A Weekend at The Grand Naniloa Hotel and How To Spend 48 Hours In Hilo With A Toddler

What do you do if you’ve got 48 hours to spend in Hilo and have a tiny toddler companion tagging along for the trip? Actually, lots. First thing, it’s Hilo, so expect wet weather. Drizzles and rain is part of the small town Hilo charm.

Here’s our Little Dude at the Honolulu International Airport, waiting to take flight…

We are proud to say that our Little Dude’s first flight ever was on Hawaiian Airlines! He thoroughly enjoyed Hana Hou, the in-flight magazine of Hawaiian Airlines.

First off, a quick adventure to Wainuenue Falls, popularly known as Rainbow Falls. These falls are easily accessible via Wailuku River State Park. Our Little Dude gushed with joy as soon as he saw the powerful, 80-foot falls, rushing into the Wailuku River.

After our short trip to Rainbow Falls, we decided to check out a small chip company called Atebara Chips. Established in 1936, Atebara Chips is the oldest chip maker in Hawaii. A co-worker of my wife mentioned this unique chip destination during a lunch break…of course, we had to seek it out. Let’s just say that we left Hilo with more than one bag of Atebara chips. Delicious!

I once drove from Kona to Hilo in the pouring rain just so that we could get a taste of the much touted Red Velvet Brownies (not sold at the Oahu location in Ala Moana) from Big Island Candies. It was worth it. Now, it’s almost automatic that we visit THE Big Island Candies factory and retail store whenever we’re in Hilo to pick up omiyage for family and friends on Oahu.

First, watch as the bakers and confectioners make the popular Big Island delights…and then sample a few!

I haven’t met anyone that doesn’t enjoy the shortbread cookies from Big Island Candies.

HBC, also know as the Hilo Bay Cafe, is a modern and casually hip dining experience, with fantastic views of Hilo Bay. In the distance, we saw people stand-up paddle boarding and kite surfing, all while we were enjoying our delicious sushi.

If you’re craving mochi in Hilo then there really is no other place to go to other than Two Ladies Kitchen. One thing, be ready to wait in line. The strawberry mochi here is the most popular item, so if you really, really want one…head there early before they run out. The constant line that runs out the door tells the whole story.

Hilo is not known for lavish resorts, that’s what Kona (on the opposite side of the island) is for. Fortunately, the Grand Naniloa has stepped in and we can now say that Hilo definitely has its own boutique hotel with many of the amenities that you would expect at one of the Kona resorts. The Grand Naniloa was a very welcoming experience and breath of (modern) fresh air, especially based on stays at various other Hilo establishments in the past.

A few things worth mentioning about the Grand Naniloa: 1) the rooms were spacious, 2) they really love Kim Taylor Reece – his artwork can be found all over the property, 3) Upon check-in you can get a warm chocolate chip and macadamia nut cookie – a nice touch, especially for rainy check-in days.

If HBC felt like a hip restaurant in Kakaako, then Moon and Turtle felt like the very laid back, farm-to-table restaurants that we would be accustomed to find in Kaimuki, one of Oahu’s sleepy residential neighborhoods known for excellent dining options. We raved about the food, especially the Salty Fish Fried Rice.

Ken’s House of Pancakes is an institution. It doesn’t matter how early or late you fly into Hilo, one constant will always be that Ken’s House of Pancakes will be open. For many, Ken’s is the first stop after landing in Hilo. Go there and enjoy the classic diner food.

The Big Island is so large and expansive, with many people using Hilo as a hub before adventuring off to Volcanoes National Park. However, there are many gems sitting just a short drive away from Hilo, including the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo, touted as the only Rainforest Zoo in the United States. There are over 50 different specifies of animals, including a rare white tiger. We plan to visit again!

Before leaving Hilo, we made a stop at Tetsumen Ramen. This ramen joint had a soft opening while we were in Hilo, and the initial reviews were pretty good. Many said that this is THE place to go for authentic ramen in Hilo. Of course, we had to check it out. The ramen was indeed flavorful and a perfect remedy for a rainy Hilo day.

And just like that our 48 hours in Hilo were up and we found ourselves back at the Hilo International Airport for the short trip back home to Oahu…until we meet again, Hilo.


Itinerary

Grand Naniloa Hotel
93 Banyan Dr, Hilo, HI 96720
Phone: 808-969-3333

Honolulu International Airport

Hilo International Airport
2450 Kekuanaoa St, Hilo, HI 96720

Rainbow Falls at Wailuku River State Park

Atebara Chips
717 Manono St, Hilo, HI 96720
Phone: 808-969-9600

Big Island Candies
4428, 585 Hinano St, Hilo, HI 96720
Phone: 808-935-8890

Hilo Bay Cafe – HBC
123 Lihiwai St, Hilo, HI 96720
Phone: 808-935-4939

Two Ladies Kitchen
274 Kilauea Ave, Hilo, HI 96720
Phone: 808-961-4766

Moon + Turtle
51 Kalakaua St, Hilo, HI 96720
Phone: 808-961-0599

Ken’s House of Pancakes
1730 Kamehameha Ave, Hilo, HI 96720
Phone: 808-935-8711

Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens
800 Stainback Hwy, Hilo, HI 96720
Phone: 808-959-7224

About Coty

Founder of Exploration: Hawaii. Adventure, Minimalism, Vinyl, Typography, and Coffee + Matcha. A single space after a period, please.