October 19, 2019
If you include all of West Hawaii both North and South Kona and Kohala) versus East Hawaii including Hamakua, North and South Hilo, the actual rate of population growth in West Hawaii far surpasses that of the East side of the island. However, growth is not just increasing population; it also is a function of the development of other land uses. While Kona has unquestionably boomed over the past 10 years in respects to retail, industrial, resort, public and supporting use-types; Hilo has been basically limited to residential development.
The Kona (West Hawaii) side is the focus of the visitor industry for several reasons. Kona receives about 25 inches of rain each year. In Hilo, it rains over 125 inches of rain each year. Kona has numerous white sand beaches and picturesque bays while Hilo has a few black or mixed sand beaches and a shoreline often difficult to access. Several billion dollars in resort and hotel investment has been made in Kona in the last 20 years but Hilo in fact has closed several hotels. Kona is lively and one of the fastest growing communities in the state. Hilo is smaller and of less economic importance than it was 50 years ago.
Hilo visitor guide suggestions include: Volcano NP, Hilo waterfalls (and waterfront), Lava Tree State Park, Snorkel Kapoho tide pools, Akaka Falls, Laupahoehoe memorial and park, and various scenic drives along coast, botanic gardens, lava tube caves (state park near Hilo).
Suggestions of things to do on the Kona side include touring a Kona coffee farm. Guests can visit Puuhonua o Honaunau which means “Place of Refuge” a beautiful park on the shore of Honaunau Bay, Painted Church. There is the tour chocolate farm, Hulihee Palace, Ocean Rider and of course numerous whale watching tours.