Hilo Zoo

Side Trips from Hilo

If you are staying on the Hilo side of the Big Island you will likely run into some rainy weather. On the bright side (or not so bright, actually) this allows for viewing magnificent rain forests, waterfalls and lush blooming plants such a Hibiscus and Orchids.

However, on these gray days do not despair there are so many fun things to do even in the rain. If you have your own car you can drive the waterfall trail and hike from the FREE Parking lots. These are the 13 falls: Rainbow, Pe’epe’e pe, Wai’ale, Kulaniapia, Akaka, Kolekole, Umauma, Onomea, Nanue, Hanapueo and lower Umauma.

And there are zipline tours, but I am guessing that takes a lot of climbing steps and more arm strength than I am willing to muster. Not to mention it is a bit on the pricey side. So, instead I recommend checking out these two FREE great side trips: The Hilo Zoo and the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Farm.

The Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens (not to mention equestrian center) it is found at 800 Stainback Highway, Hilo. Open from 9am – 4pm. FREE admission makes this an easy choice. The small 12-acre zoo has easy paths to walk the various areas. And while the enclosures could be a bit larger for the birds, there are large enclosures for the tigers and ant eaters alike. The entire zoo is also a tropical garden paradise.  They have several lovely areas for picnics and the benches are fun with animal themes. My favorite was the enormous caterpillar and Monarch butterfly. Great place for all ages, so if you have some antsy little folks bored on a rainy day, this would be a fun option.

Another FREE option is the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Farm. Located on 16-701 Macadamia Road (Off Route 11 between Hilo and Keaau) Even when they are not in production it is a fun jaunt and the price is right. They have a huge display room with lots of information and videos on how macadamia nuts are harvested and shelled. A massive process which explains their high price. Across the parking lot from the Visitors Center is the processing plant. Even when it is not the right season you can walk along a boardwalk peering into the windows at the machines and there are signs explaining what each room does.

My favorite thing was the macadamia nut ice creams. They have a picnic area out back where you can eat your ice cream and also a garden walk. This day trip can be done in the rain. Everything is covered except the gardens.

Not only can you buy any of the many flavors (smoked, chocolate covered, salted caramel), but “natch there is merch” I liked one specific Hawaiian print ballcap, but was taken-a-back when it was described as a “Vintage Dad hat”.  Um, pretty sure that is NOT a compliment. I bought it anyway.

Sally Franz and her third husband live on the Olympic Peninsula. She has two daughters, a stepson, and three grandchildren. Sally is the author of several humor books including Scrambled Leggs: A Snarky Tale of Hospital Hooey and The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Menopause

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