Hilo, Hawaii


Cruise ships dock at Hilo port, which is located just a few minutes from town. Cruise passengers are often greeted by a show put on especially for their arrival where traditional Hawaiian music and dancing can be enjoyed as well as the sale of souvenirs. The gangway ramp is 2 miles from town center.


It is possible to walk but part of the walk goes through industrial areas and also can be hot (or wet if it is rainy) with very little shelter or shade along the way. It is a little over 2 miles one-way and if you like to walk bring a hat or umbrella and please be sure to wear sunscreen.


Catch the County Mass Transit bus (called the “Hele On Bus”), which you can pick up on Kalanianaole St. just outside the main entrance of the dock. The bus is $1.00 and will be marked “Keaukaha” and can be picked up across the street next to the green building where Keaukaha Market is located. The Mooheau Bus Station is in Downtown Hilo and is the last stop so just stay on the bus until you get to the station. Morning pick up times at the market are: 7:50, 8:50, 9:50 and 10:50 then afternoon times are 1:25, 2:25, 3,25.


A metered taxi shouldn’t cost you more than about $12 – $15 from the dock to Downtown.


The reason you see many passengers at Walmart is that they have a free shuttle that goes back and forth between the cruise ship dock and Walmart, so people use it as a way to get into town and back to the ship, and while they are there they pick up needed sundries and inexpensive souvenirs.


Nestled on the crescent shaped shore of Hilo Bay, this beautiful port is an exotic greenhouse of lush tropical plants and abundant waterfalls. Hilo is the gateway to the Volcanoes National Park, a natural wonderland and site of the vast Kilauea Crater, the world’s most active volcano and home of the Hawaiian fire goddess Pele. Snow-capped Mauna Kea and Kilauea Crater tower dramatically over the island of Hawaii.


The downtown area of Hilo contains Hawaii’s largest collection of historic buildings, dating back to the turn of the century. There are plenty of restaurants, museums, a rain forest zoo and the beautiful Nani Mau Gardens to explore. Beyond the city itself the countryside is photogenically beautiful, with waterfalls plunging down the hillsides, forming rainbows that light up the lush vegetation. It rains a lot, but mostly in the late afternoons, ensuring that the area stays vividly green. The volcanic beaches in the area are covered in jet-black sand, offsetting the brilliant white spray and blue, glassy waters. Hilo is a colorful kaleidoscope of Hawaii, filled with friendly, smiling people waiting to welcome visitors.


There is also a free event called Hilo Hula Days: 100 Days of Aloha by the Bay, Hawaiian music, hula and crafts in the Mooheau Bandstand next to the station from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. every day a ship comes in.


You can take the public bus to downtown Hilo, Walking to downtown Hilo is about 2.5 miles and takes about 50 minutes. The bus (not on Sundays) cost is $1.00, free for seniors 55 and above; taxi fare from the port to Downtown Hilo is about $12-16.

Hilo, the second largest city in all of Hawaii, is very walkable.

Shopping and Food:

Walking along the Bay front and visiting the quaint shops along Kamehameha Avenue is fun for browsing and shopping. Hilo also has many shops with extremely high quality printed fabrics that are locally made. The print designs are Polynesian or Hawaiian in style. You can find shops selling the fabrics as well as shops selling the clothing made from the beautiful fabrics. Many stores are closed on Sunday.

Hilo Farmer’s Market: Every Wednesday and Saturday, you can visit the Hilo farmer’s market. Here you’ll find an abundance of amazing fresh produce, things to snack on, and native crafts.


The official U.S. currency is the United States dollar (symbol: $). ATM’s everywhere.

Major credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are widely used and accepted, even for transactions worth only a few dollars. In fact, in some cases, it may be the only way to make a transaction. Note to overseas visitors: Prices of goods and services always seem lower than they really are, as taxes and gratuities are seldom included.

Most states have a sales tax, ranging from 2.9% to nearly 10% of the retail price; 4-6% is typical. Sales tax is almost never included in posted prices (except for gasoline, and in most states, alcoholic beverages consumed on-premises), but instead will be calculated and added to the total when you pay.

Tipping in America is widely used and expected. While Americans themselves often debate correct levels and exactly who deserves to be tipped, generally accepted standard rates are:

  • Full-service restaurants: 15-20% (Often this is the only income of the wait(ress). Tips are either left in cash or you can add it to the credit card slip) Note: Few restaurants add an automatic service charge, in which case it is up to you how much you tip extra. Check your bill!
  • Taxi drivers, hairdressers, other personal services: 10-15%
  • Bartenders: $1 per drink if inexpensive or 15% of total
  • Bellhops: $1-2 per bag ($3-5 minimum regardless)
  • Hotel doorman: $1 per bag (if they assist), $1 for calling a cab
  • Shuttle bus drivers: $2-5 (optional)
  • Private car & limousine drivers: 15-20%
  • Housekeeping in hotels: $1-2 per day for long stays or $5 minimum for very short stays (optional)
  • Food delivery (pizza, etc.): $2-5, possibly more for very large order


The U.S. has no official language at the federal level, but English is by far the standard for everyday use. Several states have declared their official state language as English. Spanish is also official in the state of New Mexico, where it is widely spoken; French is official in Louisiana and the Hawaiian language is official in Hawaii, but neither approaches the use of English and are official for primarily historical reasons.

Emergency 911

Opening Hours and Holidays:

Most stores are closed on Sunday.

  • New Years Day (January 1) – most businesses closed; hangovers from parties the previous night, football parties. Primarily a secular holiday, and the major celebration occurs the previous night.
  • Martin Luther King Day (third Monday in January) – many government offices and banks closed; diversity-awareness programs.
  • St. Valentine’s Day (February 14) – no significant closures; romantic evenings out.
  • Presidents Day (third Monday in February) – (also Washington’s Birthday) – many government offices and banks closed; few observances, many stores have sales.
  • St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) – no significant closures; Irish-themed parades during the day, and parties in the evening. Travelers may want to be wary of the drunken revelry and associated drunk driving crackdowns.
  • Easter (a Sunday in March or April) – few significant closures; Christian religious observances.
  • Passover (timing somewhat similar to Easter; lasts a week) – Jewish religious observances.
  • Memorial Day (last Monday in May) – most non-retail/tourism businesses closed; some patriotic observances; extensive travel to beaches and parks; traditional beginning of summer tourism season.
  • Independence Day / Fourth of July (July 4) – most businesses closed; patriotic parades, fireworks after dark.
  • Labor Day (first Monday in September) – most businesses closed; extensive travel to beaches and parks; traditional ending of summer tourism season.
  • Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – Jewish religious autumn holidays.
  • Columbus Day (second Monday in October) – many government offices and banks closed; few observances.
  • Halloween (October 31) – no significant closures – trick-or-treating and costume parties in the evening.
  • Veterans Day (November 11) – many government offices and banks closed; some patriotic observances.
  • Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday in November, unofficially the Friday and weekend after) – most non-retail businesses closed; family gatherings, on Friday major Christmas shopping begins.
  • Christmas (December 25) – most businesses and restaurants closed the evening before and all day; exchanging gifts, Christian religious observances. If you need food from a restaurant, your best bet will be hotels and Chinese or Indian restaurants. People from non-Christian religions often go to the movies and eat at Chinese restaurants on Christmas.
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Place Categories: Cruise Ports

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