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Hilo ( ) is a coastal town in the State of Hawai imarker. It is the largest settlement on the island of Hawai imarker, and the second largest settlement in the state. The population was 40,759 at the 2000 census.

Hilo is the county seat of Hawai i County, Hawai imarker, and is situated in the South Hilo District. The town overlooks Hilo Bay, and is near two shield volcanoes, Mauna Loamarker, considered active, and Mauna Keamarker, a dormant volcano upon which some of the best ground-based astronomical observatoriesmarker are placed.

Hilo is home to the University of Hawai i at Hilomarker, as well as the Merrie Monarch Festival, a week-long celebration of ancient and modern hula, which takes place annually after Easter. It is also home to the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporationmarker, one of the world's leading producers of macadamia nuts. It is served by Hilo International Airportmarker, inside the CDP.


Although archaeological evidence is scant, people certainly inhabited the areas along Hilo Bay, Wailukumarker and Wailoa Rivers before the Western world made contact.

Originally, the name Hilo applied to the whole district of Hilo, now divided into South Hilo District and North Hilo District. When William Ellis visited in 1823, the main settlement in Hilo district was Waiākeamarker on Hilo Bay. Missionaries came to the district in the early to middle 1800s, founding several churches, notably Haili Churchmarker, in the area of modern Hilo.

Hilo expanded as sugar plantation in the surrounding area made sure that they didn't move and drew in many workers from Asia, and the city became a trading center.

A breakwater across Hilo Bay was begun in the 1900s and completed in 1929. On April 1, 1946, a 7.8 magnitude earthquakemarker near the Aleutian Islandsmarker created a fourteen-meter high tsunami that hit Hilo hours later, killing 160 people. In response an early warning system, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, was established to track these killer waves and provide warning. This tsunami also meant the end of the Hawaii Consolidated Railway, and instead the Hawaii Belt Roadmarker was built north of Hilo using some of the railbed.

On May 23, 1960, another tsunami, caused by a 9.5 magnitude earthquakemarker off the coast of Chilemarker the previous day, claimed 61 lives allegedly due to people's failure to heed warning sirens. Low-lying bayfront areas of the city on Waiākeamarker 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 Theatremarker 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. Hilo in recent years has seen commercial and population growth as the neighboring district of Punamarker became the fastest-growing region in the state.

Geography and climate

Hilo from the Bay, 1852
Hilo Bay at night

Hilo is located at (19.705520, -155.085918).

Hilo is classified by the United States Census Bureau as a census-designated place (CDP), and has a total area of 58.4 mi² (151.4 km²), 54.3 mi² (140.6 km²) of which is land and 4.2 mi² (10.7 km²) of which (7.10%) is water.

Hilo's location on the eastern side of the island of Hawai i (windward relative to the trade winds) makes it the wettest city in the United States and one of the wettest cities in the world. An average of of rain fell on Hilo International Airport annually between 1949 and 2008. At some other weather stations in Hilo the annual rainfall is above .

The warmest month is September with an average high of 83.7°F and an average low of 68.6°F. The coolest month is February with an average high of 79.2°F and an average low of 63.4°F. The highest recorded temperature was 94°F on May 20, 1996, and the lowest recorded temperature was 53°F on February 21, 1962. The wettest year was 1994 with 182.81 inches and the driest year was 1983 with 68.09 inches. The most rainfall in one month was 50.82 inches in December 1954. The most rainfall in 24 hours was 16.87 inches on February 20, 1979. Measurable precipitation falls on an average of 277 days annually.

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


As of the census of 2000, there were 40,759 people, 14,577 households, and 10,101 families residing in the census-designated place. The population density was 750.8 people per square mile (289.9/km²). There were 16,026 housing units at an average density of 295.2/sq mi (114.0/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 17.12% White, 0.45% African American, 0.34% Native American, 38.30% Asian, 13.12% Pacific Islander, 0.94% from other races, and 29.74% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.78% of the population.

There were 14,577 households out of which 30.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.5% were married couples living together, 15.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.7% were non-families. 24.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.70 and the average family size was 3.19.

In the CDP the population was spread out with 24.7% under the age of 18, 10.3% from 18 to 24, 24.4% from 25 to 44, 23.9% from 45 to 64, and 16.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 95.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.9 males.

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


Hilo is home to a number of educational institutions, including two post-secondary institutions, the University of Hawai i at Hilomarker and Hawai i Community Collegemarker.

Government and politics

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 Connecticutmarker but larger than Rhode Islandmarker and Delawaremarker, is under the jurisdiction of Hawai i County, of which Hilo is the county seat.

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

Hilo and its outlying areas are traditionally more Democratic-leaning than West Hawai i, which adds to tension between the two major municipal areas. It has also presented more opposition to development than other large communities elsewhere in the state.


Farmer's market in downtown Hilo
Hilo has a large tourism sector, as is prevalent across the whole island. Hilo, as the second largest city in the state of Hawai i, is home to shopping centers, movie theaters, hotels, restaurants, and a developed downtown area. The Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporationmarker has its home here as well.


Notable natives and residents

Points of interest

Naha Stone at the public library


Hilo is served by the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, member of the Stephens Media Group.

Sister city

La Serena, Chilemarker


  1. " Hilo CDP, Hawaii." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on May 21, 2009.
  2. 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
  3. HILO WSO AP 87, HAWAII - Climate Summary
  4. Hilo, Hawai i information on NOAA web site

External links

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