Hilo and the Puna District
Hilo ‘āina ua lokuloku. (Hilo of the pouring rain).
Hilo is the county seat for the Big Island and its largest city, which still isn’t to say that it’s a large city. It sees considerably less tourism than the sunny Kona coast, due mostly to the reputation for lots of rain. That’s true – Hilo is among the rainiest cities anywhere – but, rain makes the beauty of rainforests. Hilo has the Big Island’s only permanent watercourse, the Wailuku River, as well as tropical rainforests, flowers, and waterfalls. Don’t miss the Hilo Farmer's Market, open nearly every day but best on Wednesday and Saturday. It's in the middle of downtown.
The Puna District is a fascinating place to visit, and a place most tourists to the Big Island never see. The biggest town, Pahōa, has a counterculture vibe and several great restaurants including an authentic Mexican joint. Beaches here are sometimes clothes-optional, including Kehena black sand beach. At times, flowing lava can be best viewed from a road along the southern coast in Puna, called the Kalapana Lava Viewing Area. To get there, take Hwy. 11 to Kea'au and find Hwy. 130. Drive Hwy. 130 until it ends at an array of Danger and Restricted Access Sites. Follow the directions on the signs and proceed. As of May 2012, a carefully-driven passenger car could reach the lava viewing site, but the road past the Restricted Access signs is in horrendous shape. Call 808-961-8093, the County Lava Hotline, for current information. Kalapana Lava Viewing Area is open from 2 pm to 10 pm daily, but no one is admitted after 8 pm. Compared to the National Park access, your ability to hike to flowing lava will be much restricted by the County.
The hikes in this section are shown on the map below and can be found in the drop down menu above. You can also click the links below the map.
View Big Island Hikes in a larger map