Hilo Hawaii Activities in 2 Days
To cover Hilo and East Big Island in 2 days isn’t easy. To be the most efficient we need to divide up Hilo into 2 geographical areas.
Day 1: Downtown Hilo and surrounding area
Day 2: Volcano National Park and Kalapana lava flows
DAY 1: Downtown Hilo and Surrounding Area
- Breakfast at Kens House of Pancakes
- Lili’uokalani Park and Gardens. Almost across the street from Kens. Drive past the golf course twoward the water. See my post at: https://hilovacationhomes.com/activity/liliuokalani-park-and-gardens/
- Walking tour of Downtown. Drive just a few hundred yards north until you see the statue of King Kamehameha in the park. Make a left toward him. See my walking tour post at: https://hilovacationhomes.com/activity/downtown-hilo-walking-tour/
- Lyman Museum – Downtown. I consider it the best Big Island museum. Part of the walking tour in downtown Hilo. See my post at: https://hilovacationhomes.com/activity/lymans-museum/
- Weiluku River State Parks, both Boiling Pots and Rainbow Falls. Don’t forget these are two different parks although they feature the same river and are only a mile apart. The easiest waterfalls to get close to on the Big Island. See both my posts at: https://hilovacationhomes.com/activity/weiluku-state-river-park-rainbow-falls-waterfall/ and https://hilovacationhomes.com/activity/weiluku-state-park-boiling-pots-waterfall/
- Leave downtown for Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens. Go north up the coast about 7 miles. This is a private botanical garden that is open to the public. Absolutely beautiful. See my post at: https://hilovacationhomes.com/activity/hawaii-tropical-botanical-gardens/
- Back through Hilo Downtown to South Hilo bay – Richardson’s Beach Park. If this is where you are staying at one of my main homes, then you will see this out your window. If not, see my post here: https://hilovacationhomes.com/activity/richardsons-beach-park/
- Dinner at Café Pesto or Pin apples in downtown. Two of the very nice places to eat right in downtown Hilo. Enjoy the ambiance of spending time downtown before you go back to quieter homes after dinner. See my Cafe Pesto post at: https://hilovacationhomes.com/hilo-east/cafe-pesto-downtown-hilo/
Day 2: Volcano Day!
- Start at Highway 11 and the coast (Ken’s Pancakes on the corner).
- Lava tube at Kaumana Caves State Park. You go up Highway 11 (main road past airport, up to Volcano National Park and to South Big Island) – just a couple miles and turn into town. It is a little “park” with a lava tube much nicer than the more popular Thuston tube in Volcano National Park. You must bring a flashlight and OFF (mosquito spray). See my post at: https://hilovacationhomes.com/activity/kaumana-caves-state-park/
- Go up Highway 11, stopping briefly at Hilo Zoo and Macadamia Nut Factory. Both are free and close to Highway 11. The trick is spending just 20 minutes at each. However, if it is lunch time and you are looking to eat somewhere, the Macadamia Nut Factory has a small cafe and is a pretty place for a light lunch. See my zoo post at: https://hilovacationhomes.com/activity/hilo-panaewa-zoo/ and my Macadamia Nut Factory post at: https://hilovacationhomes.com/activity/mauna-loa-macadamia-nut-company/
- Stop at Hilo Coffee Mill. If you like coffee and want to see a cute example of an operating mill in the room next door to the shop. It is right off highway 11. See my post at: https://hilovacationhomes.com/activity/hilo-coffee-mill/
- Booze up at Volcano Winery and have lunch in the town of Volcano. This is just past the entrance of the Volcano National Park. The wine is a bit odd, but the area is beautiful, the shop is cute, the price is right and the snacks are great. Again, the trick is getting in and out quickly. No need to linger here. See my post at: https://hilovacationhomes.com/activity/volcano-winery/
- Enter Volcano National Park for limited time. It will sound bad, but if your highlight is seeing the volcano, this is anti climatic. Unless you get VERY lucky and the lava pool is close to the top, you don’t see lava. It is usually about 100′ below the top and all you see is smoke and a glow. After stopping briefly at the park house, go half a mile farther and view the steam vents in the parking lot overlooking the crater. For the best viewing into the crater, go another mile or two to the Jagger museum and overlook. If you don’t see lava jumping up, move on. For real lava, you need to go to the coast. See the next activity, below. For my post on the Volcano National Park, go to: https://hilovacationhomes.com/activity/volcano-national-park/
- Drive back down Highway 11 and go to Kalapana at the end of Highway 130. When you are at the end of Highway 130 you have a choice. If you don’t have time or energy to bike 8 miles on gravel roads (some hard pack and some not), just observe and walk up the road to see how lava smothered a whole town during the ’80s. Keep in mind, some of the best viewing is at night. So even if you arrive at 7:00 you are fine. The access road is open until 9:00 and you can get back any time. This might be the only time in your life to see actual lava, so make the below a priority.
- Rent bike and travel to lava flow entry into ocean. This is an 8 mile round trip, but it is mostly flat. I’m in decent shape and I could have raced there in 15 minutes. My wife is in horrible shape and she struggled. We got there in 40 minutes. The average couch potato can do it somewhere in between. Make sure you get some light if you will be going back at night. I just used a flashlight in one hand. This will be the highlight of your Big Island stay. See my post at: https://hilovacationhomes.com/activity/kalapana-lava-viewing-area/ See my post about other ways of seeing lava at: https://hilovacationhomes.com/hilo-east/see-lava-flow/
- Dinner at Ponds on Hilo Bay. A nice quiet restaurant overlooking a quiet inlet at the end of Hilo bay. Excellent food. My post is at: https://hilovacationhomes.com/hilo-east/ponds/