers, taking advantage of the cool morning trade winds and the beauty of the park at sunrise.

Throughout the day, and often into the evenings, you can find families, couples, and those searching out a peaceful spot enjoying the various parts of the park. From a father and son playing catch, to tourists sunbathing, just about every activity is enjoyed in the park including fishing in the gently twisting fish ponds.

The park has various 'structures' including a traditional Japanese Tea House named Shoroan. The chashitsu (tea room) was donated by the Fifteenth Grand Tea Master of Umsenke, named (Grand Tea Master SoshitsuSen). This house is used for tea ceremonies and can be booked for various events. The Tea House was destroyed by fire in 1994 (reportedly at the hands of high schoolers) but was rebuilt and stands proudly today.

A Japanese rock garden has been recently added to the park and the paths, walkways, and drive around the park were recently redone and are in excellent condition. While you may find signs of construction 'here and there' around the gardens, an indication that it is constantly being improved, most of the pristine 30 acres are nearly perfect in every aspect.

As you stroll across the lawn, or walk down one of the many paths, you will find yourself wandering in and around the various areas that are dotted by the fishponds. Paths will take you up ornate bridges and over fishponds, only to take you down and through a shallow part of a pond. Because the park is at sea level, some of the fish ponds are open to the ocean through access beneath the road and this allows the tides to come up. Rising tides cause some of the paths to be watery, but this merely ads to the uniqueness and beauty of the area (this is a perfect place to wear rubbah slippahs or simply go barefoot).

Stonework is everywhere as are also half-moon bridges, gazebos, small pagodas, Torii gates, and much more. However, the layout is perfect allowing the eye plenty of time to enjoy and not be overwhelmed.

As you walk around the park you will encounter many small plaques and signs. Some of the signs are so faded you can barely make out the information, but most all are dedications of plants, and bonsai, and stonework.

Local plant life is also in abundance in the garden including many palms, bananas, hibiscus, and gingers. You can often find ducks and other water and ocean birds frequenting the ponds for a bite to eat or a quick bath - and the playful mongoose and noisy mynah birds are always plentiful.

All in all, the gardens are a safe, free, and very beautiful and peaceful place to spend some time and enjoy Hilo weather. If you are lucky to be at the gardens during one of our clear and sunny days you will also have a splendid view of Mauna Kea, rising majestically behind downtown Hilo on the other side of the bay.

Do not miss the opportunity to visit, enjoy, and relax at the beautiful Lili'uokalani Gardens in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawai'i.


©2007 Hilo Downtown Improvement Association
Eazle,LLC Website & Internet Services from Hilo, Hawaii

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.

Hilo Today
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.
Getting in

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: 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: 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
Phone 808.935.5021

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:

Banyan Drive

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