If you’re following along on our five day trip around Big Island, Hawaii, it’s day two, our first full day exploring Hilo! In our first post, we landed in Kona and explored the south coast on our drive to Volcano.
Originally, we planned to spend our second day at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. However, the weather wasn’t clear enough for early morning crater viewing so we postponed. Instead, we started our day at Akaka Falls State Park in Hilo. The park opens at 8:00 am and there is a $5 entrance free per person. You’ll also pay $10 parking per vehicle.
It’s a short hike down a walkway of stairs to see the impressive 442-foot Akaka Falls. We arrived just before opening and we basically had the park to ourselves.
After seeing Akaka, you can continue on the trail loop around to see the much smaller Kahuna Falls.
You’ll love walking under the rainforest canopy and the lush and unique foliage in the park.
After Akaka, we hopped back in the car for the Pepeekeo Scenic Drive heading south along Old Mamalahoa Highway. This approx. 4-5 mile stretch has some nice views and will take you past the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. We skipped the garden, but if you’re interested, it opens at 9:00 am and costs $30 per person. If you continue driving, just past the gardens, you’ll see the Onomea Trailhead.
Park along the road near the sign and then walk down the trail which opens to a beautiful view of Onomea Bay.
Next we headed for Wailuku State Park which is home to Rainbow Falls and the Boiling Pots. Both are free but they have separate entrances which is a bit confusing. The first of the two was Rainbow Falls and the viewing platform is just a short walk from the parking lot. Depending on the time of day, the sun catches the cascading water to form a rainbow.
The nearby Boiling Pots were a bit underwhelming for us. One of the trailheads was closed so we parked and viewed it from quite a distance. There is probably a better way to get closer if it’s high on your list.
From here, we headed just down the road to the Kaumana Caves. The caves were formed by lava flow from the Mauna Loa volcano in the 1800s. It is now a free park to visit. You can step inside the lava tube for a quick photo near the entrance or bring a head lamp and go father inside. We didn’t have lamps so we can’t give much info about the hike.
By the time we wrapped up at the caves, we were getting hungry so we headed into town in search of poke. At the front of the Hilo Farmer’s Market is a standalone building that’s home to Poke ‘N Sides, and ended up being one of our favorite meals in Hilo.
You can mix and match your pokes and side dishes but make sure you try the uala (sweet potato) and macaroni salad, two Hawaiian classics. We paired our meal with a local Big Island-made lychee and lilikoi lemonade.
After lunch, we ‘poked’ around the farmer’s market which is open daily 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. The biggest day is Saturday with a much larger selection of booths selling local goods, produce, and art.
And now to probably my favorite part of the day: the Honomu Goat Dairy! The farm is free to visit and opens at 10 am. You can pay a small fee for food to feed the goats. You can also buy products made on the farm like goat cheese, soap, and caramels.
If you’re able to time it right, the farm is very close to Akaka Falls but since we were though so early it didn’t work for us. From the Hilo Farmer’s Market, the drive is about 20 minutes.
After the goat farm, we began the just over an hour drive back to the Volcano area. Our last stop of the day was Volcano Winery which is open daily until 5:30pm. We each did the classic tasting ($15 for six 1 oz. pours) including several reds, a blush, and some meads.
We ended our visit with the tea tasting which includes the estate white and black teas.
On the way back to the rental house from the winery, we stopped to grab dinner from the Tuk-Tuk Thai food truck that parks along Volcano Road. You’ll likely see it when driving through town but it can be found easily on Google. Note that it is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
And that’s how we spent day 2! In the next post, we’ve shared our day 3 adventures which mostly included more Hilo exploration.
Need more Hawaii inspiration?
Check out these blog post to help you plan your trip:
- The Ultimate Big Island Bucket List
- What to Eat and Drink on Big Island, Hawaii
- One Day in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- 5 Day Big Island Itinerary: Day 1 – Kona & South Island
- 5 Day Big Island Itinerary: Day 3 – Hilo Continued
- 5 Day Big Island Itinerary: Day 4 – Hawaii Volcanoes National Park