When the sun shines in Hilo, it's one of the most beautiful tropical cities in the Pacific. Being here is an entirely different kind of island experience: Hawaii's largest metropolis after Honolulu is a quaint, misty, flower-filled city of Victorian houses overlooking a half-moon bay, with a restored historic downtown and a clear view of Mauna Kea's often snowcapped peak.
Hilo is one of America's wettest towns, with 128 inches of rain annually. It's ideal for growing ferns, orchids, and anthuriums, but not for catching a few rays. But there's lots to see and do in Hilo, so grab your umbrella. The rain is warm (the temperature seldom dips below 70°F), and there's usually a rainbow afterward.
Hilo's magic moment comes in spring, the week after Easter, when hula halau (schools) arrive for the annual Merrie Monarch Hula Festival hula competition. This is a full-on Hawaiian spectacle and a wonderful cultural event. Hilo is also the gateway to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; it's just an hour's drive up-slope.