This self-guided walking tour will take about one hour if walked continuously. Please go at your own pace and enjoy exploring historic Hilo!
The 21 stops along the way provide information about the town’s history dating from 1870 to the present. The history of Hilo begins much earlier, however. Circa 1100 AD, the first Hilo inhabitants arrived from Polynesia and lived along the Wailuku and Wailoa Rivers and the shores of Hilo Bay. During the time of ancient Hawaii they farmed, fished, and traded goods.
Changes came to this lifestyle in 1778 with the arrival of the first European explorers, and in 1820 with the arrival of missionaries. Hilo soon became a stopping place for whaling ships, traders, and explorers curious about the active volcanoes.
By the early 1900s a number of wharves had been constructed, the breakwater was begun, and a new railroad system designated Hilo as a center of commerce. Two destructive tsunamis in 1946 and 1960 destroyed the rail system and caused a dramatic shift in the local economy. Today, downtown Hilo is alive and bustling with renewed energy. New and old businesses alike are meeting the challenge of revitalizing our city center while preserving Hilo’s historic character.
Pick up a copy of the walking tour brochure at the first stop, the kiosk at the bus station in Mo’oheau Park.