HILO, HAWAII — The way to a man’s heart goes through the stomach (or something like that) and Hilo has done its best to make me love it.
This morning’s breakfast in our B&B was a buffet-style affair with an egg bake, fresh sticky bun, croissants (with Nutella!). But the highlight was the fruit: Fresh, cut up pineapple and a fresh papaya, stuffed with banana, kiwi, blueberries and strawberries.
What do you do after a breakfast like that? You go to the local farmer’s market, of course! We bypassed the produce/fruit section and went straight for the art fair. There was a lot of beautiful glass art and the requisite Hawaiian shirt stands. I was tempted, but when would I wear a Hawaiian shirt in Munich? Clearing out our house has sensitized me to not buy much stuff anymore.
The Hilo botanical garden was next on our list, and Beth had read that there is a guided tour starting on Saturdays at noon, so we made a bee-line to the park — except that our bee-line was circuitous, since we didn’t see any signs for the garden, missed the turn-off and had to find our way there by another route. When we arrived at the garden, we found out that the narrated tour had been discontinued the same year our guidebook was printed. Bummer. We still had a great time walking the grounds, though.
Talking food, we stopped by a shop call “Low Store” where we had a late lunch of a turkey/pineapple wrap with fresh avocado and a smoothie (passionfruit base with mango, pineapple, papaya — what else would you have in the tropics?) and then went further north to see ‘Akaka falls.
The little town of Honomu is just off the main highway, but seems like a cute, laid-back town with local artisans and, of course, fruit farmers. You can see the top of the falls from the parking lot, but you only get to see the full spectacle on a 0.4 mile loop trail. The trail goes through lush rain forest, and we were amazed by how many vines a tree branch can hold. There were curtains several hundred feet high and tens of feet wide hanging from tree branches.
‘Akaka falls is one of those places that is a tourism magnet, so we were soon stuck in a group of people and bypassed other falls to get the privilege to hike by ourselves. The falls themselves are what I would call “typical Hawaiian,” like you see on travel shows: A narrow gorge and at the end a 500ft waterfall. Talking to a local later, I was told that after heavy rains, it’s not just the narrow stream that’s dropping, but the entire side of the gorge is one large waterfall. How I would love to see that — except for the part of the heavy rains.
We ended the evening with a meal that sealed the deal (see “love” and “stomach”): We had dinner reservations at “Pineapples”, a cool place which serves good food and even mocktails. Since it was the weekend, there was live music, a guy singing and playing guitar to rhythm tracks of pop songs — except he put a distinct Hawaiian spin on songs like Eric Clapton’s “Layla.” Torsten had scallop pasta with garlic/sweet chili cream sauce and spinach and Beth had a salmon salad.
It’s amazing that a place like Hilo, HI, with a population about half of Duluth, MN has so many more interesting and good food choices. It seems you can’t go wrong in this town.