In addition to the Liliuokalani Gardens, there are several more spots around Hilo worth visiting. The Wailuku River (awesome translation: wai means fresh water and luku means destruction, so this is the River of Destruction) is 28 miles long and runs from the eastern slope of Mauna Kea into the Hilo Bay. One section of the river, the Boiling Pots, is a series of small falls and pools. Despite the many warnings, we saw several people swimming and playing in the area, some with very small children.
Lili’uokalani Park and Gardens is located southeast of downtown Hilo right on the waterfront. Most of the park consists of Edo-style Japanese gardens, which were built between 1917-1919. The park also has a small island, Moku ola (which has the nickname Coconut Island, despite “moku ola” translating as “island of life”). Moku ola is connected by a footbridge to the main part of the park. Lili’uokalani Gardens, named for Queen Lili’uokalani, was built as a tribute to Hawaii’s first Japanese immigrants who worked on the island’s sugar cane fields. It is the largest ornamental Japanese garden outside of Japan.
To celebrate Tracy’s birthday in style, I convinced everyone that we should take a helicopter tour of the island. We used Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Company, which operates out of Hilo, and signed up for the “Circle of Fire Plus Waterfalls” tour. This was a fabulous 50-minute tour which took us over the lava fields, active volcano activity, a gorgeous view of Hilo Bay, and ended with a flight over a couple of waterfalls.
We left Mermaid Dreams on Boxing Day morning after another fabulous breakfast. We drove the Saddle Road to cross the island, which took us through a variety of landscapes – lava fields, ranch land, an Army training area and airfield, rainforest when we reached the Hilo side. We only stopped once for pictures, where I got this shot of Mauna Kea.