Hilo is the largest city on the Big Island of Hawaii. Nestled on Hilo Bay on the east side of the island, it offers a warm tropical climate, a lush landscape, and beautiful beaches. The awe-inspiring nearby natural wonders are so abundant that they spill over into the city itself, giving it a verdant park-like atmosphere. Here are some of the best locations to book your Hilo vacation rental.

1. Downtown Hilo

The Hilo Farmer's Market
Source: Flickr / John Loo

Downtown Hilo is full of buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You can pick up a brochure and take a walking tour of the significant landmarks. Along the way, browse through local shops, tour galleries with local art, and visit the East Hawaiian Cultural Center. Kalakaua Square, the official town square, is over a century old and commemorates its namesake Hawaiian king. The Hilo Farmer’s Market, which runs seven days a week, is an absorbing experience with its multitude of fresh produce, arts and crafts, and gift items.

2. East Hilo

Richardson Ocean Park
Source: Flickr / anokarina

Vacation rentals on the east side of Hilo overlook the beautiful island coast. Richardson’s Beach and Ocean Park runs along the waterfront. It’s a unique place where cold spring water meets warmer ocean water. The sand is composed of lava and olivine crystals, giving it a green-black color. Richardson’s is an excellent place to bring the kids for swimming and snorkeling.

3. Hilo Bay Waterfront

Hilo Bay, Hawaii
Source: Flickr / Cycling Man

Along the waterfront at Hilo Bay is a portion of Wailoa River State Park. It features emerald-green lawns, arching footbridges over ponds, and a boat ramp from which to launch your fishing expedition. The park is the perfect place for a picnic or a quiet contemplative stroll. Nearby is the Pacific Tsunami Museum, a fascinating learning center that offers information about tsunami hotspots around the world.

4. West Hilo

Rainbow Falls
Source: Flickr / Al Case

If you book a vacation rental on the west side of Hilo, you can walk to Rainbow Falls, an amazing natural wonder that lies within the city limits. The falls are in the west portion of Wailoa River State Park within a gorge surrounded by tropical rainforest. You can walk up close to the base of the falls to get a look at the lava cave underneath and then climb a trail to the top. The namesake rainbow usually appears in the mist on sunny mornings.

5. Mountain View

Mauna Kea
Source: Flickr / Armin Rodler

Mountain View is located just south of Hilo, and it gets its name from its proximity to and amazing view of Mauna Kea, a volcano whose peak is the highest point in Hawaii. The town has hiking and cycling trails you can use to explore the countryside. It’s a good jumping off point for exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where you can get up close to an active volcano, walk hiking trails along lava flows, and learn about volcanoes at its informative museums.

6. Kurtistown

Japanese Garden
Source: Flickr / Selbe Lynn

Kurtistown is an agricultural community just south of Hilo. It’s renowned for its lush greenery and the botanical gardens in the area. The Fuku Bonsai Cultural Center offers a display of various types of bonsai plants as well as instruction on how to shape your own bonsais. Linda’s Place of Hawaii specializes in lush tropical flowers. Royal Palms Enterprises has an extensive garden of palms and exotic fruit trees.

7. Pahoa

Kehena Black Sand Beach
Source: Flickr / Hawaiian Sea

Vacation rentals in the town of Pahoa provide easy access to Kehena Beach. This unusual beach features dark black sand, an abundance of coconut palms, and frequent dolphin sightings. Another nearby attraction is Lava Trees State Park and Monument, which is an amazing forest of the lava molds of tree trunks. Lush green new growth surrounds the iconic natural sculptures.

8. Papaikou

Onomea Falls - Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
Source: Flickr / Lindley Ashline

The coastal town of Papaikou, just a few miles north of Hilo, is one of the most verdant spots on the Big Island. Its defining feature is the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, a 17-acre garden that is so beautiful it leaves visitors in awe. The landscaping includes waterfalls, streams, bridges, boardwalks, and over 2,000 species of plants. Its trails allow visitors to view orchids, ferns, palms, and many other types of tropical foliage.

9. Honomu

hilo hawaii
Source: Flickr/A. Strakey

The architecture in Honomu retains the ambiance of a historic Hawaiian village. Galleries and shops with arts, crafts, and other vintage items line its attractive main street. Vacation rentals in Honomu are only 3.5 miles from Akaka Falls State Park, which features one of the most gorgeous waterfalls in the world. Akaka Falls drops 442 feet into a scenic gorge. You can reach it on a short footpath from the parking lot. On the way, you can have a look at Kahanu Falls, another beautiful waterfall of 100 feet.

10. Hakalau

hilo hawaii
Source: Flickr / ClarkRealty

The village of Hakalau, formerly a sugar plantation, sits on a scenic bluff overlooking Hakalau Bay. A path through Hakalau Gulch leads to a park with picnic facilities and access to the ocean. Nearby is the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, which protects a number of species of endangered animals. The accessible sections of the refuge are popular sites for hiking, photography, and bird watching.

11. Laupahoehoe

hilo hawaii
Source: Flickr / Bengt 1955

Laupahoehoe vacationers enjoy one of the most spectacular ocean vistas on the Big Island. Laupahoehoe Point Park sits on a peninsula of black lava with stunning views of the coast and offers opportunities for picnicking and fishing. The Laupahoehoe Train Museum provides a fascinating look at local history.