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We are booked on a 10:00am-11:00 helicopter tour, what else do we have time for? Ship departs at 7:00pm. Is it worth renting a car and seeing other sights? If so, what would be your advice on things to see?
if you really were enchanted with Kilauea and lava from the air, just head back up to the National Park and snoop around. It's only about 40 minutes from Hilo and a truly amazing place, from the ground and the air.
But if you're "lava'd out," there are wonderful alternatives. Head a few miles north of Hilo on Hwy 19, to the 4-mile long scenic drive near Onomea. It goes past the Botanical Gardens, perhaps the best in the islands (IMO). This drive out-Hana's the Hana Highway in sheer lushness. Then check out Akaka Falls, near where the scenic drive rejoins 19.
Another (to me) nice drive is south of Hilo towards Keeau, then Pahoa, then left to Kapoho, back along the coast to Kalapana, then return. Lush, very quiet. Some interestng beach parks (nothing you'd call a swimming beach.) The Kaimu beach (at Kalapana) is, sadly, a thing of the past. But Pele gives and Pele takes away.
I'm not a huge shopping fan, so can't give you much advice there. But downtown Hilo is a neat place to stroll around (some GREAT pizza at Cafe Pesto).
Expect rain, then sun, then rain. Then perhaps some sun or rain. But by all means, explore.
With tsunamis in the news, you might want to visit the Tsunami Museum in Hilo. There is a shuttle bus that runs between the pier and I believe Walmart or one of those type of stores with stops in downtown Hilo, at least it was there in Nov of '04. Cost was $1 pp.
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