Hilo’s 1930s vintage bayfront is a delicious snare for tourists like me, with candy stores, T-shirt places, art galleries, quality restaurants ranging from high-end to tasty inexpensive cafes. One gallery is a cooperative of island artists. The downtown strip is anchored on the park-end by the permanent location of the farmers market and on the other end of the street by the Tsunami Museum. The museum is a small fascination and I highly recommend visiting it.
In 2014 Hilo won a national Benjamin Moore contest, and the company repainted many downtown buildings. The buildings are spruced up but retain their tropical sunrise colors of pink, yellow, mint green and pale blue. They face a line of palm trees and a gently curving bay protected by a breakwater, looking east.
My first day there we walked in Liliokalani Park, had a burger in a sports bar called Cronie’s and watched a movie – Anomolisa – at the Hilo Palace. The film disappointed. Nothing else did.
As you move out of the downtown you start driving past buildings built in the late 1960s, there is a marked commercial and industrial feel to a working town that makes much of its living from the water. There are boat repair places, warehouses, nurseries and hardware stores. Shopping centers cornered by “big box” stores erupt from the earth like mushrooms clusters. There is a Target and an Office Max, a CVS, still called Long’s in Hawai’i. There is a Safeway and two TKA markets, a state grocery chain.
Linda’s house is out of town, up the hill in a subdued neighborhood. Newer houses are springing up around her. It’s not a quiet neighborhood, exactly, because someone on her street has roosters. One rooster is the Frankie Valli of roosters, determined to whip his band of street-corner doo-whoppers into superstars. They practice day and night. Literally. They group crow until about 1:00 am, and start again about four. The coquis, miniscule singing tree frogs that fill the trees and grasses trill a more soothing lullaby, but they don’t drown out the chickens. And several nights there was rain… the soothing drum of rain on the metal roof.