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Places to see and where to eat and shop in Hilo area
Poke on the Hilo Fish market was the best, better than in Honolulu and Kona. The Hilo fish market has many more varieties and is half the Kona price ($9.99 per pound for poke in Hilo, $20 per pound in Kona), and it tastes better. They allow you to taste every variety and you can choose what you like the best. Open from 8am to 4pm.
Cham Cham Korean BBQ and Pho Viet restaurants are equally good for quality and price and have large portion sizes. At Verna's Place the Loco plate was disappointing; the Hawaiian plate for $10 looked much better. People liked their sandwiches which were big and reasonably priced compared to the expensive pancake house across the street. Open 24 hours, serve breakfast all day long.
Farmer' s market. The big market days are Wednesday and Saturday from 6 am. The fruits are better and cheaper than in Kona. The mango was expensive ($3.50 per pound), perhaps because of the end of the season. Papaya was 6 for 2 dollars for medium size; smaller ones go as cheap as 6 for a dollar. Tomatoes were 6 pieces for 2 dollars. You can buy other exotic fruits, but therewasn't any good bakery items or good homemade food at the market.
Richardson Beach and snorkeling from the beach. All you need are swimming glasses but it is always good to have water shoes and an underwater camera. A body glove would allow you to snorkel for hours and encounter not only fish but turtles as well. Snorkeling was equally good in the morning and in the afternoon.
Volcano National Park. Spending a night at the Volcano house or camping (with permission for camping acquired in advance) will allow you to take a night tour and/or a day tour with a ranger. There were groups that unfortunately did not see the lava flow even with a ranger. If you stay on the Big Island for a few days there is a chance that you will receive a call from the ranger in a few days with an update on the lava flow situation. He may say that the lava flow is still small and he will recommend to wait another few days. Reading the information on the geology of volcanos in the Visitors center and Jagger museum will help you to appreciate and understand what you see in the park. Touring with a professional geologist from the hostel was interesting and helpful.
Walmart, KTA, Safeway and Costco are the favorite local shopping outlets for groceries. Walmart is the cheapest but does not carry produce.