If you're coming on shore in the eastside town of Hilo, you'll be spending your time in an oceanfront town with a huge volcano looming as the backdrop. As you descend from the cruise ship onto the Big Island, you'll be on the eastern side of gorgeous Hilo Bay. It's Hilo and the immediate outskirts you'll be exploring, since that's what's in close proximity to the cruise ship ports.
Head down the street into town and hang a right down scenic Banyan Drive. This will take you along the ocean before it's time to stop for a while at Liliuokalani Park. The beautiful park is home to Chinese gardens, a grassy lawn and a collection of fish ponds where locals like to hang out, fish and enjoy the outdoors. Just across the street is the ocean, and this is one of the best spots in Hilo for views of the volcano Mauna Kea and all of Hilo Bay.
Rainbow Falls — Photo courtesy of Ben Britten
Next, it's time to head over to Lyman Museum. Located just a minute inland from the ocean, Lyman Museum holds several intriguing galleries, such as the Island Heritage Gallery, which explores the ethnically diverse world of the Big Island.
Also in house is the Earth Heritage Gallery, which takes visitors back to a time on the Big Island before human contact. A collection of Chinese art shares pieces up to 3,000 years old, and various changing exhibits are also on display.
The next stop will be Rainbow Falls, where you can hear the thundering sound of an 80-foot waterfall cascading down into a sparkling pool. Dense, lush jungle foliage that the east side of the island is know for canopy over the viewing areas, making it a magical jungle escape from town. Make your way around the property to get different views of the falls, and there's a good change you'll be treated to a rainbow.
Nani Mau Gardens — Photo courtesy of Mark McElroy
Now it's time to relax for a while at Nani Mau Gardens. The owner of this exquisite botanical garden began planting tropical flowers in this former papaya patch more than two decades ago. Today, he estimates that his 2000+ species of plants and flowers represent one of the largest such collections in the state. The garden's 20 acres include a traditional Japanese garden with waterfalls, a European garden, a lily pond, an annual garden and a beach garden.
There's also an abundance of wonderful restaurants in the downtown Hilo area. If you're in the mood for gourmet Italian food with a Pacific Rim twist, drop by Cafe Pesto. If you're craving home-style Japanese food, Miyo's is the best in town. And for traditional Thai food, Full Moon Cafe can't be beat.