Hotspots > Hilo > History >
Hilo has been the center for cultural,
political, and commercial activities on the Big Island for over
300 years. King
Kamehameha founded Hilo in the late 1700’s and used the beautiful
Hilo Bay as a protected place to build ships for conquering and
uniting the Hawaiian Islands. Some believe the King himself
named this important town. When foreigners began arriving
in Hawaii, Hilo became the center of trade for the islands and
the local Hawaiians were influenced by contact with foreigners
and their products.
Further change occurred when missionaries arrived in Hawaii in
1824 and chose Hilo as the ideal place to begin converting native
Hawaiians to Christianity. The missionaries brought Western
education and business practices. Traders and explorers began
arriving in Hilo and Hilo became a commercial center. In
the early 1900’s,
with the establishment of the sugar industry, labors from China,
Japan, Portugal and the Philippines were imported to work the
sugar fields. The new arrivals contributed to a mixture of cultures
that is reflected in modern day Hilo’s ethnic and cultural
In the 1900s, Hilo was deeply impacted by two destructive tsunamis
that resulted in the destruction of much of the town and the loss
of over 150 people. When downtown Hilo was rebuilt, it was constructed
1 mile inland from the original site where a park (Wailoa Park) and
memorial commemorating the tragedy was developed.
Hilo still manages to preserve its small-town ambiance, as Hilo’s
people live the Aloha spirit and take time to “talk story” with
everyone that passes through, creating a delightfully relaxing atmosphere. Please
come experience Hilo for yourself, and take a little piece
of Aloha home.
Being the center of the political, commercial,
and cultural activities for over 300 years, Hilo has much to offer
its citizens as well as its guests. The town and the East side
of the Big Island in general are currently experiencing a sudden
increase in population as more and more people are enamored by this
beautiful environment and warm and generous people. Many of the
historic buildings in the Bayfront area have been refurbished
and now house an eclectic collection of art galleries, shops, restaurants,
and even a Tsunami Museum!
Hilo struggled economically through the 1980s and 1990s as it transition
from a sugar plantation based economy to rely upon emerging economic
engines such as State and County Government and the hot construction
and real estate industries.
Hilo’s thriving economy is also being aided by the growing
educational and scientific presence at the University of Hawaii,
the new Ililoa Astronomy Center and Mauna Kea and Manua Loa observatories.