On the outskirts of Hilo, the Wailuku River pours into a series of lava pools, popularly known as Boiling Pots.
Gates Sanford, visiting from Vermont, plunges off the rocks at Boiling Pots—despite the “No Swimming, No Diving” signs.
Rainbow Falls, just below Boiling Pots, throws up a rainbow mist as it tumbles down.
Our home base in Hilo was Shipman House, a Victorian Mansion built in 1899, now a Bed & Breakfast. Jack London and wife Charmain were once guests here.
Barbara and Gary Andersen on the stairway of Shipman House, which was Barbara’s family home, now restored with Monarchy-period furniture.
No trip to Hilo is complete without stopping at the popular Hilo eatery, Cafe 100, which bills itself as the home of the loco moco.
Cafe 100 didn't invent the loco moco, and honestly we've eaten better, but it seemed a shame to be in Hilo and skip having one.
Much of Hilo's bayside is parks and water features, including the Japanese-style Liliuokalani Gardens. Look like a gray day? Welcome to Hilo.
The towering banyan trees along Hilo's Banyan Drive were planted, mainly in the 1930s, by visiting celebrities like Babe Ruth and (here) Amelia Earhart.
The new Imiloa Astronomy Center rises above the UH Hilo campus with three striking titanium-clad cones. 600 `Imiloa Place, (808) 969-9700, imiloahawaii.org
The exhibits at Imiloa celebrate the star finding achievements of the ancient Hawaiians—and the cutting edge astronomy performed today at the observatories on Mauna Kea.
Imiloa has a breathtaking high-tech planetarium with a 52-foot perforated aluminum dome.
The catch comes in early at Hilo's Suisan Fish Market.
Sorting the ahi (tuna) at Suisan.
Carmelo Justo cuts ahi for poke at Suisan Fish Market. "Fish is a good business," he says. "Everybody likes it."
The "Ice-o-saurus" at Hilo's Alii Ice Company (motto: We Cool). It's actually an ice crusher, in case you need to load your fishing boat with crushed ice.
Only local folks know about Hilo Lunch Shop. It's an okazu-ya, a Japanese-style deli serving all sorts of prepared dishes, from nori chicken to battered ono--plus conventional American breakfasts. 421 Kalanikoa Street, (808) 935-8273
Paul Gephart moved from Indiana 18 years ago and has been making replicas of ancient Hawaiian weapons ever since. "I married a woman with five kids and I had to find a way to feed 'em," he says.
The coast near Hilo has some spectacular drives. This is Onameo Bay, once a major landing area, though, as you can see, on a stormy day the waters can be rough.
Hilo once had an extensive railroad linking the Big Island's plantations. The railroad bridges, engineering achievements from the turn of the century, have been re-purposed as highway bridges. Yes, it's raining heavily.
The last traces of Hilo's extensive railroads can be found about 15 miles up the coast in the small Laupahoehoe Train Museum, 36-2377 Mamalahoa Hwy., (808) 962-6300
The Laupahoehoe Train Museum is built in an old station manager's house and boasts a restored caboose.
In Laupahoehoe, the hot spot is the 50s Cafe, where even the restrooms are full of 1950s memorabilia and there's rock'n'roll on the jukebox.
The children at Ke Kula o Nawahiokalaniopuu greeted us with a chant—in Hawaiian, of course, the language they speak exclusively at school.
Twenty years ago, Hawaiian was almost a dead language. It was brought by a small group of language activists, including University of Hawaii professor William "Pila" Wilson.
Nailima Gaison is the kumu (teacher) in the kindergarten class at Ke Kula o Nawahiokalaniopuu, teaching language skills in Hawaiian.
Ironically, Hawaiian children who learn their own language tend to do better in other subjects as well, including English.
Hilo has the most active Farmers Market in all the Islands, filled with the abundance from the fertile agricultural lands in the area.
There's not just produce. The Big Island is famous for its flowers, like these anthuriums.
You'll never go hungry for bananas in this banana-growing area. They are plentiful at the Hilo Farmers Market.
Nowhere else will you find 6 papayas for $1.
And the Farmers Market has exotic fruits—like red and hairy rambutan and tasty longon.
There's prepared food at the Farmers Market as well—baked goods from many cultures and this array of musubi.
The rich Hamakua Coast produces remarkable produce.
Fair Jenkins arranges her display of Honomu Jams & Jellies, grown organically at Akaka Falls Farms. Wait till you try the passion fruit-pepper jam.
For 18 years, Sani Holika has been making these lauhala hats and selling them at the Hilo Farmers Market.
Nobody at our office would forgive us if we didn't bring back mochi from Hilo's Two Ladies Kitchen, run by Sachiko Kishimoto, 80, and her daughter, Nora Uchida.
Mochi is a Japanese-style rice flour pastry, available in an remarkable variety of colors, shapes and fillings.
The little Two Ladies shop at 274 Kilauea Avenue, (808) 961-4766, is an industrious place.
Our favorite: mochi filled with chocolate, bean paste and a giant strawberry.
A downtown Hilo bulletin board shows how vibrant—and small—Hilo is. Everyone eventually will walk by.
Downtown Hilo streets have an old-style charm.
At Bayfront Coffee, Kava and Tea Co., owner David Stevenson makes kava according to the old royal recipe, with fresh coconut water. 116 Kamehameha Ave., (808) 935-1155.
Hilo's Palace Theatre, built in 1925, was the grandest theatre on any of the neighbor islands. 38 Haili Street, (808) 934-7777
The restored interior of the Palace Theatre boasts a full stage, stadium seating and a working pipe organ.
Palace Theatre president Cheryl Hardwick Moore, known to all Hilo as Quack, was the first female band member and later musical director of "Saturday Night Live."
Hilo suffered tsunamis in 1946 and 1960. It's now fully prepared with clearly marked evacuation areas.
If you hear a tsunami alert, this is the sign you want to see.
In a former Hilo bank building, the Pacific Tsunami Museum educates everyone about the rare, but real, danger of tsunamis.
Inside the Pacific Tsunami Museum, there are displays of tsunamis past and present.
Downtown Hilo is a real town, with small business occupying historic buildings.
Sometimes the restored buildings are vibrant with color. This is Aloha Luigi's, a Mexican-Italian eatery, 264 Keawe Street, (808) 934-9112.
Galleries and bookstores in a historic building.
As we passed the gallery, out popped an old friend, Janice Crowl, whose new children's book, "Pulelehua and Mamaki," has just been published by Bishop Museum Press.
Some of Hilo's historic buildings look historic—i.e., a bit delapidated.
The spanking clean factory of Hilo's Big Island Candies is a popular visitor destination. Through glass you can watch the workers dip Big Island Candies' popular shortbread cookies in caramel and chocolate. 585 Hinano Street, (800) 935-5510.
Aleli Dumayeg dips cookies in chocolate at Big Island Candies.
Big Island Candies dips all sorts of Island treats in chocolate. This is dried cuttlefish--which isn't everyone's idea of a great snack, but is popular with local residents and Asian visitors.
Coconut Joe Leong weaves coconut frond bowls on the streets in Hilo.
A lively Hilo street scene. See that guy singing his heart out. See the next picture.
Street musician Jerry Leggett arrived in Hilo only three months earlier from San Diego. “This is the only place I’ve ever played on the street where people walk up and start singing along," he says.
Leyson Sakai makes an rainbow shave ice at Wilson’s By the Bay. Except they are called “ice shave” in Hilo. 224 Kamehameha Ave., (808) 969-9191.
In 1832, missionaries David and Sarah Lyman traveled by ship from New England to Hilo and built this house, now a museum. 276 Haili St., (808) 935-5021