First off, it's Hawaii, so go with that expectation. Hilo is a small town which is a port for cruises, but the tourists mainly stay on the beachfront, so the shops can be touristy, but that's not surprising. Otherwise it's a lovely down with many cultures and events going on. We host Merrie Monarch, which is a HUGE deal for the local culture, and there's lots of opportunity to explore various traditions. If you're an outdoor person like me, you can also hang with sea turtles in Richardson park, go freeze and watch stars up on Maunu Kea, go hiking in Volcano National Park, or find stables to go riding, or join a sports team and go play outside. Hilo is small enough that I can walk to the other side of town within an hour, so it's not tiny, but it's not overwhelming. And it's beautiful year around with the tropical weather and foliage.
I am expecting more from the big island.
Not much to do, but lots of places to go sightseeing. And you only get lost if you go into the house lots area and we are down the hill from Mauna Kea which is the place with the observatories on them and snow when it has it.
There are many attractions, cultural events, and activities here provided you have some deep pockets - unfortunately that cuts cuts out about 95% of the college students. Shopping is about 2 miles away, not so cool, safety on campus is good, but be aware of those around you if you go downtown. There are some sporting events on the campus, but not a large variety to chose from. Off campus, many of the islanders resent mainland people whom they feel "stole their land." Although the majority carry EBT cards here, and would starve without them; nevertheless, they dream about independence from the US and white boys are not welcome with open arms.
Nothing to do without a car. The best thing to do is drive across the island to find an actual beach. You'd think they'd be everywhere considering it's an island but the bay UH is near is dirty and there are no sand beaches on this side of the island.
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