Hilo - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Hilo


Hula down to Hilo, which has been dubbed 'Hawaii's forgotten city' on the coast of the Big Island, for a dose of old-time Hawaii. The city may be the second largest in the State, but Hilo has a small-town feel. Overlooking beautiful Hilo Bay, and dominated by two volcanoes (the active Mauna Loa and dormant Mauna Kea), the city was a trading centre for native Hawaiians in ancient times, then became an important port once the westerners had discovered that the area was ideal for growing sugar cane.

More modern times have seen Hilo bear the brunt of two tsunamis, one in 1946 and another in 1960, but the hardy citizens of Hilo cleaned up their city after each affliction and now the high-water marks of these devastating events are a tourist attraction, along with the Pacific Tsunami Museum on the corner of Front and Kalakaua Streets.

Although reminders of the past are everywhere, in the architecture and attractions, Hilo is a young, happening city, home to the University of Hawaii and the Merrie Monarch Festival, celebrating hula dancing, held annually in the week after Easter.

Another of the hottest happenings in Hilo is the Farmers' Market, held on Wednesdays and Saturdays along Front Street, when more than 100 vendors set up their stalls selling everything from fresh produce to Portuguese pastries and native crafts.

The downtown area of Hilo contains Hawaii's largest collection of historic buildings, dating back to the turn of the century. There are plenty of restaurants, museums, a rainforest zoo and the beautiful Nani Mau Gardens to explore. Beyond the city itself the countryside is photogenically beautiful, with waterfalls plunging down the hillsides, forming rainbows that light up the lush vegetation. It rains a lot, but mostly in the late afternoons, ensuring that the area stays vividly green. The volcanic beaches in the area are covered in jet-black sand, offsetting the brilliant white spray and blue, glassy waters. Hilo is a colourful kaleidoscope of Hawaii, filled with friendly, smiling people waiting to welcome visitors.

Information & Facts

English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.

The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.

*Currently, some areas of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are closed, due to tsunami damage suffered on March 11, 2011.*In the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park surrounding the earth's most massive volcano, Mauna Loa, visitors can actually watch lava flow into the sea from Kilauea, the still active on-site volcano. Park rangers direct visitors to the daily eruption activity on a dramatic burnt landscape, which transforms the landscape with the ongoing eruption. The park is located 30 miles (48km) southwest of Hilo on Highway 11, on the south-east coast of Big Island. Inside the park the Thomas A Jaggar Museum provides a fascinating insight into the geology of a volcano, as well as the cultural aspect of Hawaii's legendary volcano goddess, Pele. Visitors can view seismograph readings, study earth science displays and enjoy photographs of volcanic eruptions.

Hilo has been destroyed several times by tsunami (tidal waves). The first-hand oral testimony of tsunami survivors is now preserved along with some other fascinating information in the Pacific Tsunami Museum, located on Kamehameha Avenue in the town. The museum features a series of permanent exhibits that interpret the tsunami phenomena, the Pacific Tsunami Warning system, the history of tsunami in the Pacific Basin, tsunami of the future, myths and legends about tsunami and public safety measures for tsunami disasters.

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