We landed in Hilo at around 7pm on Thankgiving night (November 26th), which meant that there were virtually no cars on the road as we drove the short distance from the airport to the hotel – an excellent start! We’d chosen the Wild Ginger Inn for our two nights in Hilo, and were immediately charmed by its slightly rickety character. An old plantation workers’ house from the 1920s, it was perfectly comfortable and convenient, although the nightly chorus of frogs (which stopped only during intervals of torrential rainfall) took a little getting used to.
It was still raining (and the frogs were still singing) when we woke up, and we hoped that it would clear up a bit whilst we ate breakfast (the rain that is, not the frogs). It didn’t, of course, so we donned our best Brits-on-holiday attitude, and our waterproofs, and set out to enjoy the soggy scenery. The area around Hilo is renowned for waterfalls and lush vegetation (not surprisingly), so we scuttled around various scenic overlooks trying not to get too much rain on the camera lens.
The Kaumana Caves were perhaps a better choice for this kind of weather. They aren’t actually caves, but rather an old lava tube, accessed where part of the roof presumably collapsed at some point. Apart from a set of steps leading down from street level no other concession has been made to visitors – there’s no handrail, no walkway, no illumination. It’s just you, and the lava, in the dark.
You can apparently go quite a long way in – we completely lost sight of the people a little further ahead of us – but the floor is uneven and treacherous and our head torches weren’t quite up to the job, so we stayed in sight of the entrance.
By this time the rain had stopped, so we took a stroll through the Tropical Botanical Garden. Set on a rather dramatic piece of cliff, the walk down (and back up again) was pleasantly strenuous, and there were all sorts of interesting trees and flowers to admire along the way.
Back into Hilo, we enjoyed an excellent sushi lunch at the Hilo Bay Cafe, and watched as the sun finally came out.
For the afternoon, we had a walk in the beautiful Liliuokalani Japanese Gardens, drove down Banyan Drive (and spotted the trees planted by Mark Twain and Amelia Earhart), before doing a spot of shopping at Walmart. Returning the car to the hotel, we walked back into town for ice cream (dairy free coconut, macadamia and chocolate -it was excellent!) before a quiet evening reading and knitting on our verandah, or lanai. (Even if we’d wanted to go out partying Hilo didn’t seem to have a great deal in the way of nightlife, but we were more than happy to take it easy!)