Guide To East Hawaii
Hilo is the area southeast of the Volcano National Park. The road 11 leads you from the National Park to the wettest city in the United States. Hilo town is the capital city of the island and has a great significance for the state’s economy and educational system. Hilo’s landscape is dominated by lush, tropical vegetation. The wet climate in this part of the island is perfect for orchid, and macadamia nuts growing. From Hilo airport you can explore the island and the famous volcano park on a helicopter tour. The Hilo Hawaiian and the Hilo Seaside are the best hotels in Hilo, and for those B&B fans there is the classic Shipmans Mansion, perched right above the town.
With some 133 inches of rain annually Hilo is the wettest city in the United States. The city counts 43,000 residents. It is located on the along the picturesque Hilo Bay. The whole area is a natural greenhouse. It is often humid, wet and sometimes even chilly, especially when you come to the higher elevated parts. Hilo airport is the place for helicopter tours over the Volcano National Park.
Hilo plays a vital role in the state’s economy and education. Orchid and macadamia nuts plantations surround the town. Growing orchids started in the 1940s, and developed to one of the main industries of the island. Flowers are now shipped all over the world. North of Hilo town you can visit the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Co. plantation. The tasteful nuts are a local specialty. Brought to Hawaii by Mr. John MacAdam (name ‘Macadamia Nut’) they are cultivated commercially. The factory is a favorite stop on tours to the Volcano Park because of the free samples.
The University of Hilo is a branch of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, which is located in the metropolis Honolulu. Almost 3000 students are enrolled in their programs. The branch in Hilo is well known for their Marine Science and Agriculture programs.
The Puna district stretches southeast of the Volcano National Park, and was entirely formed by the eruptions of Kilauea and Mauna Loa. It is located off the beaten path, since the connection road # 130 was cut off by a Kilauea lava stream in 1986. The road has not been reopened jet.
Pahoa is the tiny capital of the Puna district. Somehow Pahoa was spared out by eruptions. Its old wooden building facades give the impression of a village in the former wild west. East of Pahoa you will find the Lava Tree State Monument, where a 1790 lava stream created a bizarre dead forest field.
The petrified forest
This well-hidden place has quite a few surprises for the visitor – a walkway guides you through thick jungle and brush to some ancient petrified trees. The lava came through the area so fast, that it surrounded the trees and formed monuments while incinerating everything else in its path. Stay on the trail while you admire the stones and the forest, there is quite a few holes in the ground you don’t see until it is too late, and because not many people come here, the trail is not too well maintained. A must see on your way back from the end of the road which used to lead to Kalapana, the town that got repaved by Madam Pele, the volcano goddess.
It is not recommended to proceed after the road ends, but if you really have to, take note that the walk to the ocean is about 25 minutes and that there is a good chance that you may not came back. There has been constant activity since 1983 and it won’t stop just because you are here.
Visit the Painted Church on the back to the main highway, and if it is not locked, take a look inside to see the inspired but untalented paintings of Everest Gielen, the priest that gave this church his personal touch. The stained glass windows and the uniqueness are well worth the visit.
Shortly after the State Monument is the Geothermal Power Station. In the 1970s a research program was instigated to find ways of using the high temperature magma to produce energy. In 1993, 20 years later, the power plant was finally opened, but native Hawaiians are still skeptical weather or not Pele approves this activity.