When it comes to traveling to a new place, finding hidden gems can often be the most rewarding part of the experience. This is especially true for Hilo, a small town located on the east coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. While many tourists tend to stick to the well-known attractions, there are plenty of hidden gems in Hilo waiting for you to explore. In this article, you’ll get a closer look at some of the best lesser-known locations that Hilo has to offer, from secluded beaches to off-the-beaten-path restaurants and everything in between. So get ready to discover a side of the big island you may have never known existed!
What Is Hilo Known For?
Hilo is known for its stunning natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. Situated on the east coast of the island of Hawaii, Hilo is surrounded by lush rainforests, dramatic waterfalls, and some of the most breathtaking beaches in the world. Hilo is also home to several unique cultural attractions. Visitors can explore the beautifully restored 19th-century buildings of the historic downtown area or learn about the vibrant local arts scene at the East Hawaii Cultural Center.
With its deep ties to the land and its people, Hilo offers a glimpse into the rich and diverse culture that has shaped Hawaii for centuries. It’s a must-visit destination for anyone interested in experiencing the beauty and history of this incredible island.
The Best Hidden Gems In Hilo
While there are a ton of unique destinations to explore in Hilo, you don’t have to settle for the same touristy attractions that everyone else goes to. Here are some of the best-hidden gems in Hilo:
Kaumana Lava Tubes
If you’re searching for an authentic and unique experience while in Hilo, look no further than the Kaumana Lava Tubes. This hidden gem offers a refreshing break from the over-commercialized tourist attractions in other parts of the island. Located in a secluded park with no official supervision, visitors can explore the caves at their own leisure, any time of the day or night, and without any entrance fees.
Because of its off-the-beaten-path location, the Kaumana Lava Tubes aren’t overcrowded with visitors, allowing for a peaceful and serene experience. If you want to connect with nature and escape the crowds, this is the spot for you.
Ernie’s Poke Market
Ernie’s Poke Market in Hilo is a culinary treasure that many visitors overlook. Situated in a small space just wide enough to fit the poke counter and the register, this market offers something truly special. Fresh and flavorful poke is the name of the game at Ernie’s, and at a price point that won’t break the bank.
For only $10, you can choose your preferred type of rice, your favorite poke, and two delicious sides. The sweet potatoes, in particular, are a crowd favorite. Ernie’s is definitely a must-visit spot for anyone looking for a delectable poke in Hilo without being surrounded by a sea of tourists.
Rainbow Falls in Hilo is a must-see destination for anyone traveling to the Big Island. The 80-foot waterfall is not only a natural wonder but also steeped in Hawaiian mythology. According to legend, it’s the residence of the Hawaiian moon goddess Hina. The falls’ name, Waiānuenue, which means “rainbow water” in Hawaiian, is a testament to the natural wonder that occurs almost every morning.
The stunning display of rainbows is created when the sun hits the waterfall at just the right angle. This is a place where time seems to stand still, and visitors can enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and marvel at nature’s beauty while avoiding the crowds of other tourist attractions.
Puka Puka Kitchen
If you find yourself in downtown Hilo and looking for a low-key dining experience, Puka Puka Kitchen is the spot for you. Despite their limited hours of operation from 11 am-2:30 pm and a small dining room, this eatery hits all the right notes. Their standout dishes include the ahi don, chicken katsu, and garlic rice; all served with a heaping pile of fresh, locally-sourced salad splashed with a dressing that will leave you wanting more.
If you’re on the go, the fresh bentos are perfect for a relaxed lunch under a tree while sightseeing. Puka Puka Kitchen is a hidden gem in Hilo that serves delicious local cuisine without the hefty price tag.
Pepeekeo Scenic Drive
If you’re looking for a relaxing drive while in Hilo, look no further than Pepeekeo Scenic Drive. This 4-mile road winds its way through a lush and vibrant tropical rainforest, offering stunning vistas of the coastline and the Onomea Arch. Along the way, there are several lookout points where you can stop and take in the beauty of the Pacific Ocean.
Halfway through the drive, you’ll encounter the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, a verdant and peaceful oasis that’s well worth a visit. And for the adventurous, a short hike down the old donkey trail to the ocean promises unforgettable views and photo opportunities. Don’t miss out on this unforgettable journey through one of Hilo’s hidden gems.
Ponds in Hilo
Nestled on the outskirts of Hilo, Ponds is a dining experience like no other. The restaurant boasts a picturesque setting, surrounded by serene Koi ponds that create a tranquil ambiance. But it’s not just the ambiance that sets Ponds apart. They pride themselves on using locally sourced ingredients, ensuring freshness, and supporting local farmers.
And for those looking for some added entertainment while enjoying their meal, Ponds has live music almost every night. With reasonable prices and a high-quality food selection, Ponds promises to be a dining experience that truly captures the essence of Hilo.
Panaewa Rainforest Zoo
The Panaʻewa Rainforest Zoo in Hilo offers a unique experience for animal lovers and nature enthusiasts alike. As the only tropical zoo in the United States, visitors are treated to a diverse collection of rainforest animals and endangered Hawaiian species. You can marvel at the acrobatic movements of spider monkeys, the wide-eyed curiosity of lemurs, and the grace of nene geese, the state bird of Hawaii.
Adding to the allure of the zoo are its botanical gardens, which showcase many rare varieties of orchids, bamboo, palms, and a stunning water garden. A visit to the Pana’ewa Zoo promises to be an unforgettable adventure for anyone who appreciates the beauty and diversity of nature. And the best part is, you won’t find huge crowds here – it’s the perfect place to escape and relax.
Start Exploring The Best Hidden Gems In Hilo!
If you are truly looking for hidden gems in Hilo, you won’t have to look far. From the stunning rainbows of Akaka Falls to the tranquil Pepeekeo Scenic Drive, there are plenty of experiences for visitors to enjoy that will keep them coming back for more. Whether you’re looking for a tasty meal, an adventurous outing, or just a place to relax and take in the beauty of Hawaii’s natural landscape, Hilo is sure to have something for you.