15 and 16 January we docked in Hilo, Hawai’i. After FINALLY clearing customs and finding our way off the ship, Hilo was ours to explore for 48 hours. I don’t know what I expected of Hilo, but it definitely did exceed my expectations! Here are some (mostly good) things about Hilo.
1. The Hele-on bus: This bus goes all through Hilo and to the Volcanoes National Park. The schedules are sometimes a little weird, but it works. It’s 1USD per person, but FREE for students. Of course that was awesome for 600 students. Except that one bus driver on the second day insisted it was only valid for University of Hawai’i students. Sometimes the bus gets super crowded (I am not used to public transport), but that meant that I could meet and talk to locals, which was great.
2.Volcanoes National Park: This was a 90 minute bus ride out, and when we got there it was pouring with rain! But of course we didn’t let that deter us. Hike the volcano we did. Guys, I HIKED A LIVE VOLCANO. Did not see any lava though, due to the rain, but we could certainly feel its heat and smell it too. It’s incredibly fertile ground, pretty much a rainforest, and absolutely stunning.
3. Hilo Farmer’s Market: This market is supposed to be pretty famous, and we went both days. It was colourful, alive, hustle-and-bustle. And people are willing to haggle. I loved it.
4. Hula: We watched a Hula performance (which is not at all like the clichéd way it is presented in the media), and afterwards attended a free Hula class. I have cement hips, but it was still a lot of fun.
5. Kahunas: A Kahuna is a spiritual healer, and I got to meet one that makes his own herbal ointments. I am (obviously) a believer in medicine, but I don’t presume to be all-knowing, and I love learning about non-Western health practices. The spirituality of Hawaiian traditional medicine and their focus on love and purpose was nice to learn about.
6. Fruits: Oh my goodness. So much wonderful beautiful fruit! Sweet Rambutan, which is an egg-sized red spiky thing, and when you open it you find delicious lychee-like flesh. And star fruit. And papayas, four for a Dollar. Coconuts with a straw to drink from. Dried coconut as an alternative to sweets, and coconut brittle. Heart of Palm, which is delicious and can be added to salsa.
7. Macadamia nuts: Hawai’i has large Macadamia plantations, and there Mauna Loa, delicious chocolate with Macadamias in them. Amazing. If I had more time, I would have gone to the factory, where you can taste as much as you like.
8. Coffee: Hawai’i has coffee plantations, and although I can’t really drink coffee (migraines…) I tasted some and it was wonderful. If I had more time, I would have liked to visit the Hilo Coffee Mill.
9. Surf Break Café: I have to mention that this café has a wonderful, laid-back atmosphere. We went there, bought some eats and then used their free wifi for over an hour. And they let us, without making us feel rushed. It was lovely, and there menu is quite nice too (just expensive when you have a weak currency like the ZAR).
10. It’s a town, but not too big: Hilo has a Walmart, which is like a cultural experience for me. (Welcome to Walmart, population SAS.) Walmart means I could buy Reese’s cups, which are not available in South Africa. And my roommate bought me a whole pint of Ben&Jerry’s ice cream (Half-Baked, yum) as an early birthday present. However, it still has that small-town feeling, and is beautiful to explore. And not overrun by tourists, except when a boat with 600 college students arrives…
There is a lot more I would have like to do, but Hilo was an amazing experience. I did not expect to love it so much.
This post is brought to you from Honolulu, Hawai’i, where we are having an extended stay due to a severe weather system currently raging over our projected route.