Although all water sports are possible in Hilo, it’s more difficult to rent equipment on this side of the island, probably because fewer tourists come to Hilo to engage in water sports.
Canoeing and Kayaking
If you swim out just a little bit you’ll leave the crowds behind and it will just be you and the turtles.The Hilo Bay is home to many outrigger canoe clubs. In fact, it’s a pretty big club sport on this side of the island. If you glance out onto the Hilo Bay almost any day you’ll see numerous canoes and kayaks rowing by. Most canoes on the bay are owned by clubs and they do not rent out their canoes. It may be possible to find a canoe rental if you hang out near the launch area on Bayfront and ask around. Finding a kayak is easier at Aquatic Perceptions (111 Banyan Dr., 808/935-9997), which rents kayaks ($15-35 for a single, $20-45 for a tandem) out by the hour or by the day.
Diving and Snorkeling
Nearly all the beach parks on on Kalaniana‘ole Avenue offer worthy snorkeling and diving, but the best spots are at Leleiwi Beach Park and Richardson’s Beach Park. Because everyone knows those are the best spots, they can become crowded. However, if you swim out just a little bit you’ll leave the crowds behind and it will just be you and the turtles.
Nautilus Dive Center (382 Kamehameha Ave., 808/935-6939, Mon. 9am-noon, Tues.-Sat. 9am-5pm) offers introductory diving courses ($85 per person), three- to five-day scuba certification ($480 per person), and more advanced courses. Rentals are $35 per day and discounts are available for longer rental periods. If you’re looking for a guide, they do that too. For $85 you can arrange a charter tour that includes a two-tank dive.
Surfing and Stand-up Paddleboarding
There are some top surfing and stand-up paddleboarding destinations on this side of the island. The most popular is Honoli‘i Beach Park, where surfers and boarders don’t have to worry about getting in the way of swimmers. Hilo Bay also lacks swimmers, but the water is usually cold and murky. North of Hilo in Hakalau it is possible to surf near the bridge, where waves can reach up to 16 feet. At the beach parks on Kalaniana‘ole Avenue, such as Richardson’s, it’s also possible to surf if the weather is right, but these beaches all are prime stand-up paddle-boarding haunts when the water is calm.
The hardest part of your surfing/boarding attempt might not be getting up, it might be finding a board if you just want to rent one. Your best bet for renting is Orchidland Surfboards (262 Kamehameha Ave., 808/935-1533).
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.