Hawaii Adventure - Big Island secrets
Hilo - Big Island Adventure GuideHawaii the Big Island Adventure Guide

The Palace Theatre - Hilo - Hawaii Adventure GuideSights

East Hawai`i Cultural Center (141 Kalakaua St, 961- 5711, www.ehcc.org) is operated by the East Hawai`i Cultural Council, which was founded in 1967 to help preserve and promote local art. The Center has several galleries with monthly exhibits, such as art by students from around the Big Island. Upstairs is a performance space with a dance floor, where musicians and dancers entertain the public. Free admission. Open 10 am-4 pm Mon-Sat.

Memories of Hawaii – Big Island, Plantation Museum (301 Keawe St, 961-0024, www.memoriesofhawaiibigisland.com). What started as a hobby of collecting Hawaiian sports memorabilia has transformed Wayne Subica’s life into that of a museum curator. Part junk shop, part antiques showcase, this mish-mash collection of plantation-era miscellany proves absolutely fascinating to those with any interest in this recently bygone time of Hawaiian history. Some of the more curious pieces include a sunlight radiation monitor, and a wood bowl carved from the Mark Twain monkeypod tree, which was planted by the author in Ka`u but fell in a 1955 windstorm. The back room features a wide array of stuffed animals, including the first monkey ever brought to the Hilo zoo and the head of a bison that was the product of a failed Big Island ranching experiment.

What may be most fascinating is Wayne’s collection of old photographs, especially those that show the Yankees in Hilo in 1955 clobbering the local team 22-3 (classy), or Jesse Owens running in Hilo when he came in 1945 to race the fastest horse in town. What really makes this one worth the money is Wayne himself, who can tell fascinating stories to go along with much of his inventory. Admission: $6, seniors $5, kids $3. Open 10:30 am-4:30 pm Tues-Sat, 10 am-3 pm Sun.

Note: At press time, Wayne had acquired an old plantation warehouse in Honomu on the Hamakua Coast, and was preparing to move the museum. The new site is on Hwy 11 about 10 miles north of Hilo on the makai side of the road by the turnoff for Akaka Falls. He will have much more room to exhibit his constantly-growing collection.

Where to Shop

Alan’s Art and Collectibles (202 Kamehameha Ave, 969- 1544). Jammed full of Hawaiiana, antiques and vintage finds, Alan’s makes for a fun browse. Old vinyl records, collectable glass and 50s-era relics are what you’re most likely to encounter. Need a tiki lamp? What have you done your whole life without a vintage malt machine? Open 10 am-4:30 pm Mon, Wed-Fri, 1-4:30 pm Tues, 10 am-3 pm Sat.

Fabric Impressions (206 Kamehameha Ave, 961-4468). Attention quilters: this is your store in Hilo, which has fabric, books, patterns and other quilting supplies, as well as sewing and quilting classes. Non-quilters may want to invest in the Hawaiian quilts, potholders and other gifts for sale. Open 9:30 am-5 pm Mon-Fri, 9 am-4:30 pm Sat.

The Most Irresistible Shop in Hilo (256 Kamahameha Ave, 935-9644). The title sets the bar pretty high, but this is a fun store for shopping, with books, kids’ games, alohawear, t-shirts, wind chimes, cards and postcards, hats, pens, and gifts such as small stones with affirmations like “I celebrate life.” Open 9 am-5 pm Mon-Fri, 9 am-4 pm Sat, 10:30 am-3:30 pm Sun.

Hawaiian Arts (284 Kamehameha Ave, 935-1860, www.hawaiianarts.com). What might first appear to be a place called Honoli`i Surf Co. at the corner of Furneaux and Kamehameha is actually a t-shirt shop called Hawaiian Arts. They print their designs on the premises (right behind the register, in fact), and they actually make some great stuff, including funky prints and alohawear. The Honoli`i Surf Co. is just a t-shirt line, but the graphics are some of the coolest around. They sell a few surfboards, too, apparently just to keep the vibe of the place surf-oriented. Open 9 am-4:30 pm Mon-Fri, 10 am-3 pm Sat, 11 am-3 pm Sun.

Burgado’s Fine Woods (308 Kamehameha Ave, #110, 969-9663), in the S. Hata Building, offers a fine selection of hand-crafted wood products, art and furniture carved from koa and other exotic local woods. Open 10 am-4 pm Mon-Fri, 9 am-4 pm Sat.

Kipuka Smoke Shop (308 Kamehameha Ave, 961-5082). This is a small shop nestled behind Café Pesto with cigars, pipes and bulk pipe tobacco, hookahs, and 65 types of rolling papers. Open 9 am-6 pm Mon-Fri, 8 am-4 pm Sat.

Sponge and Son Bodyboard Shop (82 Ponahawai St, 969-9981), at the corner of Punahoa and Ponahawai Streets (behind Tesoro), sells bodyboards and gear for the “strictly hardcore,” which is funny because their goofy logo features SpongeBob SquarePants and his own personal Mini-Me. They don’t bother selling clothing except for rash guards. DVDs and skateboards are also for sale. Sponge has a loyal following, but he’s put the shop up for sale since his son moved back to the Caribbean. He’s determined to sell only to another hardcore bodyboarder, so it should still be viable when we go to print.

The Hawaiian Force (140 Kilauea Ave, 934-7171). This small store sells original clothing designs, with aloha dresses, hats, t-shirts with the Hawaiian Force logo or “Got Poi?” and Hawaiian flag patches. The owner and, by extension, his store are supporters of Hawaiian rights, so why not support them? Open 10 am-4 pm Mon-Fri, 10 am-2 pm Sat.


Beach Park Pit Stop

There is a turn-off between Onakahakaha and Kealoha beach parks with a few points of interest. Hilo Homemade Ice Cream (open 10:30 am-5:30 pm daily) sells deliciously sinful shakes, shave ice and waffle cones, and shares space with Down to Surf, which rents snorkel gear for $5/day. Hilo Tropical Mart (open 8 am-6 pm daily) is a convenience mart with the usual beer, sodas and snacks. Hilo Tropical Gardens (969-9873, www.hilotropicalgardens.com, open 10 am-4 pm Tues-Sat) is a free, small tropical garden that might be nice to wander around while enjoying an ice cream cone. It’s a mature garden, planted in 1948, which was pretty rundown before the current owners bought the property, restored it and reopened in 2001.

Where to Stay

Wild Ginger Inn (100 Puueo St, 935-5556, www.wildgingerinnhilo.com, 25 rooms, $65-$90). There are three lovebirds in the lobby of the Wild Ginger Inn, which is appropriate because the hotel is run by the Love family. The new owners are renovating the former plantation house for sugarcane field workers, and at the moment it has basic rooms with a fridge, microwave and TV. There are longer-stay rooms downstairs for people who are moving to the area and can stay for up to 28 days. The lobby has a big hammock, and the hotel also has coin-op laundry machines and a share kitchen. After four nights, the room rate drops $5. $-$$

“Necessity may be the mother of invention, but play is certainly the father.” – Roger von Oech

Shipman House Bed & Breakfast Inn (131 Ka`iulani St, 934-8002, toll free 800-627-8447, www.hilo-hawaii.com, five rooms, $205-$225). This stunning house, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of the most interesting buildings in Hilo. Built in 1899, it remains an architectural gem and one of the most photographed structures in town. Barbara Ann, who owns the B&B with her husband Gary Andersen, will proudly talk story about how the house came into her family nearly 100 years ago, and what transpired with guests such as Jack London and Queen Lili`uokalani. The guest rooms, and indeed the whole house, are furnished with many original pieces which add to the historic air of the experience. The inn is very comfortable, but guests are reminded that the house and furniture should be treated like a museum. Children are “not encouraged.” There are three bedrooms in the main house, and two bedrooms in a guest house which was allegedly built after a jarring visit from Jack London and his wife that lasted five weeks. All rooms have private bath and include a continental breakfast overlooking the “rainforest gulch.” $$$

Waterfalls Inn (240 Kaiulani St., 969-3407, toll free 888-808-HILO, www.waterfallsinn.com, four rooms, $140- $215). Another great historic home, and one that you shouldn’t be afraid to touch, is the Waterfalls Inn. This 5,000- square-foot historical masterpiece, which like Shipman House is on the National Register of Historic Places, sits on a bluff perched above the Wailuku River gulch, and the sound of the waterfalls and rushing water permeate everything here. The house has been completely and luxuriously renovated, including nice touches such as pillow-top mattresses and whirlpool baths. There are four guest rooms, each with mini-fridge, coffee maker, TV, DVD, VCR, and Wi-Fi Internet access. The breakfast includes a bit more than many B&Bs, with fresh fruit smoothies and baked goods in addition to the standard fruit plate, cereal and toast. $$$

Country Club Hawaii Condo Hotel (121 Banyan Drive, 935-7171, toll free 866-935-7171, www.alakairealty.com/countryclub.htm, 138 rooms, $79-$134, weekly rates avail- able). Located above Shooters, a notoriously rowdy bar, this place is difficult to recommend. In addition, the rooms are owned by different people, resulting in a wide diversity of room quality. Some units are finely appointed with newer furnishings and kitchenettes and others are unspeakably fetid. Folks complain about the noise and the indifferent staff. There is a small pool here by the water, but it’s hard to imagine a more depressing vacation accommodation. A must miss. $$-$$$

Where to Eat

“Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” – Mark Twain

Ayuthaya Thai Restaurant (804 Kilauea Ave, 933-2424). Like the city in Thailand it is named for, Ayuthaya Thai Restaurant has quality Thai food and large portions. This unassuming hole-in-the-wall has plenty of meat and seafood dishes as well as an extensive vegetarian selection on the menu. The spring rolls have a delicious slightly sweet, slightly spicy dipping sauce topped with peanuts, and the terrific Pad Thai is a bargain and big enough for two people. They also have $4 lunch plates daily. You’d spend a lot more money for less food in Kona. Open daily for lunch 10:30 am- 3 pm, dinner 5-9 pm (open at 4:30 pm on weekends). $-$$

Naung Mai Thai Kitchen (86 Kilauea Ave, 934-7540). Ask a local what their favorite Thai place in Hilo is, and they’ll invariably say Naung Mai. The ambiance is certainly the best, with Thai silk tablecloths, art on the walls, fresh cut flowers on the tables, and small purple pyramid lamps dangling above each table. But the food is bland, and more expensive than you’ll find elsewhere. Spring rolls, served with a sticky sweet dipping sauce, are $8. Curries and soups are $10- $12. Maybe we hit them on an off-day, but with so many other options in town, we’re not in a hurry to go back. Open for lunch 11 am-2 pm Mon-Fri, dinner 5-8:30 pm Mon-Thurs, till 9 pm Fri and Sat. $$

Bear’s Coffee (106 Keawe St., 935-0708). Hilo locals flock to Bear’s for their morning caffeine, along with the low-priced breakfasts. You might be able to squeeze yourself in for a “designer bagel” with your choice of Waimea tomatoes, hot pastrami, Swiss cheese, pepperoncini or many other options (50¢-$2). Their egg breakfasts are light since they don’t offer any potato accompaniment, but that’s okay when you’re heading out for a big day of hiking at the volcano. Try the Souffled Eggs steamed with their espresso machine with a choice of add-ons like black olives or salsa. They also serve waffles, baked goods, and have a decent selection of lunch sandwiches and salads. Open 7 am-11:30 am Mon-Fri, 7 am-1 pm Sat, 8 am-noon Sun. $

Harrington’s Steak & Seafood Restaurant (135 Kalanianaole St., 961-4966). The food at Harrington’s is not extraordinary, but the location on the Ice Pond is pleasant and the ambiance is warm, with wood paneling and fairy lights. We use it as a happy hour spot; their mai tais are pretty good, and there are tables on the waterside lounge reserved for people looking for a drink and a pupu, like hot artichoke crab dip or mushrooms tempura. Seafood dishes include the seafood brochette of fresh fish, scallops, shrimp, mushroom caps and vegetables. Steaks range from $19 to $27. Open for lunch 11 am-2 pm, dinner 5:30-9 pm, cocktails 5 pm-close. $$$

Ocean Sushi Deli (239 Keawe St., 961-6625) is a very casual, no-frills establishment with ridiculously cheap sushi, a refreshing change from Kona-side. Sushi rolls start at $1.75, and miso soup is a buck. Sodas are only a buck, too. Standard rolls like ahi and avocado are $3, and special rolls like the “Hilo” – mahi tempura, imitation crab, avocado and spicy mayo – are $5. Yeah! They have an arrangement with Tsunami Grill and Tempura across the street, so that you can also order beer, tempura, noodle soups, bentos and spring rolls from that menu and they’ll run them from across the street. Open 10 am-2 pm and 4:30-9 pm Mon-Fri. $

Pescatore Italian Restaurant (235 Keawe St, 969-9090). The food isn’t as good here as Café Pesto, but it has that dark, swanky Italian restaurant feel that you just want sometimes, with wood paneling, candelabras, faux Old Master paintings on the walls, mini-lamps on the tables and water goblets. There are some delicious entrées here, like the eggplant parmesan. The artichoke appetizer, Carciofi alla Pizzaiola, lacks any delicacy – it’s essentially canned artichoke hearts swimming in marinara sauce – but that’s fun to eat, too. Your server will happily grate fresh parmesan cheese onto your food. The desserts here are pretty killer too, like the double chocolate truffle. It’s probably worth noting that the owners are Irish and Japanese, not exactly the Corleone family. Open daily for breakfast 7:30 am-11 am, lunch 11 am-2 pm, dinner 5:30-9 pm. $$$$

Soontaree’s Deli (14 W. Lanikaula St #104, 969-9900). The entire menu here is vegetarian, even though it’s only a takeout place. “Our mission is to provide a tantalizing array of vegetarian selections that are not only good tasting but good for you as well,” reads the menu, and they deliver on that mission. The menu here is internationally inspired, with Thai summer rolls, falafel, stir fries, curries, tofu sandwiches, burritos and other things you don’t usually find in one place. The vegetarian saimin is a savory delight on a rainy day. Everything is made to order, and people wait patiently for the delicious, healthy food they know is coming. Almost everything is less than $7. If only they had tables. Open 11 am-2 pm and 4:30-7 pm Mon-Fri, 11 am-2 pm Sat. $

Cronies Bar & Grill (11 Waianuenue Ave, 935-5158) is a sports bar with the food you’d expect at a sports bar – burgers ($6.75-$7.75), soup and salads, sandwiches, wings, buckets of fries and onion rings and a few basic pizzas. The house specialty is the Big Kahuna, a 20-ounce t-bone served with side salad and rice, new potatoes or French fries. Smoothies come with or without alcohol. No minors are allowed at Cronies once the kitchen closes. Kitchen open daily 11 am-10 pm, bar till around midnight. $$

Miyo’s (400 Hualani, Waiakea Villas, 935-2273) is known as a great place for lunch, where you can eat homestyle Japanese food while gazing across Wailoa River State Park. But if you come at dinner, you might think the building is on fire when you see the cloud of smoke hovering above the entrance and the wooden room inside. Miyo’s gets crowded, so waiters weave around the room trying to serve customers as fast as possible – each dish you order may come out separately. There are lots of savory noodle soups, dinner combinations with teriyaki meat and tempura in the $10 range, and donburi dishes like oyako-don (eggs and chicken), served with miso soup. No alcohol served. Open 11 am-2 pm and 5:30-8:30 pm Mon-Sat. $-$$

Big Island Ohana Café (339 Keawe St, 961-6381). We’re fans of anyplace that serves breakfast all day, which is the case here. It’s a casual joint with counter and table service, white walls with pink trim, old malt and sundae signs and postcards. There are egg dishes (two eggs any style with toast and rice, hash browns or home fries is only $3.75), pancakes and French toast, and the pancake sandwich – eggs and bacon, ham or Spam between pancakes. There are also plate lunches like BBQ chicken, burgers (starting at $2.25) and sandwiches. The fried rice is really good for breakfast, too. Open 7:30 am-6 pm Mon-Sat, 8 am-4 pm Sun. $

Nihon Restaurant & Cultural Center (123 Lihiwai St, 969-1133), on the bay near Lili`uokalani Gardens, is definitely more of a restaurant than a “cultural center,” which consists primarily of photos of lava forming and a mug from the restaurant. The restaurant and small bar area pack up with people drawn to the sushi or Japanese dishes like chicken udon. Its detractors say it’s too expensive, but at least you can drink a Sapporo with your sushi here! Open lunch 11 am-1:30 pm, dinner 5-close, lounge 11 am-close Mon-Sat. $$-$$$


UHH Theatre (200 W. Kawili St, 974-7310, http://artscenter.uhh.hawaii.edu/). The 600-seat performing arts theater for the University of Hawaii at Hilo hosts over 150 performances a year, from lectures by guest speakers to concerts, dances and plays. The shows are performed by students as well as national acts. Tickets are available online, or through the box office noon – 6 pm Mon-Fri.

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