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Cruises to Hilo

4 Awards
Hilo (Photo:Joe Belanger/Shutterstock)

About Hilo

To really experience Hilo, forget first impressions and dive right in to old Hawaii. Unpretentious and just a little bit gritty, this often-overlooked city on the Big Island is abundantly authentic and full of charm.

Why is it overlooked? Hilo is the departure point for shore excursions to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state. And that's too bad because there's much to recommend Hilo itself, defined in part by a history of tsunamis and challenging economics.

Editor's Note: Due to increased and damaging earthquakes, corrosive volcanic ash, and continuing explosions from Halema'uma'u, the summit crater of Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park remains closed.

As one survivor of a devastating 1946 tsunami put it: "We just cleaned up and went on with our lives." That same sentiment prevails today. There's a "pick yourself up, and dust yourself off" attitude and activism that has infused classic downtown Hilo with fresh energy palpable in its restaurants, shops, galleries and museums. There is also a tremendous amount of civic pride. When our docent at the must-see Lyman Museum and Mission House realized we were on a tight schedule, she packed us into her car to observe a few highlights we would otherwise have missed.

Hilo, which rests on the crescent-shaped Hilo Bay, possesses a rich cultural history. It's in Hilo that King Kamehameha is said to have fulfilled a prophecy of uniting the Hawaiian islands by lifting the ancient Naha stone, which now sits in front of the library. Cultural history is still being written. Hilo is the one place in the world to get a college degree in hula. Public school students have also started to take classes in the Hawaiian language. Leslie Lang, author of "Historic Hilo," frames it best when she writes: "It's a town whose cultures continue to hold on tight. But at the same time, it's one that is looking forward."

  • More about Hilo

  • Why go to Hilo?

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Pride of America
Pride of America alongside at Kahului on Sunday, April 10, 2022 (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

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1,803 Reviews
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983 Reviews
Leaving:Los Angeles
Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
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15 Night
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2,166 Reviews
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12 Night
Hawaii - OtherDetails

2,072 Reviews
Leaving:Honolulu
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
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15 Night
Hawaii CruiseDetails

983 Reviews
Leaving:Los Angeles
Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
Oct 15, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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More about Hilo

Why go to Hilo?

Pros:

Hilo shines with its rich history and authentic culture, which is exemplified in its easily walkable downtown

Cons:

It can get pretty rainy on this part of the island, so make sure you're prepared for wet weather

Bottom Line:

You'll get to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park via Hilo, but the city itself is worth a look

Hilo Cruise Port Facilities?

No permanent services are available at the dock. When cruise ships are in, however, helpful volunteers from the Hilo Information Center are onsite on with maps, brochures and overall guidance.

Good to Know?

On a practical note, Hilo has notoriously wet weather, so pack a travel umbrella. Also, resist any urge to take a souvenir rock from Volcanoes National Park. They are considered to have a spiritual quality, and the park is their home. The Hilo post office receives dozens of packages of returned rocks each year from folks who believe they were the cause of bad luck.

Getting Around?

The walk into town takes about an hour, but it is not especially scenic, and there are no sidewalks. Instead, consider these options:

By Shuttle: On cruise-ship days, a free shuttle transports passengers to the centrally located farmer's market about every 10 or 15 minutes until 11 a.m. Roundtrip complimentary shuttles go to Hilo Hattie, the state's largest retailer of Hawaiian fashions. It's located in a shopping plaza some distance from the port.

By Bus: A city bus departs hourly, 7:10 a.m. to 11:10 a.m., from the Keaukaha Market just outside the port exit with drop-offs at the Hilo Information Center downtown. The last pickup back to the ship is 4 p.m. The bus costs $2, and $1 for seniors. It does not operate on Sundays. It's best to double-check departure times. Local buses often operate on "island" time, so don't plan on taking the last scheduled bus back to port.

By Taxi: There is a taxi stand at the pier. Taxi fare from the port to downtown Hilo is about $12.

By Rental Car: Rental car shuttles collect passengers who have made reservations in advance. Cars are picked up at the airport, a short drive from the pier.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

Currency is the U.S. dollar. ATM's are plentiful in downtown Hilo. You will find two ATM's, close by and conveniently located in the S. Hata Building on the 300 block of Kamehameha Ave. by Cafe Pesto. There's also one at Hawaii National Bank next to the Pacific Tsunami Museum at 130 Kamehameha Ave.

Language?

English is the official language, but native Hawaiian routinely shows up in conversation, beginning and ending with aloha, which serves as "hello" and "goodbye." Mahalo means "thank you." As for restrooms, the one marked wahine is for women, and kane is for men.

Where You're Docked?

Ships dock at a large cargo and container facility about two miles from downtown.


Hilo Cruise Reviews
Hilo, we walked through the Japanese garden near the ship. We did not take any tours because we have been to Hawaii many times.Read More
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LaQuintaTraveler
I choose this cruise because I wanted to travel to HI. Hilo was dirty aka trash cans overflowing along the main drag and homeless sleeping on the sidewalk in the tourist area. Read More
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Gary Gilchrist
Most of the important attractions , like the visit to the volcano, are outside Hilo itself. Read More
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ashstreet
Loved Hilo, took Hoppa on Hoppa off tour of city sights.Read More
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badmojo40

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