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Off the Beaten Path in Hilo

Hilo is a sought-after destination on the Big Island of Hawaii for many reasons. From the serenity of the Kohala Coast to the intensity of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hilo is known for its natural beauty, world-class attractions and world-renowned beaches. It has a storied past, starting out as a busy farming and fishing port many years ago, evolving into a vital cog in the sugar plantation machine later on. Today, Hilo remains a vibrant town that embraces its past and looks to the future.

You’ll find awesome museums here, such as the Imiloa Astronomy Center and Pacific Tsunami Museum, along with impressive art galleries like East Hawaii Cultural Center. Farmer’s markets dot the landscape in the early mornings, and you can witness the beauty of the flora and fauna of Liliuokalani Gardens on Banyan Drive.

But if you’re looking to do something a bit more off the beaten path, you’re in luck. Try these out:

Wai ‘Opae Tidepools:

You can’t beat this place for snorkeling. Mimicking the look and feel of a barrier reef, this area is a protected marine life conservation district. Doubling as a fish nursery, this area features excellent water circulation by constant swells that support life within the reef. Once in the tide pools, you’ll meander around a variety of smaller mazes of tide pools featuring bountiful fish and coral. It’s hard to get to and there’s little parking with no facilities, but if you’re dedicated to sniffing out the best snorkeling spots, this is one to try.

Ka Lae:

AKA South Point, this area represents the southernmost point of the Big Island of Hawaii and of the entire United States as well. Ka Lae area is a National Historic Landmark District known for its strong ocean currents and winds. Great photo ops here, but it can get windy and the water is very choppy. If you’re up for a hike, take the three-mile trek to Papakolea Beach, the Big Island’s green beach. This shoreline features olive green sand containing olivine, a semi-precious stone.

Lava Trees State Park:

In Puna off Pahoa-Pohoiki Road sits the curious Lava Trees State Park. The 0.7-mile loop trail is nestled within a 17-acre State Monument area featuring oddly-shaped lava molds of tree trunks. These tree-like figures were created in the 1700s when an intense rush of lava flowed through the area, leaving its mark on Ohia tree trunks. These monuments are frozen tributes to a time of tumultuous activity. Anyone can handle this hike; it’s easy and quick. There are facilities and picnic tables here so feel free to bring a lunch.

Polulu Valley Overlook:

As you drive along Highway 270 past the black lava of the Kohala Coast into the greenery of North Kohala, you’ll arrive finally at the gorgeous Pololu Valley Overlook. There’s a small lot here where you can park and take pictures of the hillside where horses graze and tiny islands dot the ocean. It’s a steep walk to the valley floor and black sand beach, but well worth the views. Don’t go swimming here though because the currents are strong and dangerous.

Oahu has some off-the-beaten path places to explore too. Ask us at Hoku Hawaii Tours where they are!