Hilo is a stunning place for a college town. Located on the Big Island, the town is home to the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, which is set in a rich tropical landscape. Hilo receives a ton of rainfall, more than 140 inches annually in some areas, giving rise to lush rainforests and breathtaking waterfalls. Local flora are explosively abundant, including soursop, durian, cassava, kukui nut, cacao, and mamey sapote, all of which fill local restaurant kitchens, alongside fresh ‘ahi and ono from the historic fishing industry and stellar grass-fed beef from nearby ranch lands.
Though Hilo is one of Hawai‘i’s most populous urban areas, it’s small compared with some other college towns, with around 45,000 residents. Just 2,362 students were enrolled at the campus as of spring 2023, making it feel intimate compared with UH’s bustling campus in Honolulu. Those numbers belie the quality of the food scene around the Hilo campus and mean that students have plenty of opportunities to explore this charming, tropical college town and all it has to offer. An emphasis on Hawaiian culture and language, along with proximity to the town center, are among the Hilo campus’s strengths. Students have easy access to fresh ‘ahi poke at Suisan Fish Market with kukui nut and ogo, Sweet Cane Cafe’s cassava pizza and durian cacao smoothies, and a steady stream of fresh fish, kālua pork, and shave ice.
Maya-Lin Green is a Philadelphia native who, after traveling extensively, moved to the Big Island in 2016. She lives in Hawai‘i with her two children, partner, and two cats while attending the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo as a communications major. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.Read More