Hilo
Culture & History

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Our most recommended Hilo Culture & History

Hilo: Small-Group Humpback Whale Expedition

1. 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.

Hilo: 2-Hour Historic Hawaii Hamakua Cruise

2. 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

3. 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

4. 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: Self-Drive Sightseeing Road Trip

5. Big Island: Self-Drive Sightseeing Road Trip

Explore Hawaii’s youngest and largest island and change the way you see the Big Island with this narrated, self-drive road trip. Visit historic sites, popular attractions, world-class beaches, and scenic hikes. Hear local stories, legends, and fun facts about the places you’re visiting and listen to unique Hawaiian music to entertain and relax you along the way. Drive across barren lava fields that are wedged between two active volcanoes. Visit a black sand beach and taste Hawaiian coffee and macadamia nuts on local farms. Be adventurous and go cliff diving or take advantage of the beautiful nature and take a scenic hike. See the tallest mountain in Hawaii at night for the ultimate stargazing experience. This adventure is great for families and solo travelers alike.

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.

Hilo: Elite Volcano Hike

7. 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.

Hilo: Hilo Bay and Coconut Island SUP Guided Tour

8. Hilo: Hilo Bay and Coconut Island SUP Guided Tour

Unlike anywhere else on the islands, Hilo Bay captures the feeling of going back in time. Join this guided 2-hour tour paddling with the majestic snow-capped peaks of Mauna Kea in the distance. Learn about the history of the last Hawaiian monarch at Queen Liliuokalani Japanese Gardens. Discover secluded coves, marine life that gathers in the tide pools, and Coconut Island.

Big Island: Hilo Airport Honeymoon Lei Greeting

9. Big Island: Hilo Airport Honeymoon Lei Greeting

Receive a warm welcome to the island upon your arrival at Hilo International Airport with a traditional lei flower greeting, a common symbol of love, friendship, celebration, honor, and greeting. Choose from a selection of lei to best suits your taste and budget, ensuring your arrival in Hawaii is one to be remembered. The lei greeters consider it an honor to be your first contact on the island and will happily take a photo with you to remember this momentous occasion. Your local greeter will also help you find transportation or your connecting inter-island flight. An airport lei greeting sets the tone for your entire Hawaiian vacation, don't miss your chance to experience this friendly tradition for yourself.

Hilo: Wailoa River to King Kamehameha Statue Guided SUP Tour

10. Hilo: Wailoa River to King Kamehameha Statue Guided SUP Tour

Experience Hilo as you journey up the relaxing river and cruise below the graceful dragon arches of the Japanese-style bridges. Loa, meaning "long water," includes an easy entry from a boat ramp that travels up Wailoa River and into Hilo Bay. See unique birds and fish throughout your excursion.  Take a break and enjoy the King Kamehameha Statue. Learn more about the History of the Big Island and the Tsunamis that have cleared the area and created an arboretum of trees, recognized by the Tree Association as "The Largest of Tree Species outside of Africa." 

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What people are saying about Hilo

Overall rating

4.4 / 5

based on 14 reviews

Very informative and enjoyed that you can pick up at any point of a tour. We could stay at each location as long as wanted and skip things not of interest or short on time. Note a few places may no longer be open due to Covid shut down. Also missed a few turns where gps was off tour slightly. Tour guide was fun and a bit silly at times which lightened the trip.

Me and my husband had a wonderful experience on our tour! Our host Derek was incredible and made a lasting impression on us. We highly recommend! It’s most definitely a must see!

Alanna, Dreu and Douglas provided a great experience! They were knowledgeable in every question and more. Well worth it if you want a tour of the countryside of Big Island :)

So fun. We did things you couldn't do on your own like a private waterfall to swim under, and a 4 wheel drive into Waipo valley. Just beautiful.

Loved thw app. And is worth the price. It helped to see Kona in my own pace