About an hour east of Sea Mountain is the town of Hilo. The road is relatively straight, compared to the route to Kona, going up the mountain to the Volcano and then down the other side into town.
Hilo has a variety of attractions, including Banyan Drive, where celebrities and dignitaries from around the world, including Babe Ruth, President Franklin Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, and Richard Nixon, have planted numerous large banyan trees. These trees date back to the 1930s. You can stroll under their canopy of leaves and root system and enjoy their beauty.
Just off Banyan Drive is Lili’uokalani Gardens, a park with formal Japanese-style gardens. Along the paths are pagodas and bridges crossing a series of ponds.
This area is home to the Hawaii Naniloa Resort. This is the central location for the annual Merri Monarch Hula Festival. The Naniloa also has a nine-hole Naniloa Country Club, which is situated just across Banyan drive from the hotel.
Pick up a walking-tour map at the visitors' bureau office downtown and get out on foot to explore some of the older parts of downtown Hilo. Hilo was destroyed twice by tsunamis, but has been rebuilt in much the old style.
To help get a feel for the times of old in Hilo, visit the Lyman Mission House and Museum. The Mission House was home to Davis and Sarah Lyman, who built the house in 1839, when they came as missionaries to the island. Next door to the house is the museum, which has the Earth Heritage Gallery on the main floor, with collections of rocks and minerals from the area. Upstairs is the Island Heritage Gallery, where a reproduction of a grass house is constructed. Also here you will find a fine collection of early Hawaiian tools. There is also a collection of China Art located on this floor.
For a meal break, try the Royal Siam Thai Restaurant located at 70 Mamo Street. It is a nice, friendly place with a good menu of Thai dishes prepared to your taste, from mild to hot curry. Entrees range from Fried Rice (the shrimp fried rice is excellent) to meat and seafood dishes. The Green Curried Chicken was also a favorite.
We also tried Nori’s Saimin and Snacks at 688 Kino’ole Street. The Teri Beef sandwich was good, but the Saimin had more salt than I have had in Saimin at other locations.
After lunch, drive up Waianuenue Avenue, and stop at Rainbow Fall. At this location you can look down onto a pool in the Wailuku River that is about 100 feet in diameter with a waterfall going into it. Continue on Waianuenue Avenue and look for the turn-off to Boiling Pots, along the Wailuku River. Pe’epe’e Falls can also be seen from this park.
Hilo also has a nice zoo, which is free of charge to visit. It is the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo. As you are heading out of town, toward the Volcano, on Highway 11, about 4 miles out of town, turn at the sign directing you to the zoo and Stainback Highway. The zoo has many animals that are native to Hawaii, some of them endangered, which can be seen here.