Why Hilo Makes Perfect Sense for Visitors on a Budget
The rumors are true: a Hawaiian vacation is an expensive endeavor regardless of your budget. While the Big Island remains among the most affordable options for tourists, penny-pinching will only get you so far with most popular destinations and attractions. However, the state’s second-largest city actually provides quite a few wallet-friendly opportunities for those seeking a Hawaiian adventure.
The Hidden Paradise in Plain Sight
While Hilo may be the largest city on the Big Island, it’s not as popular with tourists as the western, sunnier Kona side. But a stay in Hilo rewards guests with some of the most beautiful and striking natural beauty in all of the Big Island – a series of incredible waterfalls, robust and expansive tropical rainforests, and gorgeous beaches only Hawaii can provide.
The Hilo side does get a lot of rainfall, however – more than 220 inches on average, with greater precipitation the further you move up the nearby mountain slopes. This keeps most visitors on the western side (especially during the rainy season), but the lower tourist population may be a respite for weary travelers seeking a quieter vacation.
Hilo’s proximity to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a major point of emphasis. Compared to Kona, where travel times can exceed 3 hours depending on traffic, weather conditions, and the current direction of active lava flows, Hilo is a close 30 minute drive to the park. For those seeking sunset views of the volcanic activity, a stay in Hilo is an excellent idea.
Lower Tourist Population = Lower Prices
The Big Island is filled with stunning attractions and exciting activities, many of which are present on the Hilo side, but most tourists plan their stay around the resorts and hotels along the western side of the island. This means greater room availability and lower prices for accommodations in and around Hilo, making a Hawaii vacation within easier reach for those traveling on a budget. There are also more options for affordable stays compared to Kona, with the Hilo Bay Hostel and numerous campsites scattered around the region.
Museums, cultural centers, and historic sites abound near Hilo, with many offering cost-effective options for students and seniors along with many free events. Dining and nightlife, while as diverse and varied as their Kona counterparts, are generally cheaper and easier on the wallet without sacrificing quality.
Better Public Transportation Options than the Western Side
Hilo’s public transit system leaves much to be desired, but for travelers seeking access to other locations in town (or those who want to limit their rental car period), Hilo is ideal. There’s also an airport within a few miles of the main drag and inter-island flights can be had for $140 round-trip, so if you’re extending your stay between several Hawaiian islands and want to make the most of your budget, setting up camp in Hilo is a great idea.