16 Best Free Things to do in Hilo in 2024


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16 Free and Low-Cost Activities in Hilo for Every Adventurer
Rainbow Falls, Hilo, Big Island. Where water dances, rainbows enchant, and serenity whispers.

Embark on an exciting journey through Hilo, Hawaii, where a myriad of activities in Hilo awaits every traveler.

Whether you’re a beach lover or an adventure seeker, Hilo on the Big Island has got you covered for relaxation and exploration.

Explore these Big Island attractions and immerse yourself in the enchanting culture of Hilo.

From botanical wonders to quirky museums, Hilo has a treasure trove of activities to captivate your senses and leave you saying, “Mahalo, Hilo!”

16 Free and Low-Cost Activities in Hilo, Big Island

Wondering what to do in Hawaii? Well, Hilo on the Big Island has got you covered!

The Hilo bucket list is all about jaw-dropping beauty, deep cultural immersion, and unforgettable adventures.

Ready for the deets? Hilo’s got it all – from Insta-worthy beaches to cultural hotspots that’ll have you saying “Aloha” like a local pro.

Brace yourself for unparalleled beauty, cultural deep-dives, and adventures that’ll make your daily routine look like a sitcom rerun.

Pack your flip-flops and sense of wonder – Hilo’s waiting to blow your mind! Aloha, thrill-seekers!

1. Liliuokalani Gardens

16 Captivating Things to Do in Hilo, Hawaii
Capturing serenity at Liliuokalani Gardens: Where each blossom tells a story of peace in Hilo, Hawaii.

Liliuokalani Gardens is one of the captivating Things to Do in Hilo, offering a serene escape into Edo-style Japanese gardens.

Nestled on the eastern shores of the enchanting Big Island, Liliuokalani Gardens is a botanical haven boasting Edo-style Japanese gardens—a unique reflection of the Japanese cultural influence on Hawaii.

Picture this: a sprawling 24-acre park adorned with Japanese gardens, generously gifted by Queen Liliʻuokalani herself. It’s like she knew we all needed a break from our daily grind.

This lush haven, crafted from 1917–1919, boasts Edo-style Japanese gardens, making it the Godzilla of its kind outside Japan.

Tropical plants, flowers galore, and geocaching adventures kept them on their toes, and some kids on the pond were on a crab-finding mission—cue the crustacean excitement!

What’s the best part? It’s free! Daily strolls, morning or evening, became a ritual. The gardens, complete with ponds, bridges, pagodas, statues, and torii, were the perfect remedy for nature lovers.

Rain or shine, it’s a well-kept paradise. And let’s not forget the local kiddos, armed with nets, trying to lure in the mosquito fish from the ponds – a true spectacle!

So, if you find yourself in Hilo, make a beeline for Liliuokalani Gardens. Take a leisurely walk, enjoy the ocean breeze, and maybe try your hand at mosquito-fish-catching – just watch out for the critters.

It’s a green escape like no other, proving that sometimes, the best things in life are free and covered in tropical foliage. Aloha, tranquility seekers!

2. Hawai‘i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden

16 Free and Low-Cost Activities in Hilo for Every Adventurer
Hawai‘i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden: Unveiling nature’s brilliance in a tropical oasis.

Explore the Hawai‘i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden, where grand ocean views and carefully curated exhibits make it one of the must-visit places to visit in Hilo. This botanical wonderland is a two-week vacation condensed into a 1.25-mile stroll.

Ignore the lady at the ticket counter who says it takes 1.5 hours – you’ll be stopping every three feet for a selfie with a flower that could outshine a Hawaiian sunset.

For $25, you get an all-access pass to a postcard-worthy drive, ocean views that make dolphins jealous, and waterfalls that could turn even the most hardened heart into a plant enthusiast.

Sure, you could argue that you’ve seen these plants elsewhere on the island, but do those spots come with a grand ocean vista and carefully curated exhibits? Didn’t think so.

Now, there’s the occasional hiccup – a steep path here, a pricey admission there – but trust us, it’s worth every cent.

Forget the Panewa zoo; this is the real deal. And if the cashier tries to guilt you into an extra contribution, just channel your inner aloha spirit and declare your $50 entrance fee as your noble support for the day.

Pack some bug spray and water, and get ready for a botanical bonanza that’ll leave you dreaming of orchids and waterfalls for days.

Because when it comes to tropical gardens, Hawai‘i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden isn’t just a garden – it’s a horticultural extravaganza that’ll make your Instagram followers green with envy. Aloha, green thumbs and ocean wave listeners!

3. Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo

16 Free and Low-Cost Activities in Hilo for Every Adventurer
Indian blue peacock at Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo Hilo, Big Island of Hawaii.

Discover Hilo through immersive sightseeing experiences like the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo

Step into the wild wonderland of the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo, Hilo’s hidden gem that’s more charming than a monkey in a Hawaiian shirt.

Tucked away from the usual tourist buzz, this zoo is a tropical treat for families and animal enthusiasts alike.

Sure, it’s not the size of a zoo you’d spot in a metropolis, but who needs skyscrapers when you’ve got Bengal tigers named Sriracha and Tzatziki stealing the show?

Amidst the lush rainforest, the zoo offers a blend of exotic animals, from playful primates to vibrant birds, all seemingly content in their tropical paradise.

For a free zoo, it’s a jackpot, and even the critters seem to agree – the free-range peacocks strut their stuff with a feathered flair.

Now, let’s address the elephant – or in this case, the white tiger – in the room. Some folks argue the enclosures need a facelift, but hey, the tiger’s up and about, and isn’t that the real catwalk star here?

Sure, the visit might be warmer than a bearcat’s hug, but the playground for the kiddos and the steady rain provide a perfect excuse to chill.

Whether you’re a wildlife aficionado or just looking for a budget-friendly family outing, the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo checks all the boxes.

So, if you find yourself in Hilo with a hankering for a wild time, swing by. After all, where else can you see a white tiger, tropical birds, and lush rainforest greenery all in one stroll? It’s a zoo-nique experience worth roaring about!

4. Pacific Tsunami Museum

16 Free and Low-Cost Activities in Hilo for Every Adventurer
Capturing the resilience of a community through the echoes of the Pacific Tsunami Museum in Hilo. History whispers, hearts remember.

The Pacific Tsunami Museum is a must-see in Hilo, offering a riveting exploration of the city’s encounters with oceanic behemoths.

Dive into the wave of knowledge at the Pacific Tsunami Museum, a petite powerhouse housed in a former bank building in downtown Hilo.

This unassuming gem packs a tsunami-sized punch in information about the city’s tumultuous encounters with these oceanic behemoths.

Forget what you thought you knew about tsunamis; this museum goes beyond the basics.

From the devastating 1946 and 1960 tsunamis that left Hilo in disarray to global tidal wave tragedies, the museum provides a riveting exploration.

It’s not just about the science – though they’ve got that covered – but the heart-wrenching stories of survivors and victims. Grab some tissues; you might shed a tear or two.

Staffed by friendly volunteers, this museum doesn’t just educate; it also entertains with interactive exhibits, survivor tales, and even a wave machine for the kiddos.

The admission fee is a modest investment for an educational rollercoaster through tsunami history.

The only downside? You might need more time than you think. It’s not just a quick stroll through.

With survivor stories, educational materials, and cool displays, you might find yourself spending hours pondering the power of the ocean.

So, if you’re in Hilo, skip the usual beach routine and make a splash at the Pacific Tsunami Museum. It’s not just a museum; it’s a tidal wave of enlightenment.


5. Imiloa Astronomy Center

16 Free and Low-Cost Activities in Hilo for Every Adventurer
Imiloa Astronomy Center

The Imiloa Astronomy Center is one of the Hilo points of interest, seamlessly blending astronomy and culture

Nestled in the heart of Hilo, Hawaii, the Imiloa Astronomy Center is a celestial fusion of science and Polynesian heritage.

Imiloa seamlessly blends astronomy and culture, paying homage to Polynesian star navigation. Visitors enjoy film offerings, planetarium talks, and museum tours.

Delighted guests affirm, “Definitely worth the stop,” praising the well-curated exhibits and immersive planetarium show included in the ticket.

Beyond cosmic wonders, Imiloa caters to taste buds. A seasoned visitor shares, “The interactive satellite exhibit was awesome, and we enjoy a very tasty lunch at the cafeteria each trip.”

Imiloa isn’t just a museum; it’s a cosmic playground for kids, captivating the young and the young-at-heart.

For families, Imiloa promises an interstellar adventure. A grandparent raves, “A wonderful place to visit and an all-family attraction.”

From captivating planetarium shows to hands-on exhibits, Imiloa offers an educational and entertaining journey through the stars with a touch of Hawaiian flair—a cosmic escape that leaves you starry-eyed and smiling.

6. Mokupapapa Discovery Center

16 Free and Low-Cost Activities in Hilo for Every Adventurer
Dive into the wonders of our oceanic universe at Mokupapapa Discovery Center in Hilo.

Nestled in the heart of downtown Hilo, a hidden gem awaits: the Marine National Monument Center.

 We discovered it to be more than just a nice stop—it’s a uniquely special experience, offering a fascinating dive into the depths of Hawaiian natural history.

The center, conveniently free of charge, reveals the secrets of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

A marine wonderland, it educates on marine life, cultural ties, and the unfortunate impact of pollution.

Enthusiastic volunteers, armed with knowledge and a friendly demeanor, guide visitors through interactive displays that make learning a joy.

The first floor, spacious and wheelchair-accessible, showcases a small saltwater aquarium and addresses ocean pollution issues.

A surprise for many, the center isn’t just about facts and figures; it’s a call to action. Visitors leave with a newfound perspective on Hawaii’s vastness and the human impact on its delicate ecosystems.

The exhibits, from robotics areas for kids to art displays made from collected debris, convey a powerful message about conservation.

Serving as a hub for agencies overseeing the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, it brings together minds dedicated to preserving this half-million-square-mile expanse of oceanic wonder.

 Although the monument itself is off-limits, the center serves as a portal to its mysteries, leaving visitors both educated and inspired.

7. Wailoa River State Recreation Area

16 Free and Low-Cost Activities in Hilo for Every Adventurer
Serene moments by the Wailoa River, where nature’s brushstrokes meet the soulful rhythm of Hilo.

Nestled in the heart of Hawaii, the Wailoa River State Recreation Area is a hidden gem that seamlessly blends nature and relaxation.

Picture this: lush greenery, serene riverbanks, and the distant hum of tropical birds – it’s the ultimate escape from the hustle and bustle.

The park offers a myriad of activities for both adventure seekers and those seeking a tranquil retreat.

Whether you fancy a leisurely stroll along the riverbanks or an adrenaline-pumping kayak ride, Wailoa River has it all.

Pro tip: pack a picnic and savor the beauty of this natural haven. Just watch out for the curious ducks eyeing your sandwich!

8. Lyman Museum

16 Free and Low-Cost Activities in Hilo for Every Adventurer
Journey through time at Lyman Museum, where history whispers and culture blooms in the heart of Hilo, Big Island.

Step into the Lyman Museum, and you’ll find yourself on a fascinating journey through Hawaii’s cultural past.

This museum isn’t your average stroll-through exhibit; it’s a captivating exploration of the islands’ unique history, blending education with entertainment.

From ancient artifacts to modern exhibits, Lyman Museum provides a comprehensive look at Hawaii’s evolution.

Marvel at the intricacies of traditional Hawaiian crafts, or take a virtual tour of volcanic landscapes – it’s a cultural immersion like no other.

Don’t forget to snap a selfie with the life-sized replica of a native Hawaiian warrior. After all, who wouldn’t want a photo with history?

9. Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center

16 Free and Low-Cost Activities in Hilo for Every Adventurer
Savoring the sweetness of Aloha at Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center in Hilo.

Prepare your taste buds for a nutty adventure at the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center.

Located in the heart of macadamia country, this quirky spot invites you to indulge in Hawaii’s most famous nut.

Take a guided tour through the orchards, where you’ll witness the journey of these crunchy delights from tree to table.

Feeling peckish? The on-site tasting room offers an array of macadamia-infused treats that will leave your taste buds doing the hula.

From chocolate-covered macadamias to savory seasoned nuts, there’s a flavor for every palate.

Before you leave, be sure to pick up some souvenirs – macadamia nut pancake mix, anyone? It’s a nutty experience you won’t soon forget!

10. Hilo Farmers Market

16 Free and Low-Cost Activities in Hilo for Every Adventurer
Hilo Farmers Market: Aloha in every bite.

The Hilo Farmers Market is one of the vibrant tourist spots in Hilo, offering a sensory feast for locals and visitors alike.

This bustling market is a kaleidoscope of flavors and aromas, offering a sensory feast for locals and visitors alike.

From exotic fruits to locally sourced coffee, Hilo Farmers Market is a foodie’s paradise.

Grab a coconut smoothie to sip as you navigate the stalls, and don’t miss the chance to sample the infamous Hawaiian shaved ice – the bigger, the better!

With live music adding to the lively atmosphere, it’s not just a market; it’s a food fiesta that will leave your taste buds doing the hula.

11. Onomea Bay Scenic Drive

16 Free and Low-Cost Activities in Hilo for Every Adventurer
Onomea Bay Scenic Drive: Nature’s masterpiece unfolds at every turn.

Buckle up for a scenic drive like no other along the Onomea Bay Scenic Drive, where every twist and turn reveals breathtaking coastal beauty.

This picturesque route is a meandering masterpiece, offering jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean and lush tropical landscapes.

The road winds through botanical gardens, providing the perfect excuse for a pit stop to smell the Hawaiian flowers.

Keep an eye out for the iconic Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, where vibrant blooms and cascading waterfalls create a scene straight out of a postcard.

Pro tip: let the winding roads be your guide and savor the journey as much as the destination.

It’s not just a drive; it’s a visual symphony of nature that will have you reaching for your camera at every turn.

12. Richardson Ocean Center

Richardson Ocean Center 1
Richardson Ocean Center

For an aquatic adventure that doesn’t require a snorkel, head to the Richardson Ocean Center.

This oceanfront gem is a gateway to the mesmerizing marine life of Hawaii. Immerse yourself in interactive exhibits showcasing the wonders of the Pacific, from colorful coral reefs to the graceful dance of sea turtles.

The touch pools offer a hands-on experience, allowing you to get up close and personal with sea stars and other underwater critters.

Feeling adventurous? Join a guided tide pool exploration to discover the hidden treasures of the shoreline.

It’s a wet and wild journey into the heart of Hawaii’s oceanic wonders, where learning meets liquid fun!

13. Hilo Bayfront Beach Park

16 Free and Low-Cost Activities in Hilo for Every Adventurer
Hilo Bayfront Beach Park: Sun, surf, and serenity in the heart of paradise.

Pack your sunscreen and throw on that Hawaiian shirt; we’re headed to Hilo Bayfront Beach Park for some sun-soaked fun.

This beachfront haven is more than just sand and surf – it’s a local hotspot where the Pacific meets picnics.

With its panoramic views of Hilo Bay, it’s the ideal spot to bask in the Hawaiian sunshine or challenge your friends to a friendly game of beach volleyball.

Pro tip: don’t forget to bring your snorkel gear; rumor has it the local sea turtles are always up for a game of hide-and-seek!

14. Carlsmith Beach Park

Carlsmith Beach Park 1
Carlsmith Beach Park

For a beach day that’s as tropical as your favorite drink, Carlsmith Beach Park is the place to be.

With its crystal-clear waters and powdery white sand, it’s the quintessential Hawaiian paradise. But the real stars of the show?

The resident honu, or green sea turtles, who lazily sunbathe on the shore.

This beach is like a VIP lounge for turtles, and you’re invited. Bring your snorkel gear – swimming alongside these majestic creatures is a memory you’ll treasure forever.

Just remember, no turtle selfies – they’re all about that #NaturalHabitatLife.

15. Leleiwi Beach Park (Wai’uli)

Leleiwi Beach Park Waiuli
Leleiwi Beach Park (Wai’uli): Where golden sands meet the soothing whispers of the Pacific.

Leleiwi Beach Park offers a unique twist to the typical Hawaiian beach experience with its striking black sand.

Yes, you read that right – black sand! As you stroll along the shoreline, it’s like walking on volcanic velvet.

The ocean here is a canvas of blues and greens, creating a stunning contrast with the dark sand.

If you’re a beachcomber at heart, keep an eye out for unique seashells and volcanic rocks that make for the perfect Instagram props.

It’s a beach day with a touch of drama and a whole lot of natural beauty.

16. Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls Hilo HI USA
Chasing rainbows at Rainbow Falls, Hilo’s natural wonder.

Prepare to be dazzled by the kaleidoscopic beauty of Rainbow Falls, where nature puts on a show that would make even the most vibrant rainbow jealous.

Located just a short drive from Hilo, these majestic falls cascade over a natural lava cave, creating a breathtaking spectacle.

The best part? You might catch a glimpse of the elusive morning rainbow on a sunny day – a photo op that will have your friends back home questioning if you’ve turned into a wizard.

Pack a picnic, soak in the misty air, and let the beauty of Rainbow Falls color your Hawaiian adventure in the most vivid hues imaginable!

Update Notice:

This article on Free Things to do in Hilo was last updated on 02/01/2024. Please note that information provided here may be subject to change, and we strive to keep the content current and accurate. If you have any questions or need further assistance, feel free to contact us.

Is Hilo a good destination for outdoor enthusiasts?

Absolutely! Hilo offers a plethora of outdoor activities, from exploring scenic drives to enjoying beaches, waterfalls, and parks. Nature lovers, rejoice!

What’s the best time to visit Rainbow Falls for a chance to see the morning rainbow?

The morning rainbow at Rainbow Falls is more likely on sunny days. Aim for a visit in the early morning hours to increase your chances of witnessing this magical phenomenon.

Can I swim with the sea turtles at Carlsmith Beach Park?

While you can’t swim with the turtles directly, bring your snorkel gear. You may spot these majestic creatures while snorkeling along the shoreline. Remember to keep a respectful distance.

What’s unique about Leleiwi Beach Park’s black sand?

Leleiwi Beach Park features black sand, a result of volcanic activity. It provides a striking contrast to the blue ocean and offers a one-of-a-kind beachcombing experience.

Can I purchase local Hawaiian goods at the Hilo Farmers Market?

Yes! Hilo Farmers Market is a treasure trove of local goods. From fresh produce to handmade crafts, it’s the perfect place to indulge in authentic Hawaiian flavors and souvenirs.

Are there guided tours available for Onomea Bay Scenic Drive?

While there are no official guided tours, you can easily navigate Onomea Bay Scenic Drive on your own. Let the winding roads be your guide for a scenic journey through botanical wonders.

Are there any family-friendly activities at Richardson Ocean Center?

Absolutely! Richardson Ocean Center offers interactive exhibits suitable for all ages. It’s an educational and entertaining experience for families interested in marine life.

What’s the best way to explore Wailoa River State Recreation Area?

Take a leisurely stroll along the riverbanks or try a kayak ride for a more adventurous experience. Wailoa River State Recreation Area offers activities for both nature enthusiasts and thrill-seekers.

Is there parking available at Carlsmith Beach Park?

Yes, there’s parking available at Carlsmith Beach Park. Arrive early, especially on weekends, to secure a spot and make the most of your beach day.

Can I buy macadamia nut products at the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center?

Absolutely! The Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center offers a variety of macadamia-infused treats and souvenirs. Don’t miss the chance to taste these delicious nuts in various forms.

Are there shaded areas at Hilo Bayfront Beach Park for a picnic?

Yes, Hilo Bayfront Beach Park has shaded areas, making it an excellent spot for a picnic. Pack your lunch, enjoy the sea breeze, and savor the beauty of Hilo Bay.

Are there educational programs available at Lyman Museum?

A: Yes, Lyman Museum offers educational programs and exhibits that provide a comprehensive look at Hawaii’s rich cultural history. It’s a perfect blend of learning and entertainment for visitors of all ages.

About the author

Hi there! I'm Steanlee Thaosen, and I love traveling and writing about it. I take people on virtual journeys to amazing places through my writings. I use exciting words and colorful descriptions to help you feel like you're really there. Come join me on my fun adventures through my awesome blog!

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