To the east of downtown Hilo is Waiakea Pond, a brackish lagoon where people often fish, although that might not be such a great idea given the rumored levels of pollution. The Wailoa River State Recreation Area, which encompasses the lagoon, is a 132-acre preserve set along both sides of this spring-fed pond. City residents use this big broad area for picnics, pleasure walks, informal get-togethers, fishing, and launching boats. On the eastern side are picnic pavilions and barbecue grills. Arching footbridges cross the river connecting the halves.

Nearby stands the Tsunami Memorial to the residents of this neighborhood who lost their lives in that natural disaster.
Stop at the Wailoa Arts & Cultural Center on the western side for tourist information and cultural displays (Mon.-Tues. and Thurs.-Fri. 8:30am-4:30pm, Wed. noon-4:30pm). The walls in the upstairs gallery of this 10-sided building are used to display works of local artists and cultural/historic exhibits, changed on a regular basis. On the lower level hang astonishing pictures of the 1946 and 1960 tsunamis that washed through the city. The Wailoa Center sits in a broad swath of greenery, an open, idyllic park-like area that used to be a cramped bustling neighborhood known as Shinmachi. It, like much of the city, was almost totally destroyed during the tsunami of 1960. Nearby stands the Tsunami Memorial to the residents of this neighborhood who lost their lives in that natural disaster.

A rainbow is caught mimicking the bridge in Hilo's Wailoa River State Park.

A rainbow is caught mimicking the bridge in Hilo’s Wailoa River State Park. Photo © Tristan Schmurr, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Also close by is the county Vietnam War Memorial, dedicated to those who died fighting that war, and a statue of King Kamehameha, a new version of that which graces the town of Kapa‘au at the northern tip of the island.

East of Waiakea Pond and across Manono Street you’ll see Ho‘olulu Park, with the Civic Center Auditorium and numerous athletic stadiums. This is the town’s center for organized athletic events, large cultural festivals, the yearly Merrie Monarch Festival, and the annual county fair.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.