Add dates
Things to do in

Hilo

Our most recommended things to do in Hilo

Hilo: Fly over Volcano National Park and Waterfalls

1. Hilo: Fly over Volcano National Park and Waterfalls

Take a helicopter ride over ever-changing scenery at Volcano National Park with this tour from Hilo. Journey over black sand beaches where lava once flowed into the sea. Take off from Hilo and fly directly to Volcano National Park. See the caldera of the Kilauea volcano. Admire the Pu'uo'o' volcanic cone. Snap pictures of the massive volcanos Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Discover new lava fields that are forming and go over old lava fields. View how waterfalls create a deep blue pools amid jungle greenery.

Hilo: Sea Turtle Lagoon and Black Sand Beach Snorkel

2. Hilo: Sea Turtle Lagoon and Black Sand Beach Snorkel

This is your opportunity to swim in a lagoon full of abundant sea life. Join your hosts on a fully guided and narrated beach snorkel tour along the pristine Hilo coastline. Make 2 snorkeling stops and also enjoy island snacks and juices. The volcanic beaches are renowned for their abundant sea turtle population, and the brackish water bays and lagoons are home to a wealth of sea life including octopus, eagle and manta rays, eels, corals, and tropical reef fish. Your experienced snorkel guide will teach you about the beautiful and lush surroundings, how the beaches and volcanic islands are made, and about the abundant marine world which lies below. Newcomers to snorkeling and children are welcome. Your trained guide will teach you the basics and be with you every step of the way to make sure you feel safe and comfortable. Children will be introduced to nature in a spectacular way.

Mauna Kea: Stellar Explorer Tour from Hilo

3. Mauna Kea: Stellar Explorer Tour from Hilo

Visit Rainbow Falls and the Kaumana Caves before heading to your stargazing location. Travel across Saddle Road between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, 2 of the tallest and biggest volcanoes on Earth. To complete your tour, your guide will take you to one of the preferred locations on Mauna Kea for nighttime stargazing. Observe the deep sky and planetary objects through a large aperture telescope, under one of the darkest and most pristine skies on planet Earth. Enjoy narration from expert astronomers, who have written articles for well-known magazines and worked at world-class observatories for decades. The telescopes are a true purist way to view the night sky. Their fast focal ratio enables you to see sprawling wide-field views of objects that are simply not possible with other telescopes.  Weather permitting and depending on what is visible in the current sky, you can observe galaxies, nebula, star clusters, planets, double star systems, the moon, and much more.

Volcano: Volcanoes National Park E-Bike Ride with GPS Guide

4. Volcano: Volcanoes National Park E-Bike Ride with GPS Guide

Experience the thrill of a lifetime: E-bike around the rim of an erupting volcano. Follow a GPS map tour using your smartphone. This day of unbeatable excitement begins at Bike Volcano Headquarter in Volcano Village (less than a mile from the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park) where there is secured parking, restrooms, a general store, and a restaurant. Here you will be fitted with an e-bike and helmet and given a safety lecture under the canopy staging area. The GPS system will then lead you on a voice turn-by-turn navigation from Volcano Village into National Park on a bike trail through a lush native Hawaiian Rainforest. Your first stop will be Waldron's Ledge where you will get your first panoramic view of Kilauea Volcanos Caldera and the active lava in Halemaumau Crater (volcano-dependent). Next, your ride continues a paved trail along the rim of the Caldera to the Steam Vents where you will feel the heat of the volcano and get another incredible view of the Kilauea Volcano's Caldera. Continue biking along the crater's edge, getting incredible vast views unseen by most visitors to the park. Stop at the Kilauea Overlook and the Summit of Kilauea. Adventure abounds as you head to the opposite side of the crater and bike through the lush Hawaiian rainforest to see the incredible Kilauea Iki Crater before taking a short hike through the Thurston Lava Tube. The journey continues down Devastation Trail and leads to the closest viewing point to see the active lava in the Summit Crater. Why walk when you can e-bike? You will end your journeying by biking back to Volcano Village where you will say "A hui hou", until we meet again.

Big Island: Hilo Doors-Off Lava and Rainforest Adventure

5. Big Island: Hilo Doors-Off Lava and Rainforest Adventure

On this helicopter doors-off experience, you will see the best of the Big Island, with views only accessible by air. See giant waterfalls flowing down gorgeous cliffs and active glowing lava. For those wanting to see Hawaii from a bird's eye view, this tour will take you there. Jump aboard the Hughes 500 Helicopter doors-off and fly over one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Find out for yourself why this is the ”hottest helicopter ride on Earth.” After over 35 years of activity, Kīlauea Volcano has made its mark on the geological structure of the island. Witness otherworldly landscapes like the incredible 8-mile river of frozen lava from Fissure 8 to the Pacific Ocean, the newest black sand beaches, and enormous craters created by recent events. Along the way, view Mauna Loa’s vistas, the beauty of lush Puna rainforests, and mesmerizing Hilo waterfalls. With no windows to shoot through, there is no better way for you to share crystal clear photographs and videos of your experience. Many of these Hawaii waterfalls are accessible by air only so you will gain exclusive access to some of the largest waterfalls on the island. 

Hilo: Historic Hawaii Hamakua Cruise

6. Hilo: Historic Hawaii Hamakua Cruise

Grab your camera and get ready for a sightseeing cruise that will provide you with stunning photographs and beautiful memories for years to come. During this small and intimate tour, spend 2 hours viewing lush tropical landscapes, secret coves, beautiful waterfalls, and visiting ancient Hawaiian villages. You will see the remains of Hilo's plantation-era sugar mills including the 1900s-era Papaikou Mill that is now a popular spot with surfers. Be sure to capture majestic photos of Mauna Kea, the world's largest volcano, as well as Kilauea, the world's most active one. The two tallest and most active volcanoes in the world, all visitors should be sure to make time to see these mountains of fire, which are both located in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. While on the waters keep an eye out for playful spinner and bottle-nose dolphins; these crowd favorites love to put on an acrobatic show next to the boat. Throughout the tour, your guides will share insightful stories and fascinating facts about the history and culture of Hilo and Hamakua. Reserve your spot in the boat today.

Ultimate Waterfall Experience Private Day Trip

7. Ultimate Waterfall Experience Private Day Trip

Experience the best waterfalls of the Big Island on this private waterfall tour. Visit a private waterfall location and relax in the beauty and tranquility of this 42-acre property which boasts 4 waterfalls, bamboo gardens and miles of trails. The largest waterfall on the property cascades 120 feet into a protected pool, perfect for swimming activities. Experience the majestic waterfalls and the lush tropical landscape of this private property and, if conditions permit, take dip or enjoy the provided extras such as kayaks and stand-up paddle boards. Then, head to the iconic Wailuku River State Park and take in the magnificent beauty of Rainbow Falls and Boiling Pots (bubbling basalt-lava rock pools). After working up an appetite, enjoy a fresh farm-to-table picnic lunch at a local farm. From here, cruise along Onomea’s scenic route passing through the lush rainforest and rugged coastline of the Hamakua coastline. Stop for photos and views of beautiful waterfalls along the way. Next, take a guided walk through Akaka Falls State Park. Hear about the rich botanical life found throughout the park from your naturalist and have the opportunity to view 2 spectacular waterfalls. Gaze at Akaka falls, which cascades 442 feet down a vertical bright green cliff face. Before returning home, drive through the historic downtown Hilo and learn about the area's rich culture, volcanic activity, and city history.

Hilo: Small-Group Humpback Whale Expedition

8. Hilo: Small-Group Humpback Whale Expedition

Prepare for an awe-inspiring whale watching trip offering you intimate wildlife encounters off Hilo's shoreline. Begin your journey at Wailoa Boat Harbor where you will set sail aboard the Moana Mea a'a (Hawaiian for "Ocean Adventurer").  Venture out of Hilo’s breakwall in search of these majestic creatures for an up-close and personal, once in a lifetime experience. Throughout your tour catch glimpses of Hawaii’s gentle giants and its winter visitor, the Humpback Whale. These fascinating mammals come to the warm Hawaiian waters every year to breed and give birth to new calves. While in search of whales, be delighted by pods of dolphins following and frolicking near your vessel. Before you know it, you will see one of these 40-ton giants breach the water for an unforgettable sight. Learn from your knowledgeable captain about the nonstop 6-8 week and 6,000-mile migration from Alaska, while encountering a few of the 12,000 North Pacific Humpbacks that arrive in the Hawaiian Islands each year for a season of mating, birthing, and nurturing their newborns.

Big Island: Evening Volcano Explorer from Hilo

9. Big Island: Evening Volcano Explorer from Hilo

Start with a drive through quaint Hilo town where you’ll drive along the historic waterfront before heading out to the old fishing village of Kalapana. Your National Park Service certified guide will discuss the volcanology, geology, and history of Kilauea Volcano, as well as providing in-depth narration on the various lava flows and flora and fauna that you’ll be passing by.  Hike out across the lava flow to the new black sand beach. Stop by Star of the Sea Painted Church, moved by the community twice to save it from advancing lava flows in 1990, this decommissioned church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Next travel to the crown jewel of Hawaii, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. V isit the Kilauea Visitor’s Center, the Kilauea Iki Crater Overlook, and Steaming Bluffs. Stop in at the famous Volcano House for incredible views of Kilauea Caldera, and hike to the cracks and sinkholes in the paved roads left behind by the historic eruption of 2018.

Hawaii: Big Island Self-Guided Driving Tour

10. Hawaii: Big Island Self-Guided Driving Tour

Experience Hawaii's Big Island at your own pace with a self-guided driving tour. Stops include Hulihe's Palace, Magic Beach, and the Lekeleke Burial Grounds. Your tour of the Big Island begins outside the quaint town of Kailua-Kona. Start by downloading the Action Tour Guide app that will function as your personal guide, audio tour, and map all in one. As you drive, you’ll see the historic Hulihe’e Palace, once the vacation home of the island’s royalty. Continue south to Magic Beach, where the sand sometimes simply disappears. After that is Kahalu'u Beach, a perfect place for snorkelers, followed by the sacred Lekeleke Burial Grounds. Next, pass the remnants of Hikiau Heiau, an important religious site in ancient Hawaii. Past that is the Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park for those looking to learn more about the island’s history. See the Honaunau Rodeo Arena and learn all about Hawaii’s cowboys. Next up is Pebble Beach, where you’ll get to know the Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele. You’ll also have the option to check out the Kula Kai Caverns, left by ancient volcanic activity. Continuing on, reach the startling Punalu'u Beach, which features totally black sand. The route then passes an old sugar plantation, followed by the huge volcanoes Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Pass by Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where you can explore the island’s volcanoes up close. After that, drive through the picturesque town of Hilo. Then, cruise through the almost impossibly scenic Liliuokalani Park and Gardens. Find surfers catching waves next at Honoli'i Beach. After that is Onomea Bay, featuring a spectacular hiking trail with views that can’t be beaten. Then, admire the astonishing flora at the Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden. Continuing on, you’ll arrive at the surprising sight of the Honohina Hongwanji Mission, a historic Buddhist temple. Next pass the Laupahoehoe Train Museum before reaching Laupahoehoe Point, a spectacular ocean vista. Don’t forget to snap some photos. Anyone hankering for a snack will definitely want to stop at the Hamakua Harvest Farmers Market before continuing on to the cowboy town of Waimea. Up next are a pair of great beaches: Hapuna Beach is the largest white sand beach on the island and Beach 69 is beloved by locals, so take your pick. Then you’ll arrive at the Kings Highway Foot Trail, where you’ll have the chance to see the ancient Waikoloa Petroglyphs. After that are another few scenic overlooks, followed by the beautiful Kekaha Kai State Park. Your tour concludes here, just north of where it began.

Frequently asked questions about Hilo

What top attractions are a must-see in Hilo?

The must-see attractions in Hilo are:

What are the best day trips and excursions from Hilo?

The best day trips and excursions from Hilo are:

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Other Sightseeing Options in Hilo

Want to discover all there is to do in Hilo? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Hilo

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 250 reviews

Everyone was very nice and helpful, even though one of our party couldn't participate in the helicopter ride, because of the helicopter being over the weight limit. But 2 people in our party had been on a helicopter before so one of them stayed behind, the other 4 people had never been on a helicopter before and everybody enjoyed themselves.

Our tour guide was very knowledgeable regarding formation of volcanic activity, astronomy, the history of the island and the beliefs of the Indigenous population. The Rainbow Falls, caverns and stargazing were all beautiful and particularly interesting given the information provided prior. Highly recommend!

I've never been on a helicopter before so didn't know what to expect. Sam is an amazing pilot with a ton of knowledge about Hawaiian culture, the island, and the volcanoes. The flight was smooth as silk from take off to landing. Highly recommend this excursion!

Great please to see turtles. We saw plenty before snorkeling. Went to 2 locations. The first was my favorite, on a black sand beach. The second was a bit colder temp for the water and very shallow. We saw turtles at both locations

Darren, the pilot, was very knowledgeable and brought us through some of the most beautiful areas, turning so people on both sides of the helicopter were able to see and get some amazing pictures. The highlight of my vacation!