The Big Island of Hawaii is a land of abundance and exquisite beauty. From beaches, rain-forests, and waterfalls to deserts, 13-thousand foot peaks, and an active volcano, it is the most diverse ecosystem in the world. The town of Hilo is on the east side of the island, the side that gets the most rain and therefore is the most green! It’s a small town just big enough for a Walmart, but the oceanside downtown district only allows locally-owned businesses and it shows in the people. Hilo locals are humble, down-to-earth and extremely mindful. They all have a strong connection to mother earth and a warm, giving spirit. Hawaiian-time runs very slowly and you certainly won’t find any Hawaiians in a hurry! You will also find that this area has a strong creative life-force and powerful energy. Be ready for your thoughts to manifest themselves into reality very quickly.
Eat! Your first stop should be the Farmers Market for local organic produce. A breakfast of two papayas and three apple-bananas costs about 50 cents. Or you can splurge a few dollars on a white pineapple, a mango, or some rombatons. Don’t forget to pick up extra fruit to share with people you meet on your journey! Just a few steps away is Abundant Life Natural Foods, Hilo’s health food store that’s been open over 30 years. And to help slow you into Hawaiian-time, down a few glasses of kava at the Bayfront Kava and Tea Company. Kava is a relaxing, body-numbing sacred drink made from the local ‘awa root.
Move! Be! If you are into the yoga scene, there’s a few studios in Hilo. Yoga Centered is very accessible in the downtown district, but the local yogi’s vibe the authenticity found at Balancing Monkey (a 15 minute walk off the main drag). And if you like yoga, you’ll certainly like surfing. Go rent a board from the Hilo Surfboard Company and get some beginner advice from owner Scott Murray. Surfing is a very meditative experience involving direct communion with nature in a psychedelic, constantly moving, watery playing field. If there’s some swell, the waves will be breaking right in Hilo bay.
Stay! The Hilo Bay Hostel is right in the action and reasonably priced. They’ve got a kitchen, washing machines, internet-access, dorm-rooms and private rooms.
Shop! Every wednesday and saturday, the farmer’s market goes off with local vendors selling all kinds of hand-made goods from around the island. There’s also the Used Book Store full of beat novels, spiritual texts, and travel guides. The Kathmandu Trading Company specializes in highest-quality Tibetan rugs, Thangkas, and furniture from the Himalayas. Please say hello to owner Tim Lippold for me. He’s a true spiritual hippie with a lifetime full of adventure and wisdom to share.
See! If you encounter some rainy weather, head into the Kress Cinemas to catch a flick for a dollar, or check out the local history at the Pacific Tsunami Museum. Hilo is also home to the Liliuokalani Gardens, the largest Japanese Zen gardens this side of Tokyo. It’s a peaceful place to go zone out and watch the ocean.
Go! Hilo is great, but make sure you get out of town and explore! The whole east side of the island is amazing. Head north up the lush Hamakua coastline to Waipio Valley where you’ll find an epic black-sand beach and a large waterfall. For the strong, get some camping permits and make the ten-mile trek back into Waimanu Valley, which has an even more-epic beach and bigger waterfalls. Or you can head south of Hilo to Pahoa and Puna. Pahoa is the perfect little hippie town with not much more than a health food store, yoga studio, two Thai restaurants, and a farmer’s market. Puna is the jungle with plenty of off-the-grid farming communes and Kahena Beach, a nude beach that holds a drum jam every sunday afternoon. Just imagine the party: drum beats, dreadlocks and bouncing private parts! Also check out the Kalani Resort which hosts an ecstatic dance jam every sunday morning and Yoga Oasis, a world-class yoga-retreat center. If these things sound boring, there’s always 13,796 ft. Mauna Kea and the live-volcano Mauna Loa to explore.
A word of caution: An island can be a very small place. Essentially, everybody knows everybody and everybody is family. You can’t hide from your problems on an island and you can’t hide from yourself. Treat the land with the utmost respect and treat everyone you meet as if they are your family or you may be asked to leave. And there is a superstition about the lava rocks! Don’t take them or even move them. If you do, the volcano goddess Pele will haunt you until you put them back to their rightful place! With this in mind, please enjoy all the beauty and abundance that this diverse island has to offer. Aloha!
Have fun and celebrate this life in paradise!
Hilo Farmers Market – http://www.hilofarmersmarket.com/
Abundant Life Natural Foods – http://www.abundantlifenaturalfoods.com/
Bayfront Kava and Tea Company – 116 Kamehameha Ave. 808-935-1155
Yoga Centered – http://www.yogacentered.com
Balancing Monkey – http://www.balancingmonkey.com
Hilo Surfboard Company – 84 Ponahawai St. 808-895-1489
Hilo Bay Hostel – http://www.hawaiihostel.net/
Hilo Farmers Market – http://www.hilofarmersmarket.com/
Used Book Store – Near the Farmers Market. Usually open on wednesdays.
Kathmandu Trading Company – 35 Waianuenue Ave. 808-935-4000
Kress Cinamas – 174 Kamehameha Ave. 808-961-0066
Pacific Tsunami Museum – http://www.tsunami.org/
Liliuokalani Gardens – Ask somebody!
Kalani Resort – http://www.kalani.com
Yoga Oasis – http://www.yogaoasis.org