A Visit to Hilo May be the Best Bang for Your Buck

Big Island Guide Travel Guide

There’s no doubt about it – a Hawaiian vacation is a spendy proposition. From flights and accommodations to food and drinks, everything’s a bit pricier in Hawaii. The Big Island offers some of the best rates for hotels and travel compared to anywhere else in Hawaii. But it’s not just a great destination where you can save some cash, it arguably offers more diversity in activities and geography than any of the other Hawaiian islands. If you’re planning a Hawaii vacation, but need to watch your budget, taking a hard look at the Big Island’s eastern side, specifically Hilo is your best bet. Here’s why:

An Affordable, Enjoyable Island City
Modern-day Hilo has managed to hold on to much of its early, small town charm. Compared to its cousin to the west in Kailua-Kona, the city of Hilo is older and less impacted by tourism. City blocks look comparable to those of the west coast in the 1950s and ‘60s, with mid-century, two-story colonial-style constructions making up much of the landscape. But Hilo is also the largest city on the Big Island, with 43,000 people calling it home, making it a lively and active area compared to many of the less populated areas on the island. The presence of University of Hawaii’s Hilo campus drops the demographic age of the town down considerably and on certain nights, Hilo certainly feels like a college town.

Housing, dining, drinks, and basically everything else (except groceries) is comparatively cheaper in Hilo than in the resort heavy western side of the Big Island, which entertains a much higher tourist population compared to the eastern side of the island.

Easy Access to the Rest of the Island
Thanks to the presence of Hilo International Airport and the newly-restored Saddle Road (Highway 200), getting from the Hilo side to anywhere else on the Big Island is relatively straightforward and easy. Due to the geographic size of the island, you’ll definitely want to rent a car to get from place to place, but there are plenty of tour companies that offer shuttles to many of the destination on your itinerary. You’ll also be much closer to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the lava flows at Pu’u O’o compared to a stay on the western coast.

Unbelievable Natural Beauty Just Steps Away
The aforementioned Hawaii Volcanoes National Park should be squarely at the top of your list of must-visit locations, but the east coast of the Big Island offers some of the most spectacular scenic beauty anywhere in the world. Staggering waterfalls, dense tropical rainforests, colorful beaches, and expansive lava fields highlight just a few of the attractions you’ll enjoy during a stay in Hilo. You will however, see more rainfall in Hilo and enjoy less sunshine than on the leeward side of the island.

Fewer Resorts and Tourist Attractions than Kona
Compared to the busy western coast of the Big Island, the Hilo side has considerably fewer major resorts, hotels, and corporate-owned attractions. While those are incredible options for many visitors, the after effect can produce a greater overall cost (or “tourist tax”) for those visiting the area. Hilo benefits from this general lack of major tourist activity, but the natural beauty, abundant attractions and incredible food present in Hilo bring visitors over that direction anyway.

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