Hilo, on the Big Island

May be going here for NoXmas. Sounds awesome.

Say goodbye to the scenic drive, hello to museums and thrift shopping for hula girl lamps and Hawaiian shirts, right? Wrong. Forty minutes later, the sky was azure, the sun ferocious.

The small, old-fashioned city of Hilo is on the east coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, in a perfect position to catch the clouds that form when the warm, moist Pacific Ocean trade winds hit the long, cool slopes of Mauna Loa. The accordionlike folds and grooves of the jewel-green slopes and the uneven coastline and fluctuating ocean temperatures ensure that clouds meander around Hilo as unpredictably as ghost spirits. One day, around noon, I was walking down a sunny street in Hilo, worried because I'd left the sunscreen back in the room. Then I glanced across the street: the other side was shady and bathed in a vaporous mist.

I soon grew to love Hilo rain. It is a reason this city of around 50,000 has remained largely untouched since the days when it was the thriving center of the Big Island's plantation economy in the 19th and early 20th centuries. While the Kona area, on the west coast of the Big Island, has become a major Hawaiian tourist draw, Hilo remains sleepy and mostly condo-free -- few are enticed to build in an area that typically receives measurable rain 278 days of the year.


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