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Hilo, Hawaii
Census-designated place
From top to bottom, left to right: S. Hata Building, Hilo Masonic Lodge Hall-Bishop Trust Building, Hilo Bay with Mauna Kea, Rainbow Falls (Hawaii), Federal Building, United States Post Office and Courthouse (Hilo, Hawaii), Liliuokalani Park and Gardens
Nickname(s): H Town
Location in Hawaii County and the U.S. state of Hawaii
Location in Hawaii County and the U.S. state of Hawaii
Hilo is located in Hawaii
Location in Hawaii County and the U.S. state of Hawaii
Coordinates: 19°42′20″N 155°5′9″W / 19.70556°N 155.08583°W / 19.70556; -155.08583Coordinates: 19°42′20″N 155°5′9″W / 19.70556°N 155.08583°W / 19.70556; -155.08583
Country  United States
State  Hawaii
County Hawaii
 • Mayor Harry Kim
 • Total 58.3 sq mi (151.0 km2)
 • Land 53.4 sq mi (138.3 km2)
 • Water 4.9 sq mi (12.7 km2)
Elevation 59 ft (18 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 43,263
 • Density 810/sq mi (312.9/km2)
Time zone UTC−10 (Hawaii-Aleutian)
ZIP codes 96720-96721
Area code(s) 808
FIPS code 15-14650

Hilo (/ˈhl/; Hawaiian: [ˈhilo]) is the largest settlement and census-designated place (CDP) in Hawaii County, Hawaii, United States, which encompasses the Island of Hawaiʻi. The population was 43,263 at the 2010 census.[1]

Hilo is the county seat of the County of Hawaiʻi and is in the District of South Hilo.[2] The town overlooks Hilo Bay, at the base of two shield volcanoes, Mauna Loa, an active volcano, and Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano and the site of some of the world's most important ground-based astronomical observatories. Much of the city is at some risk from lava flows from Mauna Loa. The majority of human settlement in Hilo stretches from Hilo Bay to Waiākea-Uka, on the flanks of Mauna Loa.

Hilo is home to the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, ʻImiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaiʻi, as well as the Merrie Monarch Festival, a week-long celebration of ancient and modern hula that takes place annually after Easter. Hilo is also home to the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation, one of the world's leading producers of macadamia nuts. The town is served by Hilo International Airport.[3]


Around 1100 AD, the first Hilo inhabitants arrived, bringing with them Polynesian knowledge and traditions. Although archaeological evidence is scant, oral history has many references to people living in Hilo, along the Wailuku and Wailoa rivers during the time of ancient Hawaii.[4] Oral history also gives the meaning of Hilo as "to twist".[5]

Originally, the name "Hilo" applied to a district encompassing much of the east coast of the island of Hawaiʻi, now divided into the District of South Hilo and the District of North Hilo. When William Ellis visited in 1823, the main settlement in the Hilo district was Waiākea on the south shore of Hilo Bay.[6] Missionaries came to the district in the early-to-middle 19th century, founding Haili Church, in the area of modern Hilo.

Hilo expanded as sugar plantations in the surrounding area created new jobs and drew in many workers from Asia, making the town a trading center.[citation needed]

A breakwater across Hilo Bay was begun in the first decade of the 20th century and completed in 1929. On April 1, 1946, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake near the Aleutian Islands created a 46-foot-high (14 m) tsunami that hit Hilo 4.9 hours later, killing 160 people. In response, an early warning system, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, was established in 1949 to track these killer waves and provide warning. This tsunami also caused the end of the Hawaii Consolidated Railway, and instead the Hawaii Belt Road was built north of Hilo using some of the old railbed.[7]

On May 23, 1960, another tsunami, caused by a 9.5-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Chile the previous day, claimed 61 lives,[8] allegedly due to the failure of people to heed warning sirens. Low-lying bayfront areas of the city on Waiākea peninsula and along Hilo Bay, previously populated, were rededicated as parks and memorials.

Hilo expanded inland beginning in the 1960s. The downtown found a new role in the 1980s as the city's cultural center with several galleries and museums being opened; the Palace Theater was reopened in 1998 as an arthouse cinema.

Closure of the sugar plantations (including those in Hāmākua) during the 1990s led to a downturn in the local economy, coinciding with a general statewide slump.[citation needed] Hilo in recent years has seen commercial and population growth, as the neighboring District of Puna became the fastest-growing region in the state.[citation needed]

Geography and climate[edit]

Hilo is on the eastern side of the island of Hawaii at 19°42′20″N 155°5′9″W / 19.70556°N 155.08583°W / 19.70556; -155.08583 (19.705520, −155.085918).[9] It is classified by the U.S. Census Bureau as a census-designated place (CDP), and has a total area of 58.3 square miles (151.0 km2), 53.4 square miles (138.3 km2) of which is land and 4.9 square miles (12.7 km2) of which (8.4%) is water.[10]

Hilo has a tropical rainforest climate (Köppen Af), with substantial rainfall throughout the course of the year. Its location on the eastern side of the island, (windward relative to the trade winds), makes it the fourth wettest designated city in the United States, behind the southeast Alaskan cities of Whittier, Ketchikan and Yakutat, and one of the wettest in the world. An average of around 126.72 inches (3,220 mm) of rain fell at Hilo International Airport annually between 1981 and 2010, with 272 days of the year receiving some rain.[11] Rainfall in Hilo varies with altitude, with more at higher elevations. At some weather stations in upper Hilo the annual rainfall is above 200 inches (5,100 mm).[12]

Monthly mean temperatures range from 71.2 °F (21.8 °C) in February to 76.4 °F (24.7 °C) in August.[11] The highest recorded temperature was 94 °F (34 °C) on May 20, 1996, and the lowest 53 °F (12 °C) on February 21, 1962.[13] The wettest year was 1994 with 182.81 inches (4,643.4 mm), and the driest was 1983, with 68.09 inches (1,729.5 mm). The most rainfall in one month was 50.82 inches (1,290.8 mm) in December 1954. The most rainfall in 24 hours was 27.24 inches (691.9 mm) on November 2, 2000.[14]

Hilo's location on the shore of the funnel-shaped Hilo Bay also makes it vulnerable to tsunamis.[15]

Climate data for Hilo International Airport, Hawaii (1981–2010 normals,[16] extremes 1949–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 92
Mean maximum °F (°C) 84.9
Average high °F (°C) 79.0
Daily mean °F (°C) 71.4
Average low °F (°C) 63.8
Mean minimum °F (°C) 59.0
Record low °F (°C) 54
Average rainfall inches (mm) 9.26
Average rainy days (≥ 0.01 in) 16.3 15.8 21.4 24.9 23.5 25.1 26.8 26.8 24.3 23.6 23.0 20.6 272.1
Average relative humidity (%) 76.6 76.0 78.1 80.2 78.9 77.4 79.5 79.5 79.2 80.0 80.3 78.7 78.7
Mean monthly sunshine hours 161.0 152.0 152.7 135.9 155.0 176.9 167.2 174.9 161.5 136.3 115.0 129.0 1,817.4
Percent possible sunshine 47 47 41 36 38 44 41 44 44 38 34 38 41
Source: NOAA (relative humidity and sun 1961−1990)[13][11][17]


Historical population
Census Pop.

As of the census of 2010, there were 43,263 people in 15,483 households residing in the census-designated place. The population density was 796.7 people per square mile (307.7/km²). There were 16,905 housing units at an average density of 311.3 per square mile (120.2/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 17.61% White, 0.52% African American, 0.31% American Indian & Alaska Native, 34.29% Asian, 14.17% Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander, 0.60% from other races, and 32.51% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 10.40% of the population.[1]

There were 15,483 households out of which 24.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them. The average household size was 2.79.[1]

In the Hilo CDP the population was spread out with 21.3% under the age of 18, 11.3% from 18 to 24, 11.5% from 25 to 34, 16.9% from 35 to 49, 20.9% from 50 to 64, and 18.0% who were 65 years of age or older. For every 100 females, there were 95.5 males. For every 100 males there were 104.7 females.[1]

The median income for a household in the CDP at the 2000 census was $39,139, and the median income in 2000 for a family was $48,150. Males had a median income in 2000 of $36,049 and the median was $27,626 for females in 2000. The per capita income for the CDP in 2000 was $18,220. About 11.1% of families and 17.1% of the population were below the poverty line in 2000, including 23.5% of those under age 18 and 6.7% of those age 65 or over.



Hilo is served by Hilo International Airport, which has Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines operating there.


Hilo is served by the county Hele-On Bus.[19]


Hilo is home to a number of educational institutions, including two post-secondary institutions, the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College, and the Hilo and Waiakea primary and secondary school districts. There are also various charter schools in the area serving primary and secondary students.


Although sometimes called a city, Hilo is not an incorporated city, and does not have a municipal government. The entire island, which is slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut but larger than Rhode Island and Delaware, is under the jurisdiction of the County of Hawaiʻi, of which Hilo is the county seat.

Hilo is home to county, state, and federal offices.


The oldest city in the Hawaiian archipelago, Hilo has a significant tourism sector.[20] It is home to Hawaii's only tsunami museum, mostly dedicated to the understanding of the 1946 Pacific tsunami, and is notable for the banyan trees planted by Babe Ruth, Amelia Earhart, and many other celebrities. It is also home to the Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo, several shopping centers, cafés and other eateries, movie theaters, hotels, restaurants, and a developed downtown area with a Farmers Market.[21] The Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation makes its home there as well, south of the main town off Hawaii Route 11, north of Keaʻau. Hilo is also known for the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center in the Koehnen Building downtown. The museum features interactive and educational exhibits and is dedicated to creating public awareness of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and ocean conservation issues.

Hilo is home to a number of astronomical observatories on Mauna Kea as well as the Imiloa Planetarium and Museum. Astronomy has an economic impact of $100 million annually on the Big Island of Hawaii.[22] Astronomy on Mauna Kea was developed at the invitation of the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce following the collapse of the sugar cane industry.[23]


Notable people[edit]

Points of interest[edit]


Hilo is served by KWXX (94.7FM Hilo/101.5FM Kona), Hawaii's "Feel Good Island Music Station", KWXX, B93/B97 (93.1FM Kona/97.1FM Hilo), Hawaii's Classic Hits, B93/B97, and KPUA (970AM Hilo), Hilo's Sports Talk Radio KPUA 670AM radio stations. The Hawaii Tribune-Herald, of Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press,[25] is Hilo's primary newspaper distribution company along with other newspapers like the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Sister cities[edit]


Asteroid (342431) Hilo is named after Hilo.[26]

Hilo District[edit]

(3) North Hilo and (2) South Hilo Districts are located in the east coast of Hawaii County (the Big Island). They are bordered by Hamakua District (4) in the north, and by Kau District (9) in the south and Puna District (1) in the southeast. The far inland areas are largely unpopulated, being forest reserves on the slopes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

Hilo also referred to the District of Hilo when the Big Island was divided into six districts by the traditional land division of moku. Hilo is now divided into two: North and South Hilo Districts.[27]

North Hilo District[edit]

In the District of North Hilo, there are, along Hawaii State Highway 19 from north to south, the following unincorporated towns and localities:

and others. Inland, along State Highway 200, are:

and others.

South Hilo District[edit]

In the District of South Hilo, there are, along State Highway 19, the following unincorporated towns and localities:

Along State Highway 11, are:

and others. Along State Highway 200 and its extension, are:

and others.


  1. ^ a b c d e US Census Bureau – 2010 Population Finder – Hilo CDP -
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  3. ^ "Hilo CDP, Hawaii Archived 2011-11-24 at the Wayback Machine.." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on May 21, 2009.
  4. ^ Lloyd J. Soehren (2010). "lookup of Hilo ". in Hawaiian Place Names. Ulukau, the Hawaiian Electronic Library. Retrieved February 18, 2011.
  5. ^ Hapai, Charlotte (1920-01-01). Legends of the Wailuku: as told by old Hawaiians. Honolulu, The Charles R. Frazier company.
  6. ^ Ellis, W. A Narrative of an 1823 Tour through Hawai'i, republished 2004, Mutual Publishing, Honolulu ISBN 1-56647-605-4, chapters 11 and 12
  7. ^ Johnston, Jeanne Branch (2003). Personal Accounts from Survivors of the Hilo Tsunamis of 1946 and 1960: Toward a Disaster Communications Model (M.A.). University of Hawaii at Manoa. hdl:10125/7104.
  8. ^ Gates, Alexander E.; Ritchie, David. (2009). Encyclopedia of Earthquakes and Volcanoes. Ed. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 9780816072705. p. 49
  9. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  10. ^ "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Hilo CDP, Hawaii". American Factfinder. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  11. ^ a b c "HI Hilo INTL AP". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  12. ^ Hilo, Hawaiʻi information on NOAA web site
  13. ^ a b "NowData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  14. ^ Record 24-hour rainfall on NOAA web site
  15. ^ "Where is Hilo Hawai'i?". Frequently Asked Questions. The Pacific Tsunami Museum web site. Archived from the original on 2009-05-28. Retrieved 2009-07-23.
  16. ^ Mean monthly maxima and minima (i.e. the expected highest and lowest temperature readings at any point during the year or given month) calculated based on data at said location from 1981 to 2010.
  17. ^ "WMO climate normals for Hilo/WSO AP 87, HI 1961−1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  18. ^ "Census of Population And Housing". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2011-04-19.
  19. ^ "Hawai'i Island Hele-On Bus". County of Hawai'i Mass Transit Agency. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  20. ^ "Hello, Hilo". 2004-05-23. Retrieved 2010-10-04.
  21. ^ "Hello, Hilo". 2004-05-23. Retrieved 2010-10-04.
  22. ^ "". Retrieved 2018-04-16. External link in |title= (help)
  23. ^ "Origins of astronomy in Hawaii » Malama Mauna Kea Library Catalog". Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  24. ^ "Education – Discovery Center". Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument web site. NOAA. Retrieved 2009-08-25.
  25. ^ "Hawaii Tribune-Herald". official web site. Black Press. Retrieved 2009-08-25.
  26. ^
  27. ^ James A. Bier, Cartographer, Map of Hawai'i, the Big Island, Eighth Edition (University of Hawai'i Press)
  28. ^ Laupāhoehoe Train Museum
  29. ^ King Kuhio Shopping Center
  30. ^ Puanako Center

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