Cruising into Hilo is like stepping out of a time machine and into Old Hawaii: This bayfront town on the Big Island hasn’t fallen victim to overdevelopment like neighboring cities, so you can actually experience what it’s like to live, eat, and shop like a local. Your ship docks in Kuhio Bay about two miles east of downtown; use shuttles to get to attractions in and around Hilo.
What We Love
Mauna Kea: This nearly 14,000-foot mountain is home to the world’s largest space observatory, which offers some of the best atmospheric clarity on Earth. You can go from sea level to the stars (well, almost) on a one-day tour.
Nature in Bloom: Hilo’s abundant showers bring many, many flowers. Spot them at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden (2,000 species of flora), at the farmers market, and along hillsides everywhere.
Best Known For
Volcanoes National Park: Witness how volcanic eruptions have altered the face of the landscape here. Glimpse lava brewing within a vent at Halema’uma’u Crater or flowing near the Chain of Craters Road (the park’s website has daily lava updates).
Akaka Falls State Park: This is the Hollywood version of what a lush, tropical rain forest should be. Hike along paved trails to the 442-foot waterfall. Feeling bold? Hop on the zip line over the falls.
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Who It's Best For
Adventure Junkies: Whether you’re into dives, climbs, or aerial views, there are plenty of adrenaline-revving activities to experience near Hilo.
Science Seekers: The Big Island is a veritable laboratory and observation deck for natural wonders, from the geological to the astronomical.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Bring Your Umbrella: There’s a very good chance that at some point during your visit it will rain. Hilo gets around 130 inches a year (the U.S. average is 37).
Skip the Kitsch: Unless you truly can’t live without an “authentic” Aloha shirt or hula skirt, avoid the much-touted Hilo Hattie market (you’ll find better souvenirs elsewhere).
Amanda Pressner Kreuser is a New York City-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure, Departures, and Food & Wine.