A short drive north of Hilo, the majestic Akaka Falls makes it onto most itineraries. As you go down the stairs, you can see the falls in the distance and most tourists turn left heading directly to it. But, my insider artist tip... give yourself a little extra time and turn to the right! You will enter a magical rain forest bamboo wonderland. (see my Akaka Falls blog here). And, take time to look around for the many secret surprises that await you. Taking the "path less traveled" will take longer to get to spectacular Akaka falls, but it's worth it, trust me!
The Old Mamalahoa Highway north of Hilo is best known as the way to get to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. While the Garden is amazing, and a don't miss if you have time, it is also very spendy. This scenic drive is astoundingly beautiful in it's own right. It's also free. We love to take our miata and drive the old highway with the top down (tho it's beautiful when it's raining too!) . Even if you can't fit the garden into your itinerary, take the time for the drive. Also, plan to go slow, really really slow. There are so many beautiful sights to stop and take pictures of... but it's also a very tiny road, lots of curves and many one lane bridges. Drive with aloha!!
This small island is rich in Hawaiian history and easily accessible from Hilo's two largest hotels (the Hilo Hawaiian and Grand Naniloa). It's also one of my very favorite Island stops. Whether strolling around the island or merely watching it from across the water during a picnic lunch I always find it a peaceful and restful place.
It's real name is Mokuola - which means healing island. In ancient times it was a place of refuge. Legend has it that if you swim around the island 3 times you will be healed (however, I don't actually recommend swimming in Hilo bay.) Today, it's a fun spot Hilo families gather for picnic, walkers and runners exercise and kids jump of the rock tower.
Our National Park receives more visitors than any other sight on the Big Island--and for good reason--it's fascinating. You can't really go wrong taking in any of the sights around the Park but I'll give you my favorites in the following posts.