HILO, the eastern gateway to the Big Island, is built around Hilo Bay, celebrated in song and dance. The peaks of MAUNA LOA and MAUNA KEA, whose slopes trap life-giving rains, dominate the lush, verdant windward region of the island. A busy farming and fishing population center during ancient Hawaiian times, it evolved into a busy commercial center for sugar production and the island’s county government seat. It now services the major agricultural transition taking place as East Hawaii moves from historical large-scale sugar plantations into smaller scale, diversified farming.

American missionaries arrived in Hilo in 1823 and less than 20 years later, the kingdom had become a Christian nation. Extensive records and journals were kept that today provide invaluable data. These photographs and artifacts can be found at THE LYMAN HOUSE MEMORIAL MUSEUM located in downtown Hilo. Its artifact collection of Hawaiian and other major ethnic immigrant groups presents a fascinating look at the Big Island’s multi-cultural heritage. Interpreted tours of the Lyman family’s early 19th century mission house will take the visitor back almost 200 years in time.

The power of tsunami, or tidal wave, is respected by Big Islanders many of whom have personally experienced this awesome force of nature. Displays at the PACIFIC TSUNAMI MUSEUM on Bayfront Drive give visitors a picture of the havoc wreaked by devastating giant waves in 1946 and 1960. Up the street, the EAST HAWAII CULTURAL CENTER shows off the work of local artists at the historic Police Station building in “old town” Hilo. Below the center is the historic district Piopio and Waiolama, the launching site of King Kamehameha’s 400 war canoes on their voyage to unify the islands, commemorated by an epic statue of Hawaii’s first monarch.