Dear Hilo,

After reading that you were this undiscovered, bohemian gem amid the resorts of Hawaii’s Big Island, we were so excited to visit. But I’m afraid our relationship was doomed from the start.

It wasn’t your fault. Especially at first. A few months before our trip we had contacted this funky eco-resort that looked like it could use a little exposure and asked if they wanted to work together. Everything was so friendly at first.

But then things got weird.

The resort owners basically said we couldn’t leave the city limits during our stay. That’s right, no trips to the nearby Volcanoes National Park, or stargazing on the summit of Mauna Kea. No writing about the beautiful snorkeling or the geothermal springs just a little south of town.

Venus over Mauna Kea

Venus rising over the summit of Mauna Kea, just 40 miles from Hilo. Stargazing here was the highlight of our trip. Can you imagine being forbidden to experience this?

Every day had to be spent in Hilo. Because Hilo needs the exposure. Because Hilo is severely underrepresented in every travel article about Hawaii. Because no one likes Hilo.

Sorry Hilo, but our first impression was that you were a little desperate. We found another place to stay.

Of course when we arrived at the Airbnb we had paid way too much for because of the last-minute booking, it didn’t match its description online. Free breakfast? Yeah, that was a typo. Functioning dishwasher? The handwritten “out of order” sign taped to the machine was covered in dust. Walking distance to town? Well sure, if you don’t mind walking three miles.

The icing on the cake: a bag of trash leftover from the previous tenant greeted us when we entered the room.

And then it started to rain.

Kolekole beach

Kids playing at Kolekole Beach in the rain. I guess if you grow up here you don’t let the rain hold you back from having fun.

We had been braced for some wet weather. According to our guidebooks, Hilo is the wettest city in the country, seeing more than 100 inches of rain annually.

But the guidebook said the rain usually only happened at night. And that daytime showers were brief. The guidebook was a dirty liar.

It started to rain just a few hours after our plane landed. We could barely hear each other over the deluge hitting the roof. And it wasn’t a steady peaceful shower. The sound was more like bacon grease frying in an amplified pan. We couldn’t sleep.

It was still raining the next morning. We tried to keep our spirits up as we we drove along the dripping Hamakua Coast. The beach towels we had brought with visions of snorkeling and sunbathing (ha!) served as ponchos while we explored Akaka Falls and Onomea Bay.

Akaka Falls, Hilo

Akaka Falls was beautiful. When the fog cleared.

Akaka Falls, Hilo

A rain-soaked crowd catches a glimpse of Akaka Falls in the fog.

When we reached our destination, the picturesque Waipio Valley, the scenic vista we had traveled all day to see was covered in fog.

My sneakers got soaking wet that day. They still smell bad, Hilo.

Waipio Valley

We had driven all day to take in the supposedly amazing view at Waipio Valley. When we got there, we saw this.

Waipio Valley in fog

Behold, the most amazing vista in Hawaii.

The next morning we were so sick of you we drove across the island to Kona. We had wanted to avoid tourists and soulless resorts during this trip, but the sunny commercialism was welcome after our sopping day with you.


We had tried to avoid the resorts on the Kona side of Hawaii’s Big Island. But after a nasty day in Hilo, they were a welcome reprieve. In hindsight we probably should have stayed on this side of the island. It wasn’t that touristy.

driving to Hilo

The drive from Kona to Hilo. When the sun disappeared you knew you were getting close to Hilo.

To be fair, you tried to give us your best after that.

You gave us nice weather for exploring the awesome Volcanoes National Park. For that we are grateful.

Volcanoes National Park

Alright Hilo, I’ll cut you some slack. You gave us some amazing weather for visiting the awesome Volcanoes National Park.

And on our last day, we ate an epic and incredibly cheap sushi meal that we’ll never forget at Dragon Kitchen Sushi, a tiny stall in an open-air food court along your main drag. The proprietor was so impressed by the amount of sushi we ordered, he gave us a free box of homemade pickled ginger.

But we ran out of things to do and ended up going to the airport several hours earlier than necessary. There was only one restaurant open at the terminal. And of course all it served was frozen pepperoni pizza and crappy beer. The plane couldn’t arrive soon enough.

We tried, Hilo. We really tried. But I’m afraid it just wasn’t meant to be.

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