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Hawaii's heart shaped tropical flowers for sale in the Hilo Market

Among the Best Open-Air Markets in the West

Open-Air Markets Hilo

Hilo blossomed from a village centered around the mission church to a boom town when sugar production flourished. Businesses came and went – whaling, coffee farms, sugar plantations, the occasional cruise ship and a budding tourist industry. Modern Hilo has a current population of forty-thousand-plus but the economy has been on a downward slide since the demise of sugar plantations. It’s a town that has made and remade itself after booms, busts, earthquakes and tsunamis. Many locals believe that their quality of life isn’t so much what you do to make a living as what you do for fun. Surfing and family time are celebrated recreations.

The attitude of “living life to its fullest today” may come from living next to an active volcano. The pace on this side of the island is slower than in the more populated tourist destinations.

Among the Best Open-Air Markets in the West

Plan your trip to Hilo to coincide with the Wednesday or Friday Farmer’s Market. Consistently touted as one of the best open-air markets in the country and possibly the world’s best for spectacular exotic flowers and ultra-fresh produce, the 22-year-old market features more than 200 island farmers, chefs, honey-makers, local goat and feta cheese producers, floral artists, and crafters who display their good in a space covering two blocks. It’s open “from dawn ‘til it’s gone.”

Vivid scarlet, pink and white anthuriums erupt from green plastic buckets. Vendors of hand-made beeswax candles chat with the growers of fiddle-head ferns. I can’t resist the tropical flowers so I buy a $6 dazzling floral arrangement in a coffee can wrapped with folded Ti leaves. Pink ginger, burgundy and crimson anthuriums and heliconia are tucked into moist, green foam in the bottom of the can.

Handmade jewelry for sale at the farmers' market

Gourmet products from the Hilo Farmers' Market