I haven’t been often, but Hilo has a certain something that appeals to me. Landing in Hilo Airport is like stepping into your tutu’s 1970s living room with its olive green carpeting and aloha print couches, and if you’re digging the retro vibe then the town will not disappoint. Set on the mouth of a bay, downtown Hilo’s plantation-style storefronts belong to a different era. Like you wouldn’t blink twice if a pirate ship docked so a salty sea dog could have a brewsky, and neither would the leftover bearded hippies and European backpackers loitering on the main drag. Needless to say, there are some killer antiques to be had – my lastest score was some tiki-print bark cloth to reupholster my chairs.
I’d also recommend checking out the farmer’s market on the corner of Mamo Street (best visited on Wednesdays or Saturdays) to get your fill of cheap papayas, rambutans, and anthuriums. And if you’ve only got a few hours in town, the Pepe’ekeo Scenic Drive is only a short drive north of Hilo and a must-see. The 4-mile scenic detour will take you through the rainforest, past waterfalls, and lead you to a spectacular view of Onomea Bay. Park here and take a short hike down on the Onomea Beach Trail to get better access to the rugged and dramatic coastline.