Big Island – Hilo, the East Side


Hawaii, the islands of Aloha, is the only state of the USA located in the Pacific Ocean. It is a paradise, a land where mother nature is seen at its greatest. This is the only state made up of islands. The state mesmerizes with its various wonderful landscapes. It has everything, an active volcano to a lush green rainforest, beaches to deserts, waterfalls to craters, tropical gardens to chilly mountains and the list goes on. A must visit place!

“We Arise Again” slogan and Hawaiian royalty pictured on the lava, Kaimu Black Sand Beach

Big Island, as the name suggests, is the largest island among all Hawaiian islands. Big Island is attractive for its diverse landscape and weather. The island can be smoothly divided into two halves: Kona, the West Side and Hilo, the East Side. The west side is more dry, sunny and has more attractive beaches. Hilo, the east side is more humid and has lush rainforests, valleys, and waterfalls.

These photos are from our four nights stay at Big Island from an 8 day trip to Hawaii during the first week of October, 2016. I could not stop adding photos as the island is paradise with stunning landscapes.

Hilo – the East Side

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Quick Facts and Tips

  • Best time to visit
    • Weather and good deals: Apr to May, Sep to Oct. Dec to Mar is better, but could be expensive
  • Fly Into
    • Kona International Airport
    • Hilo International Airport
    • Honolulu International Airport, then taking a short, 35-40 minute flight Kona or Hilo
  • Clothing
    • Weather is warm, so pack lightweight casual t-shirts, shorts, sundresses, tank tops, capris, skirts, swimsuits, rain gears and a light jacket for the cool evenings
  • Be sure to check Big Island Dept of Transportation website for traffic alerts and current road closure before heading out
  • Best things to do
    • Polalu Valley: Polalu Valley at the head of the Kohala coast offers magnificent deep lush green valleys with picturesque beaches. Though the overlook at the end of the Highway 270 showcases the beauty of the rugged coastline and wild valleys, the hiking down offers better photo vantage.  The hike is a 0.7 mile steep descent, but the uphill return can be challenging. The hike ends with a beautiful Black sand beach and deep green valleys. The hike alone takes about 45 minutes round trip. The Overlook has a small parking area that fills up quickly.  Note that there is no service at all, so plan accordingly.
    • Waipio Valley Lookout: Gorgeous lookout offers expansive views of the ocean, steep cliffs, waterfalls and lush green valleys. You can enjoy the lush green valleys, waterfalls and black sand beaches by hiking a 2 mile trail one-way from lookout, but climbing back up can be challenging. You can drive down to the valley, only if you have a 4 wheel drive. The easiest way to get down the valley is to take any tours – horseback, mule drawn wagon or van/shuttle. There are restrooms, picnic tables and information boards at the Lookout.
    • Laupāhoehoe Beach Park: It is a nice spot with less crowd, covered with coconut and palm trees, grass and black lava rocks on the shoreline. It is a hidden gem with stunning views of the ocean and offers spectacular splashes of waves against the lava rocks. The park has restrooms, picnic tables and plenty of parking spots
    • Umauma Falls: This picture perfect fall is accessible only through the Umauma Experience tour company that runs zip lining and other activities like ATV tours, water rappelling, kayaking and horseback riding. Umauma Falls is a stunningly attractive multi-tiered waterfall tumbling over 300ft. There will be an entry fee to view falls which is good for both the Falls and Botanical garden. Stop at the visitor center to get a map of the garden and river walk. There are snack bars, a gift shop, and restrooms available.
    • Akaka Falls State Park: The park features two beautiful waterfalls through the lush tropical vegetation. This  self-guided .4 mile loop hike is a pleasant, well maintained trail and offers scenic vista points overlooking the cascading Kahuna Falls and the free-falling 442 feet high Akaka Falls into a stream gorge. There is a $5 entrance fee per car or $1 per person for pedestrians. Restrooms are available.
    • Rainbow Falls: Just a mile and a half from downtown Hilo. The 80 feet Rainbow falls gets its name from the rainbow formed from its mist on sunny mornings. It’s a short and nice trail with a large parking lot and no entrance fee.
    • Lava Tree State Monument: Public state park that features unusual lava tree molds. Easy and short half mile paved trail opens up to tall lava molds of the Ohia tree trunks. Entrance is free and restrooms are available.
    • Kaimū Black Sand Beach Park: This newly formed black sand beach park is located in the Pahoa area on the southeast side of Hawaii’s Big Island. The lava flow from the 1990 volcano eruption wiped out many towns and the old Kaimu Black Sand Beach. You can see the sprouted coconut trees that locals have planted in an effort to restore the beach. Short and easy hike over the lava fields and red rocks to get to the beach. Shores are slippery and swimming is not advisable.
    • Mouna Kea
      • Free nightly stargazing at visitor station, Tue-Fri, 6 pm – 10 pm. It gets cold here, dress accordingly.
      • Visiting the Summit: Not an easy drive, 4WD is a must, Check Visitor station for more information.

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