Things to do in
Hilo

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Our most recommended things to do in Hilo

Hilo: Sea Turtle Lagoon and Black Sand Beach Snorkel

1. Hilo: Sea Turtle Lagoon and Black Sand Beach Snorkel

This is your opportunity to swim in a lagoon full of abundant sea life. Join your hosts on a fully guided and narrated beach snorkel tour along the pristine Hilo coastline. Make 2 snorkeling stops and also enjoy island snacks and juices. The volcanic beaches are renowned for their abundant sea turtle population, and the brackish water bays and lagoons are home to a wealth of sea life including octopus, eagle and manta rays, eels, corals, and tropical reef fish. Your experienced snorkel guide will teach you about the beautiful and lush surroundings, how the beaches and volcanic islands are made, and about the abundant marine world which lies below. Newcomers to snorkeling and children are welcome. Your trained guide will teach you the basics and be with you every step of the way to make sure you feel safe and comfortable. Children will be introduced to nature in a spectacular way.

Mauna Kea: Stellar Explorer Tour from Hilo

2. Mauna Kea: Stellar Explorer Tour from Hilo

Visit Rainbow Falls and the Kaumana Caves before heading to your stargazing location. Travel across Saddle Road between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, 2 of the tallest and biggest volcanoes on Earth. To complete your tour, your guide will take you to one of the preferred locations on Mauna Kea for nighttime stargazing. Observe the deep sky and planetary objects through a large aperture telescope, under one of the darkest and most pristine skies on planet Earth. Enjoy narration from expert astronomers, who have written articles for well-known magazines and worked at world-class observatories for decades. The telescopes are a true purist way to view the night sky. Their fast focal ratio enables you to see sprawling wide-field views of objects that are simply not possible with other telescopes.  Weather permitting and depending on what is visible in the current sky, you can observe galaxies, nebula, star clusters, planets, double star systems, the moon, and much more.

Hilo: 2-Hour Historic Hawaii Hamakua Cruise

3. Hilo: 2-Hour Historic Hawaii Hamakua Cruise

Grab your camera and get ready for a sightseeing cruise that will provide you with stunning photographs and beautiful memories for years to come. During this small and intimate tour, spend 2 hours viewing lush tropical landscapes, secret coves, beautiful waterfalls, and visiting ancient Hawaiian villages. You will see the remains of Hilo's plantation-era sugar mills including the 1900s-era Papaikou Mill that is now a popular spot with surfers. Be sure to capture majestic photos of Mauna Kea, the world's largest volcano, as well as Kilauea, the world's most active one. The two tallest and most active volcanoes in the world, all visitors should be sure to make time to see these mountains of fire, which are both located in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. While on the waters keep an eye out for playful spinner and bottle-nose dolphins; these crowd favorites love to put on an acrobatic show next to the boat. Throughout the tour, your guides will share insightful stories and fascinating facts about the history and culture of Hilo and Hamakua. Reserve your spot in the boat today.

Hilo Bay: Myths & Legends Waterfall & Lagoon Raft Adventure

4. Hilo Bay: Myths & Legends Waterfall & Lagoon Raft Adventure

Step aboard a 6-passenger inflatable boat and explore Hilo's culturally rich coast within the calm of the protected Hilo Bay. Take a peek at the mysterious jungle waterfall and traverse upstream on Hawai'i's longest river.   Travel back in time to when Polynesian explorers discovered this volcanic island and gave meaning and stories to the land. Pass by Coconut Island, a small isle that was a refuge for warriors in ancient times. Visit popular sites on the bay including the ice ponds and bayfront black sand beach.  Have the chance to swing from the banyan trees over the lagoon. Enjoy views of historic Hilo Town and learn about its history of thriving sugar plantations and a large sampan fishing fleet before 2 major tsunamis in 1946 and 1960 changed the nature of the town. Keep an eye out for sea turtles swimming in the lagoon as you pass under the Singing Bridge on your way to the falls on Wailuku River.

Big Island: Evening Volcano Explorer from Hilo

5. Big Island: Evening Volcano Explorer from Hilo

Start with a drive through quaint Hilo town where you’ll drive along the historic waterfront before heading out to the old fishing village of Kalapana. Your National Park Service certified guide will discuss the volcanology, geology, and history of Kilauea Volcano, as well as providing in-depth narration on the various lava flows and flora and fauna that you’ll be passing by.  Hike out across the lava flow to the new black sand beach. Stop by Star of the Sea Painted Church, moved by the community twice to save it from advancing lava flows in 1990, this decommissioned church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Next travel to the crown jewel of Hawaii, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. V isit the Kilauea Visitor’s Center, the Kilauea Iki Crater Overlook, and Steaming Bluffs. Stop in at the famous Volcano House for incredible views of Kilauea Caldera, and hike to the cracks and sinkholes in the paved roads left behind by the historic eruption of 2018.

Big Island: Small Group Waipio Valley and Waterfall Tours

6. Big Island: Small Group Waipio Valley and Waterfall Tours

After hotel pick-up from Kona and Kohala area hotels, head toward Waipio Valley while passing through Waimea and Parker Ranch, before switching to a 4WD van to descend into the majestic Waipio Valley. As you traverse shallow river streams and pass by taro fields surrounded by native flora and fauna, your guide will share the stories and legends of this special place while you marvel at Hawaii Island’s tallest waterfall, Hi’ilawe Falls, which cascades down 1300 feet in the back of the valley. Marvel the rugged sea cliffs and mile-long black sand beach as you head back to Waipio Valley lookout for the stunning views as you enjoy a gourmet lunch. In the afternoon, continue the drive down the scenic Hamakua Coast and visit the towering Akaka Falls, which plummet 442 feet into a stream-eroded gorge. If weather permits, you will get to swim or kayak under a private waterfall to cool down after a short hike. In Hilo, you will visit the famous Rainbow Falls, and explore an ancient lava cave to learn more about the volcanic processes that continue to shape the Big Island. The adventure ends with the return to Kona or Kohala Coast resorts via Saddle Road nestled between the world’s tallest sea mountain, Mauna Kea, and the world’s most massive mountain.

Big Island: Hilo Doors-Off Lava and Rainforest Adventure

7. Big Island: Hilo Doors-Off Lava and Rainforest Adventure

On this helicopter doors-off experience, you will see the best of the Big Island, with views only accessible by air. See giant waterfalls flowing down gorgeous cliffs and active glowing lava. For those wanting to see Hawaii from a bird's eye view, this tour will take you there. Jump aboard the Hughes 500 Helicopter doors-off and fly over one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Find out for yourself why this is the ”hottest helicopter ride on Earth.” After over 35 years of activity, Kīlauea Volcano has made its mark on the geological structure of the island. Witness otherworldly landscapes like the incredible 8-mile river of frozen lava from Fissure 8 to the Pacific Ocean, the newest black sand beaches, and enormous craters created by recent events. Along the way, view Mauna Loa’s vistas, the beauty of lush Puna rainforests, and mesmerizing Hilo waterfalls. With no windows to shoot through, there is no better way for you to share crystal clear photographs and videos of your experience. Many of these Hawaii waterfalls are accessible by air only so you will gain exclusive access to some of the largest waterfalls on the island. 

Hilo: Small-Group Humpback Whale Expedition

8. Hilo: Small-Group Humpback Whale Expedition

Prepare for an awe-inspiring whale watching trip offering you intimate wildlife encounters off Hilo's shoreline. Begin your journey at Wailoa Boat Harbor where you will set sail aboard the Moana Mea a'a (Hawaiian for "Ocean Adventurer").  Venture out of Hilo’s breakwall in search of these majestic creatures for an up-close and personal, once in a lifetime experience. Throughout your tour catch glimpses of Hawaii’s gentle giants and its winter visitor, the Humpback Whale. These fascinating mammals come to the warm Hawaiian waters every year to breed and give birth to new calves. While in search of whales, be delighted by pods of dolphins following and frolicking near your vessel. Before you know it, you will see one of these 40-ton giants breach the water for an unforgettable sight. Learn from your knowledgeable captain about the nonstop 6-8 week and 6,000-mile migration from Alaska, while encountering a few of the 12,000 North Pacific Humpbacks that arrive in the Hawaiian Islands each year for a season of mating, birthing, and nurturing their newborns.

Hawaii: Big Island Self-Guided Driving Tour

9. Hawaii: Big Island Self-Guided Driving Tour

Experience Hawaii's Big Island at your own pace with a self-guided driving tour. Stops include Hulihe's Palace, Magic Beach, and the Lekeleke Burial Grounds. Your tour of the Big Island begins outside the quaint town of Kailua-Kona. Start by downloading the Action Tour Guide app that will function as your personal guide, audio tour, and map all in one. As you drive, you’ll see the historic Hulihe’e Palace, once the vacation home of the island’s royalty. Continue south to Magic Beach, where the sand sometimes simply disappears. After that is Kahalu'u Beach, a perfect place for snorkelers, followed by the sacred Lekeleke Burial Grounds. Next, pass the remnants of Hikiau Heiau, an important religious site in ancient Hawaii. Past that is the Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park for those looking to learn more about the island’s history. See the Honaunau Rodeo Arena and learn all about Hawaii’s cowboys. Next up is Pebble Beach, where you’ll get to know the Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele. You’ll also have the option to check out the Kula Kai Caverns, left by ancient volcanic activity. Continuing on, reach the startling Punalu'u Beach, which features totally black sand. The route then passes an old sugar plantation, followed by the huge volcanoes Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Pass by Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where you can explore the island’s volcanoes up close. After that, drive through the picturesque town of Hilo. Then, cruise through the almost impossibly scenic Liliuokalani Park and Gardens. Find surfers catching waves next at Honoli'i Beach. After that is Onomea Bay, featuring a spectacular hiking trail with views that can’t be beaten. Then, admire the astonishing flora at the Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden. Continuing on, you’ll arrive at the surprising sight of the Honohina Hongwanji Mission, a historic Buddhist temple. Next pass the Laupahoehoe Train Museum before reaching Laupahoehoe Point, a spectacular ocean vista. Don’t forget to snap some photos. Anyone hankering for a snack will definitely want to stop at the Hamakua Harvest Farmers Market before continuing on to the cowboy town of Waimea. Up next are a pair of great beaches: Hapuna Beach is the largest white sand beach on the island and Beach 69 is beloved by locals, so take your pick. Then you’ll arrive at the Kings Highway Foot Trail, where you’ll have the chance to see the ancient Waikoloa Petroglyphs. After that are another few scenic overlooks, followed by the beautiful Kekaha Kai State Park. Your tour concludes here, just north of where it began.

Hilo: Elite Volcano Hike

10. Hilo: Elite Volcano Hike

Your experience begins as you head out of Hilo to the Puna Coast, the location of the historic 2018 eruption and where your first stop of the Mackenzie State Recreation Area is. The highway there was closed by the marching 40-foot-tall wall of crumbly a’a lava as it continued to the sea. You will take a hike along the now-closed highway, and then follow the lava flow through the pine forest to the altered coastline and cliffs overlooking the new black sand beach. Isaac Hale Beach Park is next, where you can drive along the infamous “Fissure 8”, which erupted in the heart of Lelani Estate's subdivision. A picnic-style lunch will be served at the park, weather permitting. You will then travel to the crown jewel of the Big Island, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. You'll begin by briefly visiting the Kilauea Iki Overlook, before heading off on foot down the paved road to Keanakakoi. You can check out the activity there from the historic 2018 eruption, which buckled the road and caused racks and sinkholes. You’ll also get a birds-eye view of the Kilauea Caldera and the enormous Halema’uma’u Crater, along with views of the trail you will take into the Caldera. Throughout your 2-mile hike you can look for native birds, such as the yellow ‘amakihi and the red ‘apapane. Huge boulders came to rest at this location during ancient rock slides and eruptions, and you can look for marks left by previous visitors such as Benjamin Boyd and John Webster, just to name a few. Reaching the floor of Kilauea Calder there is an incredible rock slide to your left, evidence of the 2018 eruption, as well as the Halema’uma’u Crater which sits before you. The crater increased in size during the eruption, with the lava lake draining out of it leaving behind an enormous 1,000-foot-deep pit. Afterwards, you will return to the starting point.

Other Sightseeing Options in Hilo

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What people are saying about Hilo

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 152 reviews

The sightseeing flight was great and was definitely worth it. You get the exact time about 2 days before the booked date. During the flight you will be told some information by the pilot about what you are flying over. A sweater or jacket for the flight (without doors) is definitely important. Long pants would be good as well as it was really cold at times. I was wearing short shorts and was a little chilly.

A great way to see the island if you are short of time on your trip. We had a great guide (Brett) who was really knowledgeable and gave us a lot of information about the island, it’s history and the volcanos. It’s a long day but the bus is comfortable, the food and snacks were good and we got to drive around the whole island with some interesting stops. I would recommend.

David was a fantastic tour guide! He has a great way of delivering the story & kept it interesting on the very long trip. The trip encompasses all of the things you hope to see during your stay, well worth one of your full days on the Big Island.

Small group. Kelsey was super accommodating to any of our needs. The experience was like being inside an aquarium. Very meaningful time we’ll spent!

Guide was incredible and given ample time to experience all stops.