The Big Island, Hawaii
A definite drawcard for the nature lover and outdoor enthusiast, the Big Island in the Hawaiian archipelago is aptly named - it covers an area of over 10,000 square kilometres and is the largest island in the United States.
A diverse natural wonderland, the Big Island is covered with active volcanoes, pristine rainforests, undulating mountain ranges with snow-capped peaks, and stretches of white, black, and even green sandy beach.
It’s also home to incredible luxury resorts, great restaurants and cafes, top-quality golf courses, old fishing villages, and a number of interesting historical sites, such as the birth place of Kamehameha the Great.
Welcoming on average over 150,000 travellers each and every month, the Big Island is a major tourist destination.
Cruise ships either anchor in Hilo Bay and tender passengers ashore, or dock at the pier in Kuhio Bay – approximately 3 kilometres east of downtown Hilo. Getting into town on foot will take over an hour, so it’s better to take a free shuttle, bus, taxi or rental car.
There are currently no permanent facilities located at the pier in Kuhio Bay. However, during cruising season, the port is awash with helpful volunteers from the Hilo Information Centre, who can provide you with maps, brochures, and overall advice.
Also, on cruise days, there are usually free shuttle transport services available that take passengers into town, often to the centrally located Farmers Market, or to Hilo Hattie – a popular Hawaiian department store.
Taxis are available at the pier, as are public buses heading into town on an hourly basis. Rental cars should be booked in advance and are picked up at the nearby airport.
How to Get Around
Taxis, free shuttles and public buses travel into Hilo city centre. Rental cars can also be reserved, but you need to do this well in advance and pick them up from the airport, a short drive from the pier.
Travel times from the pier:
- It is a 15 minute journey to the Hilo Farmers Market
- It is a 1 hour journey to the Volcano National Park
- It is a 30 minute journey to the Akaka Falls State Park (cost is around USD$90 each way for a taxi).
- Currency – the US dollar is the local currency in Hawaii. Coins come in 1c, 5c, 10c, 25c, 50c, and $1 coin denominations, while notes are in USD$1, USD$2, USD$5, USD$10, USD$20, USD$50, and USD$100 denominations. Paying by credit card is widely accepted, and there are plenty of ATMs throughout the city.
- Time Zone – Hilo operates on Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time (HAST), which is 10 hours behind Coordination Universal Time (UTC).
- Weather – Hilo is the rainiest city in the United States, averaging around 3,300mm a year on its shores (and even more in its mountains). The hottest month of the year to visit is in July, when temperatures can get up to 28 degrees Celsius. The coldest time to visit Hilo is in January when temperatures can drop down to 17 degrees Celsius.
- Volcano National Park – Get up close and personal with one of the world’s most active volcanoes: Kilauea. It is by far the most active of the 5 volcanoes on the Big Island, and one of the most popular attractions in all of Hawaii. Witness dramatic lava flows and immerse yourself in this other-worldly landscape. The Volcano National Park is located 48 kilometres from Hilo city centre and can be reached either by taxi, rental car or on an organised tour. Learn about the history of the volcano by visiting the visitors’ centre, which is open daily from 7:45am to 5pm. Entrance fee is USD$10 per person.
- Akaka Falls State Park – Located on the beautiful Hamakua Coast and only a 30 minute drive from downtown Hilo, the Akaka Falls State Park is set amongst pristine tropical rainforest. Inside the park, hikers can view the 100-foot Kahuna Falls before finally witnessing the magnificent Akaka Falls: a 442-foot waterfall. This moderate-level hike through the lush rainforest – peppered with wild orchids, draping ferns and bamboo groves – should only take an hour or so. Entry is USD$5 per car or USD$1 per person.
- Hilo Farmers Market – Spend a few hours at the Hilo Farmers Market sampling seasonal fruits like sweet white pineapple and lychee, drinking local Puna coffee, chatting with friendly locals, and purchasing locally made arts and crafts. Over 200 vendors set up shop just off Kamehameha Ave, directly opposite Bayfront Park. The market is open every Wednesday and Saturday from 6am to 4pm.