This Hawaii City Is Partially Built On Modern Lava Flows From Mauna Loa (& Was Twice Destroyed By Tsunamis)

The mighty Hawaii volcano Mauna Loa came to life after years of lying silent in 2022. Mauna Loa is one of the largest volcanoes in the world, descending deep into the Pacific Ocean. The Island of Hawaii (Big Island) is just the tip of a series of massive volcanoes over the Hawaiian Hotspot. Hilo is the fourth-largest settlement in the state of Hawaii and the largest settlement on the Big Island.

Hilo has stunning views of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea (protected in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park). It also had a troubled history and is partly built on modern lava flows. Hilo is a getaway to explore some of the most stunning and active volcanoes on earth.


What To Know Of Big Island’s Largest Small Town, Hilo

Hilo is located in Hawaii County and is located near Mauna Kea, where some of the world’s most important ground-based astronomical observatories are based. Hilo is not only threatened by its neighboring volcanoes but is also a risk from tsunamis. Its bay front has been destroyed twice by tsunamis.

Learn about the devastating tsunamis that wrecked the coastal front at the Pacific Tsunami Museum. At the museum, visitors can learn about tsunamis, and the museum serves as a living memorial to those who perished in past tsunamis. Hilo is a place with a history of tsunamis and so it is one of the best places to learn about them.

  • Admission Fee: $8.00 General Admission for Adults

Opening hours:

  • Tuesday & Wednesday: 10.00 am to 1.30 pm
  • Saturday: 10.00 am to 4.00 pm

The center of Hilo is built around a crescent-shaped bay, and today Downtown Hilo is considered a charming town with museums, art galleries, restaurants, and shops. Explore the Hilo Farmers Market and browse the East Hawai’i Cultural Center. Take the time to explore Big Island’s biggest small town. Many of the centuries-old wooden storefronts are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Another of the main attractions in the town is the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center. It is open to the public from 9.00 am to 4.30 Thursday to Sunday.

One of the natural attractions in the area is the Wailuku River State Park which boasts the 80-foot Waiānuenue (Rainbow Falls) and Peʻepeʻe Falls. These waterfalls are easily accessible and only a short drive from downtown Hilo. Perhaps the most iconic Hawaiian waterfall is the “Jurassic Park” waterfall on Kauai Island, which is reachable by helicopter.

Related: Submerged Loihi Volcano: Destined To Be Hawaii’s Newest Island?

Mauna Loa And Its Lava Flows Beneath Hilo

Mauna Loa is one of the five volcanoes that combine to form the Island of Hawaii and is the largest subaerial volcano on earth. There are lots of important things to know about Mauna Loa.

Mauna Loa means in the Hawaiian language “long mountain.” The volcano’s long, extremely shallow slopes have formed because the lava from the volcano is very fluid. This massive mountain has been erupting for at least the last 700,000 years and will likely continue to erupt for another 500,000 to 1 million years to come, by which time it will become extinct.

Prior to 2022, the most recent eruption was in 1984, with other eruptions in 1926 and 1950 that destroyed some villages. Fascinatingly, part of the city of Hilo is built on lava flows from the late 19th century.

Mauna is one of the most studied and watched volcanoes on earth. It is intensively monitored by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, and updates for the current eruption can be found on the USGS website.

Related: Ever Wanted To See The Inside Of A Volcano? This Iceland Volcano Tour Is Making That A Reality

Visit The Annual Merrie Monarch Festival

Attractions in Hilo include the week-long Merrie Monarch Festival. It takes place annually during the week after Easter. See their website for more information about the upcoming 2023 festival.

The Merrie Monarch Festival is a non-profit organization that honors the legacy of King David Kalākaua, who inspired the perpetuation of our traditions, native language and arts. Merrie Monarch Festival

The festival honors King David Kalākaua (the last king and penultimate monarch of the independent Kingdom of Hawaii). He was called the “Merrie Monarch” and worked to restore many Hawaiian cultural traditions during his reign. One of those traditions is the hula, and the Merrie Monarch Festival boasts one of the most prestigious hula contests.

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