Chilled out Hilo is the largest city on Hawaii. With a community focus and cosmopolitan mix of international cultures, it's famous for its neighbourly spirit. Twinned with this is Hilo's natural beauty. Surrounded by lush rainforests filled with waterfalls and colourful parrots, it's known as the orchid capital of the world, and you'll see the tropical blooms wherever you go. Whether café-hopping downtown or hiking past steaming volcanic craters, you'll soon feel Hilo's big 'aloha' welcome.
Hilo hostels include a rustic option in the rainforest, a historic European-style building in the old town centre and a relaxed cabana close to the beach. As well as regular dorms and private rooms, you can opt for a Hilo hostel with hammocks, or choose a room with its own entrance for a secluded getaway. You can expect free Wi-Fi wherever you are. Look out for hostels in Hilo with little luxuries such as complimentary toiletries and larger double beds. Stay eco-friendly with bike rentals, clothes-swap systems and solar-powered energy.
There are a few areas to check out here. The downtown district of independent shops and restaurants nestles in Hilo Bay. Most of the action is clustered around wide Kamehameha Avenue, including the fine art gallery, dive centre and twice-weekly farmers' market. East along the bay are Liliʻuokalani and Wailoa River parks – verdant gardens with beachside dining and leisure. Other neighbourhoods to explore include the area around the University of Hawaii at Hilo campus for its arts and cultural centres and bookstores.
To find out more about Hawaii, you could visit Hilo's Pacific Tsunami Museum or the Lyman Museum and Mission House, which explores the region's geology and culture. One of Hilo's most stunning sights is Rainbow Falls, which cascades over a lava cave said to be home to the moon goddess Hina. Head there in the morning to see rainbows shimmer at its base. Nearby are the 'Boiling Pots', terraced lava pools which bubble dramatically as the river rushes through.
Hilo International Airport is 10 minutes' drive from downtown. Most visitors rent a car at the airport, but you can also catch a taxi or local bus. Hilo town centre is walkable; to get anywhere else it's best to drive as distances between areas tend to be lengthy here. There are a few local bus routes, which run infrequently and are geared towards commuters.