Being able to fly direct to Hilo from LAX (via United) made it an ideal first stop on my road trip across Hawaii Island. The main draw to Hilo, of course, is its close proximity to the out of this world experience that is hiking the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which is currently oozing the fiery 61G lava flow.
Located on historic Banyan Drive, just a few minutes walk from the gorgeous Japanese Liliuokalani Gardens, is the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel - my lovely home base for the east side portion of the road trip. If you know me, you know I love a good breakfast buffet (because ordering one main is not fair when you want to eat everything!) and the hotel's Queen's Court Restaurant has an incredible one. I had a limited amount of time in Hawaii and I had a lot of things on my "to eat" list, which included all the local fruits like rambutan, papaya, pineapple, etc., and since this buffet is farmers market to table, I got to gluttonously check a lot off said list.
Note: you have not tried a pineapple until you've had a pineapple in Hawaii. SO SWEET. SO JUICY.
You know how most of the best farmers markets start super early and finish at like noon? Well, Hilo Farmers Market is one of the best and does open super early (6am) but it also doesn't close 'til late (4pm), which is a big deal for fellow lovers of sleep, amirite?!
Being able to see the people who lovingly grow and sell the fresh produce used in the dishes being devoured on this trip is pretty special. Yes, I'm a sap and being in Hawaii has exaggerated this 100,000x.
Across the street from the farmers market, is a local artisans market filled with jewellery, clothes, and art.
Just a few steps down the street from Hilo Farmers Market is Downtown Hilo, which wraps around Hilo Bay and stands out with its early 1900s architecture. Lots of great restaurants and shops here.
As I've mentioned, Hilo price points are really affordable, so do as much of your shopping here if you can. I really loved The King Kamehameha Market - it's filled with tons of vintage and re-worked vintage dresses and shirts from Hawaiian designers and colorful home decor items.
Sig Zane is the Island's most well-known designer and to understand why his designs are so special, here's an excerpt from his website: "We are here to share the knowledge and values of the Hawaiian people through art, by honoring the plants of the the islands, and providing a unique experience that is enhanced by teaching the symbolism of the Hawaiian name of the plant, and giving insight to other aspects of our lifestyle that will build upon the experience: all to express gratitude, appreciation, and compassion for allowing a life in this island environment along with the hosts of this culture." Behind each print is a story and small quantities are made of each color and pattern.
Moon & Turtle was my favorite restaurant in Hilo - delicious dishes that combine all the bright Asian flavors of the Island. My fave dishes were the Smokey Sashimi, Crispy Brussels Sprouts, Wild Boar Fried Rice, and Tofu Oyster Sauce Sauté .
Chef/Owner Mark Pomaski was born and raised in Hilo and worked in the kitchens of Chef Roy Yamaguchi in Waikiki and Chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa in New York, before opening Moon & Turtle with his wife, Soni, and brother, Tedd, 2 years ago.
At Wailuku River State Park is the gorgeous Rainbow Falls...
Back to my "to eat" list... obviously, when in Hawaii, POKE.
You can't get any fresher than going straight to the source - the Suisan Fish Market.
Here's a quick little snap from Day 1 in Hilo:
Next stop, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park!