When you walk through Hawaii you may expect to see the Polynesian culture that Hollywood has fed to you: leis, hula, and beautiful serene beaches. And you would not be wrong. Hawaii has also been known for its large Japanese population and heritage so it might not be a surprise that nestled in Hilo is said to be the largest Edo style garden outside the island nation of Japan.
The park itself is on the end of Banyan Tree Drive which is a fun spot on its own. Each Banyan tree planted there was planted there by a famous celebrities from former president, then senator, Richard Nixon, to baseball legend Babe Ruth.
The gardens contain Waihou Pond, bridges, koi ponds, pagodas, statues, torii (those Japanese arches), and a Japanese tea house.
When I was there the Tea House was not open but I do hear that it is only open for special occasions anyway. If you are looking for a place to take a quiet walk or just relax this is a great place to do it. Admission is free which is always a perk I tend to pursue. Plus, in the bay you may even spot some turtles that like to feed there!
Attached by a foot bridge is the small island of Mokuola, or Coconut island. I did not see any coconuts while I was there so I’m not quite sure where the name comes from. The Hawaiian name for the island, Moku ok, translates to “island of healing” and was previously the location of an ancient temple dedicated to healing.
While there is not much medicinal healing going on there anymore it offers a nice swimming area and a picnic pavilions to make a swell afternoon. There is even an old tower, from a now nonexistent bridge, that many people jump off of into the water. I’d say it’s about 10 feet high. So a normal high dive.
The island offers great views of Hilo Bayfront, Downtown Hilo and the rest of Hilo Bay. To the east you can see the massive breakwater of Hilo Bay.
If you are coming from the port the walk is pretty easy but that is coming from someone who walks everywhere. The Hoppa On Hoppa Off bus there makes one of its stops there.