Port Spotlight: Hilo, Hawaii

Hawaii is the world’s most isolated archipelago, further from other inhabited places than any other. The state is made up of eight major islands and 124 minor islands — many of which have a mass of less than 3 sq. miles! Holland America Line destination Hilo is located on The Big Island. The natural beauty of lush rainforests, dramatic waterfalls and beautiful gardens mixed with the charm of old wooden storefronts earned Hilo the distinction of Hawaii’s biggest small town.

Hilo’s location on a crescent-shaped bay made it an ideal place for fishing and farming, and later a booming commercial center for the sugar industry in the 1800’s. Today, Hilo is the seat of the county government. Guests visiting Hilo can relax and take in the beauty of the area, or science buffs can take advantage of the rich scientific resources of the region.

For those looking to kick back and relax Banyan Tree Drive and Ho’olulu Park are two picturesque places to take a stroll near the shoreline. There are also two great beaches in close proximity. Reed’s Bay Beach Park has calm waters that are great for swimming. A freshwater spring feeds into the water making it a refreshing dip no matter the heat outside. Onekahakaha Beach Park is a protected white-sand beach with picnic pavilions, restrooms and showers — perfect for enjoying a whole day at the beach.


The inquisitive visitor will be pleased to check out the biology, astronomy, oceanography and geology all contained within the island. The museums of Historic Hilo could be a quick stop, or a whole day’s occupation. The Mokupāpapa Discovery Center is a free museum dedicated to the education and conservation of the region’s coral reefs, Imiloa is a center that marries Astronomy and Hawaiian culture, and the Pacific Tsunami Museum is dedicated to the promotion of public tsunami education, an issue close to the heart of Hilo as the town was nearly wiped out by a devastating tsunami in 1960.

An observatory atop Mauna Kea.

An observatory atop Mauna Kea.


The natural beauty of the region is apparent in the many waterfalls, including Akaka Falls, Umauma Falls and Rainbow falls. Anyone wishing to look out over the whole island can climb to the top of Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in the pacific. Because of the elevation the peak may be chilly, and the air is thin, but the views can be incredible and the mountain boasts 12 observatories. You cannot make the trip to Mauna Kea by rental car, but Holland America Line offers a great Mauna Kea Summit Adventure.

Rob from Ontario took the excursion to the top of Mauna Kea and said,

“…the views are unbelievable! Be sure to take the time to walk around at the acclimatization point – the extra 1000 feet of altitude at the top has a significant impact.”

Hilo is also known as the gateway to Volcanoes National Park, recognized for its extraordinary natural diversity and named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1989. Volcanoes National Park is one of the most popular visitor attractions in Hawaii, and is considered sacred by local Hawaiians who visit the park to feel the “mana” or spirit.


Volcanoes National Park is one of the most iconic images of Hawaii, and offers the visitor a chance to really appreciate the formation of the islands, and the power of the earth. The National Park Service said of the park,

“Volcanoes are monuments to Earth’s origin, evidence that its primordial forces are still at work. During a volcanic eruption, we are reminded that our planet is an ever-changing environment whose basic processes are beyond human control. As much as we have altered the face of the Earth to suit our needs, we can only stand in awe before the power of an eruption.”

The park has hundreds of acres of hiking trails through volcanic craters and currently there are two active volcanoes. Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984, and Kilauea is the world’s most active volcano. It has been erupting continuously since Jan. 3, 1983. The name Kilauea means “spewing” or “much spreading,” and refers to the lava flow. Geologists are unable to say if the volcano will continue to flow for 100 years, or stop tomorrow.


The results of the lava flow is obvious in the obsidian earth of the islands, but also presents itself in some interesting and unusual ways. Lava trees are formed when molten lava cools over a tree and takes its shape, and Lava Tree Park is dedicated entirely to this phenomenon. Tours walk through lava tubes as well, natural tunnels formed by lava flow.

Hilo, Hawaii is a region for beauty and brains, so whether you’re interested in lacing up your hiking boots and learning a lesson in plate tectonics or laying out a beach towel and taking in the warm Hawaiian breeze, Holland America Line and Hilo can deliver.


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  1. […] Hilo, the east coast of the island of Hawaii throws out its arms, sticks its face into the […]

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