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Nestled on the eastern side of the Big Island of Hawaii lies the tropical town of Hilo. With its lush rainforests, stunning waterfalls, and views of Mauna Kea volcano, Hilo has an adventurous spirit that calls to travelers in search of paradise.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Hilo is located on the Island of Hawaii, also known as the Big Island, on the eastern side along Hilo Bay.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about the location of this Hawaiian paradise. We’ll explore Hilo’s geographic coordinates, what island it’s found on, what side of the island it sits, what major landmarks surround it, and how to get there from other Hawaiian islands or destinations.

The Geographic Coordinates of Hilo, Hawaii

Latitude and Longitude

Hilo is located along the eastern coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, United States. More specifically, it sits at 19°43′35′′N 155°5′9′′W. This places Hilo at about 20 degrees north of the equator, giving it a tropical climate year-round.

The city spans across Hilo Bay, with scenic views of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes in the background.

Elevation and Climate

With an elevation of around 30 feet above sea level, Hilo has a relatively low elevation compared to other cities in Hawaii. However, given its tropical location, the climate is warm and humid throughout the year.

Average temperatures range from highs around 80°F to lows near 66°F. However, it tends to rain frequently given its landscape and proximity to mountains. Hilo sees over 120 inches of rainfall annually, spread relatively evenly throughout the year.

This makes it one of the rainiest cities in the United States.

The plentiful moisture also makes Hilo very lush and green, with a variety of thriving tropical plants and flowers. So while the rain is frequent, locals have adapted to the unique climate. And many visitors enjoy experiencing the tranquil tropical showers intermixed with sunny skies peeking through the clouds.

What Hawaiian Island Hilo is Located On

The Big Island of Hawaii

The lovely town of Hilo is situated on Hawaii’s largest island, also known as the “Big Island”. Spanning over 4,000 square miles, the Big Island makes up 63% of the total land area of the Hawaiian archipelago.

The island got its nickname honestly – it’s more than twice the size of all of the other Hawaiian islands combined!

The Big Island is also the youngest geologically, with new land still being formed by active volcanoes. In fact, the island is home to Mauna Loa, the largest volcano on Earth. While this volcano has erupted over 30 times in the last century, most lava flows stay confined to uninhabited areas so it poses little threat to residents and visitors.

Hilo’s Place on the Island

Hilo lies on the eastern side of the Big Island, nestled between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes. With heavy rainfall thanks to northeast trade winds and fertile volcanic soil, the Hilo area enjoys abundant vegetation and natural beauty.

The town has been nicknamed the “Rainy City” due to being one of the rainiest spots in the USA, averaging around 130 inches of rain per year.

Despite the frequent downpours, Hilo’s temperatures stay relatively constant all year round. Daily highs average around 80°F in the summer and 75°F in the winter. Lows only drop into the upper 60s on average, keeping things comfortable.

The best times to visit are April-June and September-November when rainfall is a bit lower.

Hilo’s location makes it a great home base to explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Akaka Falls, Liliuokalani Gardens, Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo, and more iconic Big Island sights. It offers a relaxed pace compared to larger Kailua-Kona on the west coast, while still boasting plenty of shopping, dining, culture, and outdoor adventures of its own.

Major Landmarks and Features Surrounding Hilo

Hilo Bay

Hilo Bay is a large, crescent-shaped bay located along the eastern coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. The bay measures around 9 miles across and contains the island’s largest and most active seaport. Sitting along the shore of Hilo Bay is Hawaii’s largest town, also named Hilo.

This picturesque seaside town overlooks the bay’s calm waters, black sand beaches, and scenic views of Mauna Kea volcano in the distance.

Some key features of Hilo Bay include:

  • Wailoa River State Park – This park sits at the place where the Wailoa River flows into Hilo Bay. It contains walking paths, picnic areas, and the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo.
  • Reeds Bay Beach Park – A popular beach for swimmers that also offers views across the bay to the town of Hilo.
  • Banyan Drive – A tree-lined coastal drive dotted with massive banyan trees planted by famous visitors like Amelia Earhart and Franklin Roosevelt.
  • Hilo Harbor – The commercial and fishing port of Hilo, handling most goods shipped to the eastern side of Hawaii’s Big Island.

Mauna Kea Volcano

Rising over 13,000 feet above Hilo Bay is the massive Mauna Kea volcano. Although no longer active, Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the state of Hawaii. The peak and upper slopes of the volcano feature an extreme alpine environment unlike anywhere else in the islands.

Here are some standout qualities of Mauna Kea:

  • Glacial Landscapes – Despite Hawaii’s tropical climate, Mauna Kea has retained glaciers and permafrost year-round in its summit caldera due to the high altitude.
  • Unique Flora and Fauna – Species like the wēkiu bug and silversword plant have specially adapted to survive on the lava fields and tundra landscape of Mauna Kea.
  • Astronomical Sites – The high altitude, clear skies, and stable airflow make Mauna Kea’s summit an ideal spot for telescopes. Observatories like the Keck Telescope and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope attract scientists from around the world.

On especially clear days in Hilo, observers can see all the way to the snowy peak of Mauna Kea reflecting the sun’s rays.

Rainforests and Waterfalls

The Hilo area sees over 120 inches of rainfall annually. All this precipitation has led to the thriving rainforests and picturesque waterfalls along the slopes around Hilo Bay.

Some of the most stunning waterfalls and rainforest hikes in Hawaii can be found near Hilo, like:

  • Akaka Falls State Park – See the spectacular 442-foot Akaka Falls and 100-foot Kahūnā Falls on a short loop trail through a lush rainforest.
  • Rainbow Falls – View this lovely 80-foot waterfall right in downtown Hilo that legend says derives its name from rainbows formed in its mist.
  • Boiling Pots – Watch as waters from the Wailuku River swirl and “boil” in a series of lava rock pools along a trail just north of Hilo.

The dense rainforests also provide habitat to exotic birds and plants found nowhere else on Earth. Hikers who explore areas like the Pu’u Maka’ala Natural Area Reserve may spot some of Hawaii’s endangered native species, like nene geese or happy face spiders 😊.

Getting to Hilo, Hawaii

Flights from Other Hawaiian Islands

Visitors coming to Hilo from other Hawaiian islands typically fly into Hilo International Airport (ITO). Several major airlines like Hawaiian Airlines, Mokulele Airlines and Makani Kai Air offer regular flights to Hilo from Honolulu on Oahu as well as other islands like Maui, Kauai and Molokai.

The short 30-40 minute flights provide spectacular aerial views of the Hawaiian islands and make getting to Hilo quite convenient.

Flights from the Mainland U.S.

Most visitors traveling to Hilo from the continental U.S. would arrive through Honolulu first before catching a connecting inter-island flight. However, there are some direct flights available from select major cities on the west coast like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland.

The total travel time would be around 5-6 hours. Travelers from other U.S. cities could expect a single layover in Honolulu before arriving in Hilo.

Cruise Ships

Hilo is a popular port of call for cruise ships touring the Hawaiian islands. Many major cruise lines like Norwegian, Princess, Carnival and Holland America offer Hawaiian cruise itineraries with scheduled stops in Hilo.

Travelers can conveniently explore Hilo and the east side of the Big Island while their floating hotel docks in port for a day. According to the latest Port of Hilo statistics, it welcomed over 200 cruise ship calls and 400,000 cruise passengers annually prior to the pandemic.


With its tropical climate, adventurous landscape, and Hawaiian charm, Hilo is a unique paradise for travelers seeking an authentic Hawaiian experience. By understanding exactly where Hilo lies on the eastern shores of Hawaii’s Big Island, you can start planning your own Hawaiian vacation in this stunning seaside town surrounded by rainforests, waterfalls, and volcanoes.

Whether flying in from across Hawaii or the mainland United States, sailing by cruise ship, or already exploring the Big Island, use the information in this guide to navigate your way to Hilo. Let the spirit of aloha wash over you as you arrive and discover for yourself the beauty and culture of this Hawaiian destination.

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