Download the informative self-guided walking tour of Hilo, which focuses on 21 historic sites dating from the 1870s to the present, from the website of the Downtown Hilo Improvement Association (; tel. 808/935-8850), which also has sightseeing guides for the greater area. Or pick up a copy in person at its office, 329 Kamehameha Ave., in the Mooheau Bus Depot.

Imiloa: Exploring the unknown

The star attraction, literally and figuratively, of Hilo is Imiloa: Astronomy Center of Hawaii. The 300 exhibits in the 12,000-square-foot gallery make the connection between the Hawaiian culture and its explorers, who “discovered” the Hawaiian Islands, and the astronomers who explore the heavens from the observatories atop Mauna Kea. []Imiloa, which means “explorer” or “seeker of profound truth,” is the perfect name for this architecturally stunning center, overlooking Hilo Bay on the University of Hawaii at Hilo Science and Technology Park campus, 600 Imiloa Place (; tel. 808/969-9700). Plan to spend at least a couple of hours here; a half-day would be better, to allow time to browse the excellent, family-friendly interactive exhibits on astronomy and Hawaiian culture, and to take in one of the planetarium shows, which boast a state-of-the-art digital projection system. You’ll also want to stroll through the native plant garden, and grab a power breakfast or lunch in the Sky Garden Restaurant (tel. 808/969-9753), open 7am to 4pm Tuesday through Sunday; the restaurant is also open for dinner Thursday through Sunday from 5 to 8:30pm. The center itself is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 5pm; admission is $18 for adults, $16 for seniors, and $10 for children 4 to 12; extra planetarium shows are $5 for adults and $3 for children.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.