(Originally appears on Travels with Two, June 9, 2011)
In Hawaiian, a hui hou means “until we meet again.”
Rather than say goodbye to Hilo, the biggest small town on the eastern side of Hawaii’s Big Island, I’d rather just bid it a brief adieu. And with new direct flights from Los Angeles to Hilo launching today, it’s a darn safe bet that we’ll be back soon.
We first visited the Big Island back in ’06 for a friend’s wedding on the dry, western Kohala Coast (aka “the Kona side”), and after a whirlwind trip around the whole island, only had a rushed hour or so to spend in and around Hilo. Our experience of Kona was snorkel-happy beaches, shopping plazas and fancy resorts; pretty to be sure, but for us, it lacked a spirit of exploration.
Just recently, thanks to the Big Island Visitors’ Bureau, we finally got to spend a few days exploring the more lush and friendly “Hilo side.” The verdict? Love the shoes-free livin’; the soaring hillsides of palm trees; wild ocean coves; tumbling waterfalls; powerful rainstorms that yield vibrant flowers and exotic fruits; vintage architecture; blend of Asian cultures; and nearby Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Used to be, though, the only direct flights from the West Coast to the Big Island took you to Kona — a three-hour drive from Hilo. Getting to Hilo has always involved a plane switch in Honolulu; this is the way we had to go just a few weeks ago, and with layover time, our journey from L.A. to Hilo took over eight hours.
In a world of limited vacation days, lots of time-crunched visitors to the Big Island (which is 4000 miles from the U.S. mainland) have never even made it to the Hilo side. That’s a shame — and yet, sadly understandable.
Now, merged airline United/Continental has stepped in to give the Hilo side the boost it deserves: Two daily flights from LAX will get visitors from the West Coast to Hilo inside of five hours. Make a whole trip out of the wild, jungly eastern side of the Big Island, or start in Hilo and work your way over to Kona for a couple days of beachy unplugging. Hassle-free in, hassle-free out.
So, here’s just some of what you’ll find in and around Hilo…in case you’d like to fall in love with it, too.
My trip to Hawaii’s Big Island was sponsored by Big Island Visitors’ Bureau,
but all observations and opinions here are my own.
About the Author
Melanie Waldman is the writer/photographer behind Travels With Two, a travel blog designed to inspire workaholic couples to use their vacation time to travel together. Waldman shares exciting accounts of her own trips — as well as those of other couples — and offers great tips on travel-planning, saving money and more. When not traveling to Hawai’i and beyond, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband, dog, cat and a sometimes-neglected garden.