There were more people booked for this excursion than the tour bus would hold and I ended up in a seven person over-sized mini-van with the overflow. "Auntie Karen" a mid-westerner who has lived on the big Island many years and married a Japanese-Hawaiian, was our tour guide. Not of Polynesian/Hawaiian descent herself, but a typical Hawaiian nonetheless. Driving out of the gridlock of the harbor area she told us about Ohana (family), and how every adult is Auntie or Uncle to small children. She also had good knowledge of the tsunamis that had changed the Hilo area over the years but admitted she lacked for statistics.
Imiloa Astronomy Center Rating:
Our first stop at the Big Island Candies was basically a shopping stop. In spite of being told that this is the "only place you can get these" there is a second Big Island Candies store in the Ala Moana Center on Oahu.
Lots of tasty samples (don't miss the coffee) but other than some beautiful packages for Japanese style gift giving I felt shortbread just wouldn't scream "Hawaii!" to the folks back home.
Traveling along Banyan Drive we were given a short history lesson and saw trees planted by various luminaries. A quick stop at the shore demonstrated the "mud" was actually very fine black volcanic sand. Off to Rainbow Falls for a photo op of the falls and a lovely garden setting. Auntie Karen, hula enthusiast, showed us how to use ti leaves to make a grass skirt.
We were ushered rapidly through the Imiloa center and only given about 15 minutes to go back and look more closely at the displays before the start of the planetarium show. The presenter was a young woman involved in the research from data collected by the radio-telescope array and the show ranged from basic ("here is Orion") to a demonstration of recent space debris data in 3D addressing objects in low-, mid-level and geosynchronous orbit which was more than a little mind-blowing.
Recommended with the caveat that if the Astronomy Center is your main goal you will feel rushed to get through all the exhibits.