On the east coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, Hilo offers better access than Kona to two of the island’s major regions—Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the Hamakua Coast. Read on for more info about the top activities on this side of Hawaii’s largest island.
Just 30 miles (48 kilometers) from Hilo—compared to 100 miles (161 kilometers) from Kona—Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is home to two active volcanoes: Mauna Loa and Kilauea. Tours to the park typically last six to nine hours and may include other stops at other sites such as Rainbow Falls, a black-sand beach, or a macadamia nut farm. Helicopter tours from Kona run for about 45 minutes and provide hard-to-beat views of smoke, lava flows, and even nearby waterfalls. Meanwhile, ground tours allow travelers to walk through a lava tube and listen to the hiss of steam rising from the ground—the better experience if you’re interested in the geology. Opt for a hiking or biking tour for a more adventurous way to see the park.
Hilo’s location just south of the verdant Hamakua Coast makes it a great departure point for a zipline adventure among the lush rainforest environment, where you can fly over treetops, rivers, and waterfalls. Tours typically last two to four hours, unless you book a longer day trip that also includes a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Courses generally feature seven to nine ziplines, some of which boast Pacific Ocean views and reach more than 2,000 feet (600 meters) in length.
While Hilo enjoys proximity to the Big Island’s many waterfalls, such as Akaka Falls, not all of them are swimmable, so book a tour that includes visiting a site safe for swimming if you’d like to take a dip. Other opportunities for getting out on the water from Hilo include introductory scuba diving or a day trip to Papakolea Green Sand Beach, one of only a handful of green-sand beaches on Earth. For snorkeling, you’re better off booking a tour from Kona.