Known as the “City of Rainbows”, Hilo Town lies on the lush windward coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. Approximately 47,500 people live in the quiet community surrounding north-facing Hilo Bay. Hilo’s more than 130 inches annual rainfall nourish the gorgeous tropical greenery of the rainforest. Although the former plantation town receives most of its moisture at night, expect passing showers throughout the day.
Visitors are encouraged not to let to let the occasional shower discourage them from enjoying Hilo’s many offerings. The morning mists and gentle afternoon showers keep things cool and provide the idea climate for cultivating the diverse array of flowers for which the city is famous. Hilo boasts a 20 million dollar anthurium/orchid floral industry.
The indomitable city by the bay has survived two devastating tsunami events, multiple earthquakes, and half a dozen close calls from advancing lava flows. Local residents laugh and dance in the Hilo rain, not letting a little moisture detract from their day. Neither should you.
When visiting Hilo, be sure to follow the drive circling the Waiakea Events Peninsula, located near Hilo International Airport. Back in 1933, the Park’s Commissioner decided it would be a splendid idea to have visiting international celebrities each plant a banyan tree sapling along the drive in recognition of their visit. In 1934, in preparation for a visit from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the original drive crafted of crushed lava rock was constructed. The majority of the banyan trees survived the tidal waves that ravaged the bay. Today, towering banyan trees, planted along the lava road, form a thick green canopy that offers a lovely place to take a relaxing stroll.
Look for trees planted by Amelia Earhart, President Richard Nixon, Pat Nixon, Babe Ruth, Cecil B. De Mille, and a host of other Hollywood stars. The massive trees, which still bear the names of the planters, honor sports heroes, movie stars, religious leaders, rock stars, political leaders, famous authors, music legends, adventurers, and local Hawaiians.
Banyan Tree Walk is located in the 30-acre Liliʻuokalani Gardens near the footbridge leading to the healing Isle of Moku Ola, also known as Coconut Island. Native Hawaiians refer to this place as the “healing island” attributing healing properties to the waters of underground springs that flow up from under the little island. Legend says that if the ill and infirmed can manage to swim out around the island and back to the shore, they will be healed from their illness and find relief from their pain.
Named after Hawaii’s deposed queen, Liliuokalani Gardens features a lovely exhibit of Japanese motifs in its miniature pavilions, stone pagodas, and a footbridge over a reflecting pond, and a charming teahouse. Built in the early 1900s, the manicured Japanese garden provides a peaceful retreat for rest and relaxation.
When exploring Hilo, be sure to visit Waiakea Pond, home of an ancient Hawaiian fishpond. In 1946 and again in 1960 giant tidal waves from Hilo Bay attacked the area with deadly force, destroying the homes overlooking the pond. The area has been restored, replanted and made into a tsunami buffer zone. Nearby Waiola Center showcases a photographic display of the devastation and rebirth of the city.
Rainbow Falls and Boiling Pots are two of Hilo’s main scenic attractions. At Rainbow Falls State Park the Wailuku River plummets more than 200-feet to fern-banked pool below. After a heavy rain, the water cascades down the mountain face with such velocity it crashes on the rocks below, sending up enveloping clouds of silver mist that when caught in the sunlight, creates the beautiful rainbows that mark it’s name.
Located just another mile and a half down the road, Pe’epe Falls State Park is home to a small stream that makes its way over a series of lava pools known as Boiling Pots. According to ancient myth, the body of the mo’o dragon Kuna still slithers along the bottom of the stream, stirring up the waters. Despite cautionary warnings of the danger, locals and visitors following a windy and slippery descent to swim in the agitated, swirling pools during low-water periods.
If you venture forth to explore the ponds, be very aware of upstream flooding. Wailuku falls means “waters of destruction” and dangerous flooding conditions can occur without warning.