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A Little About Hilo

Hilo refers to both the largest town on Hawaii Island and the most heavily populated of the Big Island’s six geographic districts. Hilo serves as the economic and residential center of the Aloha State’s largest island, and is also home to a considerable number of cultural and educational centers. Hilo has the widest range and selection of housing options of any community on Hawaii Island, including townhomes, condominiums, single family homes and hotels. Hilo’s culture is geared more heavily towards the kamaaina, or local residents, of Hawaii, as opposed to the Kona side of the island, which is geared more strongly towards the tourist industry. Hilo is served by a municipal bus service, although much of the community is walkable without too much difficulty. Hilo is located near the two largest peaks on the Big Island, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, and is just a short drive away from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. One of the largest bays on the island, Hilo Bay, is situated immediately next to the town of Hilo, while the community is also home to Hilo International Airport. Hilo has a total population of approximately forty three thousand individuals, although that figure may have changed somewhat since the last census was conducted in 2010.


Hilo does not appear to have been a major population center before the arrival of European and American settlers during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. However, upon the rise of sugar trade, a considerable number of plantations began to spring up in the favorable soil around the Hilo area. Over the course of several decades, immigrants from numerous Asian countries arrived to work on the sugar plantations, considerably boosting the population of the region. Although the sugar trade has subsequently declined and almost disappeared from Hawaii Island, many relics of the plantation era remain in and around Hilo. The Hilo area is served by two public school districts, the Hilo and Waiakea districts, as well as a number of private schools. Hilo is also home to Hawaii Community College and the University of Hawaii at Hilo, the only post secondary institutions in the region. Partially because of its tragic experience in the 1946 Pacific Tsunami, Hilo is home to a tsunami museum, which includes banyan trees which were planted by aviator Amelia Earhart and baseball player Babe Ruth. Additionally, the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation, which produces and markets a wide variety of macadamia-related products, is headquartered in downtown Hilo.


Hilo is home to one of the most venerated cultural institutions in the state of Hawaii, the Merrie Monarch Festival. Held every year, the Merrie Monarch Festival serves as a reminder of the rich artistic heritage of Hawaii, especially the dance form of the hula. Hilo is also the place to find the Lyman House Memorial Museum and the East Hawaii Cultural Center. The whole family can enjoy the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and the Mokupapapa Discovery Center, as well as the Prince Kuhio Plaza shopping center. The Prince Kuhio mall is the largest indoor mall on the island of Hawaii, and includes a number of popular stores such as Sears, Macys, Longs Drugs, Safeway, IHOP, and Jamba Juice. Hilo is home to the Hilo Farmers Market and the Imiloa Astronomy Center as well as Big Island Candies, which does its manufacturing in the heart of town. There are also a wide variety of smaller boutiques and local stores throughout Hilo, in addition to Sig Zane Designs and Coconut Island. The Hilo region is also rich in natural beauty, as exemplified by Wailuku River State Park, which is home to the Boiling Pots and Rainbow Falls.

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