Hilo, Hawaii

Hilo (/ˈhiːloʊ/; Hawaiian pronunciation: [ˈhilo]) is the largest town and census-designated place (CDP) in Hawaii County, Hawaii, United States, which encompasses the Island of Hawaiʻi. The population was 43,263 according to the 2010 census.[1]

Hilo is the county seat of the County of Hawaiʻi and is in the District of South Hilo.[2] The town overlooks Hilo Bay, at the base of two shield volcanoes, Mauna Loa, an active volcano, and Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano. Mauna Kea is the site of some of the world's most important ground-based astronomical observatories. Much of the city is at risk from lava flows from Mauna Loa. The majority of human settlement in Hilo stretches from Hilo Bay to Waiākea-Uka, on the flanks of the volcano.

Hilo is home to the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, ʻImiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaiʻi, as well as the Merrie Monarch Festival, a week-long celebration of ancient and modern hula that takes place annually after Easter. Hilo is also home to the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation, one of the world's leading producers of macadamia nuts. The town is served by Hilo International Airport.[3]

Hilo, Hawaii
From top to bottom, left to right: S. Hata Building, Hilo Masonic Lodge Hall-Bishop Trust Building, Hilo Bay with Mauna Kea, Rainbow (Waiānuenue) Falls, Federal Building, Post Office and Courthouse and Liliuokalani Park and Gardens
Location in Hawaii County and the U.S. state of Hawaii
Location in Hawaii County and the U.S. state of Hawaii
Hilo is located in Hawaii
Location in Hawaii County and the U.S. state of Hawaii
Coordinates: 19°42′20″N 155°5′9″W / 19.70556°N 155.08583°WCoordinates: 19°42′20″N 155°5′9″W / 19.70556°N 155.08583°W
Country United States
State Hawaii
County Hawaii
 • MayorHarry Kim
 • Total58.3 sq mi (151.0 km2)
 • Land53.4 sq mi (138.3 km2)
 • Water4.9 sq mi (12.7 km2)
59 ft (18 m)
 • Total43,263
 • Density810/sq mi (312.9/km2)
Time zoneUTC−10 (Hawaii-Aleutian)
ZIP codes
Area code(s)808
FIPS code15-14650


Around 1100 AD, the first Hilo inhabitants arrived, bringing with them Polynesian knowledge and traditions. Although archaeological evidence is scant, oral history has many references to people living in Hilo, along the Wailuku and Wailoa rivers during the time of ancient Hawaii.[4] Oral history gives the meaning of Hilo as "to twist".[5]

Originally, the name "Hilo" applied to a district encompassing much of the east coast of the island of Hawaiʻi, now divided into the District of South Hilo and the District of North Hilo. When William Ellis visited in 1823, the main settlement there was Waiākea on the south shore of Hilo Bay.[6] Missionaries came to the district in the early-to-middle 19th century, founding Haili Church.

Hilo expanded as sugar plantations in the surrounding area created jobs and drew in many workers from Asia, making the town a trading center.

A breakwater across Hilo Bay was begun in the first decade of the 20th century and completed in 1929. On April 1, 1946, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake near the Aleutian Islands created a 46-foot-high (14 m) tsunami that hit Hilo 4.9 hours later, killing 160 people. In response, an early warning system, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, was established in 1949 to track these killer waves and provide warning. This tsunami also caused the end of the Hawaii Consolidated Railway, and instead the Hawaii Belt Road was built north of Hilo using some of the old railbed.[7]

On May 22, 1960, another tsunami, caused by a 9.5-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Chile that day, claimed 61 lives,[8] allegedly due to the failure of people to heed warning sirens. Low-lying bayfront areas of the city on Waiākea peninsula and along Hilo Bay, previously populated, were rededicated as parks and memorials.

Hilo expanded inland beginning in the 1960s. The downtown found a new role in the 1980s as the city's cultural center with several galleries and museums opening; the Palace Theater reopened in 1998 as an arthouse cinema.

Closure of the sugar plantations (including those in Hāmākua) during the 1990s hurt the local economy, coinciding with a general statewide slump. Hilo in recent years has seen commercial and population growth.

Geography and climate

Hilo is on the eastern side of the island.[9] It is classified by the U.S. Census Bureau as a census-designated place (CDP), and has a total area of 58.3 square miles (151.0 km2), 53.4 square miles (138.3 km2) of which is land and 4.9 square miles (12.7 km2) of which (8.4%) is water.[10]

Hilo has a tropical rainforest climate (Köppen Af), with substantial rainfall throughout the year. Its location on the windward coast (relative to the trade winds), makes it the fourth-wettest city in the United States, behind the southeast Alaskan cities of Whittier, Ketchikan and Yakutat, and one of the wettest in the world. An average of around 126.72 inches (3,220 mm) of rain fell at Hilo International Airport annually between 1981 and 2010, with 272 days of the year receiving some rain.[11] Rainfall in Hilo varies with altitude, with more at higher elevations. At some weather stations in upper Hilo the annual rainfall is above 200 inches (5,100 mm).[12]

Monthly mean temperatures range from 71.2 °F (21.8 °C) in February to 76.4 °F (24.7 °C) in August.[11] The highest recorded temperature was 94 °F (34 °C) on May 20, 1996, and the lowest 53 °F (12 °C) on February 21, 1962.[13] The wettest year was 1994 with 182.81 inches (4,643.4 mm), and the driest was 1983, with 68.09 inches (1,729.5 mm). The most rainfall in one month was 50.82 inches (1,290.8 mm) in December 1954. The most rainfall in 24 hours was 27.24 inches (691.9 mm) on November 2, 2000.[14]

Hilo's location on the shore of the funnel-shaped Hilo Bay also makes it vulnerable to tsunamis.[15]


Historical population
Census Pop.

As of the census of 2010, 43,263 people lived in 15,483 households in the census-designated place. The population density was 796.7 people per square mile (307.7/km²). The 16,905 housing units reflected an average density of 311.3 per square mile (120.2/km²).

The racial makeup was 17.61% White, 0.52% African American, 0.31% American Indian & Alaska Native, 34.29% Asian, 14.17% Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander, 0.60% from other races, and 32.51% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 10.40% of the population.[1]

24.3% of the households had children under the age of 18 living with them. The average household size was 2.79.[1]

The age distribution was 21.3% under age 18, 11.3% from 18 to 24, 11.5% from 25 to 34, 16.9% from 35 to 49, 20.9% from 50 to 64, and 18.0% 65 or older. The ratio of females to males was 100:95.5.[1]

The median household income at the 2000 census was $39,139, while the median family income was $48,150. Males had a median income in 2000 of $36,049 compared to $27,626 for females. The per capita income was $18,220. About 11.1% of families and 17.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.5% of those under age 18 and 6.7% of those age 65 or over.



Hilo is served by Hilo International Airport, where Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines operate.


Hilo is served by the county Hele-On Bus.[19]


Hilo is served by the Big Island's largest harbor, Hilo Harbor, on Hilo Bay.[20]


Hilo is home to a number of educational institutions, including two post-secondary institutions, the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College, and the Hilo and Waiakea primary and secondary school districts. Charter schools in the area serve primary and secondary students.


Although sometimes called a city, Hilo is not an incorporated city, and does not have a municipal government. The entire island, which is between the slightly larger state of Connecticut and smaller Rhode Island in size, is under the jurisdiction of the County of Hawaiʻi, of which Hilo is the county seat.

Hilo is home to county, state, and federal offices.


The oldest city in the Hawaiian archipelago, Hilo has a significant tourism sector.[21] It is home to Hawaii's only tsunami museum, mostly dedicated to the 1946 Pacific tsunami, and is notable for the banyan trees planted by Babe Ruth, Amelia Earhart and other celebrities. It is home to the Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo, shopping centers, cafés and other eateries, movie theaters, hotels, restaurants, and a developed downtown area with a Farmers Market.[22]

The Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation makes its home there as well, south of the main town off Hawaii Route 11, north of Keaʻau.

Hilo is known for the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center in the Koehnen Building downtown. The museum features interactive and educational exhibits and is dedicated to creating public awareness of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and marine conservation issues.

Hilo is home to astronomical observatories on Mauna Kea as well as the Imiloa Planetarium and Museum. Astronomy has an economic impact of $100 million annually on the island.[23] Astronomy on Mauna Kea was developed at the invitation of the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce following the collapse of the sugar cane industry.[24]



Points of interest


Hilo is served by KWXX (94.7FM Hilo/101.5FM Kona), KWXX, B93/B97 (93.1FM Kona/97.1FM Hilo), Hawaii's Classic Hits, B93/B97, and KPUA (970AM Hilo), Hilo's Sports Talk Radio KPUA 670AM radio stations.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald, of Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press,[26] is Hilo's primary newspaper distribution company along with other newspapers like the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Sister cities


Asteroid (342431) Hilo is named after Hilo.[27]

Hilo District

(3) North Hilo and (2) South Hilo Districts are located in the east coast of Hawaii County (the Big Island). They are bordered by Hamakua District (4) in the north, and by Kau District (9) in the south and Puna District (1) in the southeast. The far inland areas are largely unpopulated, being forest reserves on the slopes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

Hilo also referred to the District of Hilo when the Big Island was divided into six districts by the traditional moku land division. Hilo is now divided in two: North and South Hilo Districts.[28]

North Hilo District

The District of North Hilo, along Hawaii State Highway 19 from north to south, encompasses the following unincorporated towns and localities:

and others. Inland, along State Highway 200, are Mauna Kea mountain road and Puu Huluhulu and others.

South Hilo District

In the District of South Hilo, along State Highway 19, are the following unincorporated towns and localities:

Along State Highway 11, are:

and others. Along State Highway 200 and its extension, are:

and others.


  1. ^ a b c d e "US Census Bureau – 2010 Population Finder – Hilo CDP -".
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  3. ^ "Hilo CDP, Hawaii Archived 2011-11-24 at the Wayback Machine." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on May 21, 2009.
  4. ^ Lloyd J. Soehren (2010). "lookup of Hilo ". in Hawaiian Place Names. Ulukau, the Hawaiian Electronic Library. Retrieved February 18, 2011.
  5. ^ Hapai, Charlotte (1920-01-01). Legends of the Wailuku: as told by old Hawaiians. Honolulu, The Charles R. Frazier company.
  6. ^ Ellis, W. A Narrative of an 1823 Tour through Hawai'i, republished 2004, Mutual Publishing, Honolulu ISBN 1-56647-605-4, chapters 11 and 12
  7. ^ Johnston, Jeanne Branch (2003). Personal Accounts from Survivors of the Hilo Tsunamis of 1946 and 1960: Toward a Disaster Communications Model (M.A.). University of Hawaii at Manoa. hdl:10125/7104.
  8. ^ Gates, Alexander E.; Ritchie, David (2006). Encyclopedia of Earthquakes and Volcanoes. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 9780816072705.
  9. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  10. ^ "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Hilo CDP, Hawaii". American Factfinder. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  11. ^ a b c "HI Hilo INTL AP". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  12. ^ Hilo, Hawaiʻi information on NOAA web site
  13. ^ a b "NowData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  14. ^ Record 24-hour rainfall on NOAA web site
  15. ^ "Where is Hilo Hawai'i?". Frequently Asked Questions. The Pacific Tsunami Museum web site. Archived from the original on 2009-05-28. Retrieved 2009-07-23.
  16. ^ Mean monthly maxima and minima (i.e. the expected highest and lowest temperature readings at any point during the year or given month) calculated based on data at said location from 1981 to 2010.
  17. ^ "WMO climate normals for Hilo/WSO AP 87, HI 1961−1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  18. ^ "Census of Population And Housing". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2011-04-19.
  19. ^ "Hawai'i Island Hele-On Bus". County of Hawai'i Mass Transit Agency. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  20. ^ "Hilo Harbor (Harbor Division, Hawaii Department of Transportation)" (PDF).
  21. ^ "Hello, Hilo". washingtonpost.com. 2004-05-23. Retrieved 2010-10-04.
  22. ^ "Hello, Hilo". washingtonpost.com. 2004-05-23. Retrieved 2010-10-04.
  23. ^ "Hawaii's astronomy sector brought an economic impact of $168 million in 2012". bizjournals.com. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  24. ^ "Origins of astronomy in Hawaii » Malama Mauna Kea Library Catalog". malamamaunakea.org. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  25. ^ "Education – Discovery Center". Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument web site. NOAA. Retrieved 2009-08-25.
  26. ^ "Hawaii Tribune-Herald". official web site. Black Press. Retrieved 2009-08-25.
  27. ^ "HORIZONS System". ssd.jpl.nasa.gov.
  28. ^ James A. Bier, Cartographer, Map of Hawai'i, the Big Island, Eighth Edition (University of Hawai'i Press)
  29. ^ "Laupahoehoe Train Museum - Take a Trip Back in Time". www.thetrainmuseum.com.
  30. ^ "Shopping Mall in Hilo, HI | Prince Kuhio Plaza". www.princekuhioplaza.com.
  31. ^ "Home | Puainako Center - Hilo, Hawaii Shopping Center". www.puainakocenter.com.
2003 Senior League World Series

The 2003 Senior League World Series took place from August 10–16 in Bangor, Maine, United States. Hilo, Hawaii defeated Chesterfield, Virginia in the championship game.

2011 Senior League World Series

The 2011 Senior League World Series took place from August 14–20 in Bangor, Maine, United States. Hilo, Hawaii defeated Tyler, Texas in the championship game.

291st Combat Communications Squadron

The United States Air Force's 291st Combat Communications Squadron is an Air National Guard combat communications unit located at Keaukaha Military Reservation in Hilo, Hawaii.

Federal Building, United States Post Office and Courthouse (Hilo, Hawaii)

The Federal Building, U.S. Post Office and Courthouse in Hilo, Hawaii is a former courthouse of the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii. Completed in 1917 and expanded in the 1930s, the building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Hawaii County, Hawaii

Hawaiʻi County is a county in the U.S. state of Hawaii in the Hawaiian Islands. It is coterminous with the Island of Hawaiʻi, often called the "Big Island" to distinguish it from the state as a whole. As of the 2010 Census the population was 185,079. The county seat is Hilo. There are no incorporated cities in Hawaiʻi County (see Hawaii Counties). The Hilo Micropolitan Statistical Area includes all of Hawaiʻi County. Hawaiʻi County has a mayor-council form of government. Hawaii County is the largest county in the state in terms of geography.

The mayor of Hawaii County is Harry Kim, who took office in 2016. Legislative authority is vested in a nine-member Hawaii County Council.

Hawaii County is one of seven counties in the United States to share the same name as the state they are in (the other six are Arkansas County, Idaho County, Iowa County, New York County, Oklahoma County, and Utah County).

Hawai‘i Community College

Hawaiʻi Community College is a community college with two campuses on the Island of Hawaiʻi. It is part by the University of Hawaii system.

Hilo massacre

The Hilo massacre, also known as Bloody Monday, was an incident that occurred on 1 August 1938, in Hilo, Hawaii, when over 70 police officers attempted to disband 200 unarmed protesters during a strike, injuring 50 of the demonstrators. In their attempts to disband the crowd, officers tear gassed, hosed and finally fired their riot guns, leading to 50 injuries, but no deaths.These protesters were from a number of ethnicities, including Chinese, Japanese, Native Hawaiian, Luso and Filipino Americans, and from many different unions, including the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union. The different groups, long at odds, put aside their differences to challenge the Inter-Island Steam Navigation Company. The unions, led by longshoreman Harry Kamoku, demanded equal wages with workers on the West Coast of the United States and closed shop or union shop.Strikes began on 4 February 1938, and culminated on 1 August when 200 workers gathered to protest the arrival of the SS Waialeale, a steamship owned by the Inter-Island Steam Navigation Company. The protesters were ordered to disband, but refused to comply. Force was used, resulting in hospitalizations.

Kean Wong

Kean Keanu Wong (born April 17, 1995) is an American professional baseball second baseman for the Los Angeles Angels of Major League Baseball (MLB). He has played in MLB for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Kodi Medeiros

Kodi Mitsugi-Kaiana Medeiros (born May 25, 1996) is an American professional baseball pitcher in the Chicago White Sox organization. He was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the first round of the 2014 Major League Baseball draft.

Kolten Wong

Kolten Kaha Wong (born October 10, 1990), nicknamed "The Pebble", is an American professional baseball second baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball (MLB). He made his MLB debut in 2013. He bats left-handed and throws right-handed.

From Hilo, Hawaii, Wong starred in baseball at Kamehameha Hawaii High School and for the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The Cardinals selected Wong in the first round of the 2011 MLB draft, and promoted him to the major leagues two years later. He is currently the Cardinals' starting second baseman, and was named the National League Rookie of the Month for May 2014. He is currently signed through 2020 with a team option for 2021.

Mark Nakashima

Mark M. Nakashima (born March 27, 1963) is a Democratic member of the Hawaii House of Representatives. He was first elected in 2008, and represents the first district, including Hamakua, North Hilo, and South Hilo. After obtaining a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1988, he taught at Castle High School and Olomana School's Alder Street Detention Home before transferring back to his alma mater, Honokaa High & Intermediate School. From 1993 until his election to the state legislature, he worked for the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the state affiliate of the National Education Association.While in office, Nakashima has helped to raise the minimum wage.

Matt Blair

Matt Blair (born September 20, 1950) was an American football player who was an outside linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League (NFL) for all 12 seasons of his career from 1974 to 1985.

Prince Kuhio Plaza

Prince Kūhiō Plaza is a single-level regional shopping mall in Hilo, Hawaii. It is the largest enclosed mall on the Island of Hawaii. Anchor stores are Sears and Macy's. Other major tenants include a 9-screen movie theatre and Longs Drugs.The mall is named for Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, who served as Congressional Delegate from 1903 to 1922.

Rainbow Falls (Hawaii)

Rainbow (Waiānuenue) Falls is a waterfall located in Hilo, Hawaii. It is 80 ft (24 m) tall and almost 100 ft (30 m) in diameter. The falls are part of the Hawai'i State Parks. There is no fee to see the falls.

At Rainbow (Waiānuenue) Falls, the Wailuku River rushes into a large pool below. The gorge is blanketed by lush, dense nonnative tropical rainforest and the turquoise colored pool is bordered by beautiful, although nonnative, wild ginger. Monstera is also in abundance. The falls are accessible via Wailuku River State Park, Waiānuenue Avenue, coordinates 19°43′9″N 155°6′34″W, and are best seen from the park's viewing platform.

Known in the Hawaiian language as Waiānuenue (literally "rainbow water"), the falls flows over a natural lava cave, the mythological home to Hina, an ancient Hawaiian goddess.Rainbow Falls derives its name from the fact that, on sunny mornings around 10AM, rainbows can be seen in the mist thrown up by the waterfall.

Ryan Higa

Ryan Higa (born June 6, 1990), also known as nigahiga (), is an American comedian, YouTuber, and actor. He is known for his comedy videos on YouTube. Higa's YouTube channel, nigahiga, was the most subscribed channel on YouTube for 677 consecutive days from 2009–2011, the second longest span of time behind PewDiePie. He was also the most subscribed for twelve days in 2008.

Saint Joseph Catholic Church (Hilo, Hawaii)

Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Hilo is a parish of the Roman Catholic Church of Hawaii in the United States. Located at 43 Kapiolani Street, 19°43′20″N 155°5′25″W, in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii, the church falls under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Honolulu and its bishop. It is named after Saint Joseph, foster father of Jesus.

This parish operates the St. Joseph Junior and Senior High School and an elementary school.

Across the street from the main church built in 1915 - 1917 is the Haili Church.

St. Joseph High School (Hilo, Hawaii)

St. Joseph School is a private school run by the Roman Catholic Church in Hilo, the second largest city in Hawaii. It serves about 300 students in preschool through 12th grade. The Junior and Senior High School is described here; there is also an associated Elementary School.

Waiakea Mission Station-Hilo Station

The Waiākea Mission Station was the first Christian mission on the eastern side of the Island of Hawaiʻi. Also known as the Hilo Station, the latest structure is now called Haili Church.

Wailoa River State Recreation Area

The Wailoa River State Recreation Area is a park in Hilo, on Hawaiʻi Island in the US state of Hawaii.

Climate data for Hilo International Airport, Hawaii (1981–2010 normals,[16] extremes 1949–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 92
Mean maximum °F (°C) 84.9
Average high °F (°C) 79.0
Daily mean °F (°C) 71.4
Average low °F (°C) 63.8
Mean minimum °F (°C) 59.0
Record low °F (°C) 54
Average rainfall inches (mm) 9.26
Average rainy days (≥ 0.01 in) 16.3 15.8 21.4 24.9 23.5 25.1 26.8 26.8 24.3 23.6 23.0 20.6 272.1
Average relative humidity (%) 76.6 76.0 78.1 80.2 78.9 77.4 79.5 79.5 79.2 80.0 80.3 78.7 78.7
Mean monthly sunshine hours 161.0 152.0 152.7 135.9 155.0 176.9 167.2 174.9 161.5 136.3 115.0 129.0 1,817.4
Percent possible sunshine 47 47 41 36 38 44 41 44 44 38 34 38 41
Source: NOAA (relative humidity and sun 1961−1990)[13][11][17]
Islands, municipalities, and communities of Hawaii County, Hawaii, United States
 State of Hawaii
Main islands
Sovereignty Movement


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