Old banyan trees shade Banyan Drive, the lane that curves along the waterfront from Kamehameha Avenue (Hwy. 19) to the Hilo Bay hotels. Most of the trees were planted in the mid-1930s by visitors like Cecil B. DeMille (here in 1933 filming "Four Frightened People"), Babe Ruth (his tree is in front of the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel), King George V, Amelia Earhart, and other celebrities, whose fleeting fame didn’t last as long as the trees themselves.

It’s worth a stop along Banyan Drive—especially if the coast is clear and the summit of Mauna Kea is free of clouds—to make the short walk across the concrete-arch bridge in front of the Hilo Naniloa Hotel to Coconut Island (Moku Ola), if only to gain a panoramic sense of Hilo Bay and its surroundings.

Continuing on Banyan Drive, just south of Coconut Island, are Liliuokalani Gardens, the largest formal Japanese garden this side of Tokyo. This 30-acre park, named for Hawaii’s last monarch, Queen Liliuokalani, and dedicated in 1917 to the islands’ first Japanese immigrants, is as pretty as a postcard, with stone lanterns, koi ponds, pagodas, rock gardens, bonsai, and a moon-gate bridge. Admission is free; it’s open 24 hours.