SMMH – Hilo Rated a “Dream Town”

This is a guest post by Leslie Lang of Big Island on the Cheap and Honolulu on the Cheap. You can find the original post here.

Photo: eye of einstein

It’s official, though we here in Hilo already knew it.

Hilo is one of the country’s “Dream Towns.” just reviewed 140 “micropolitan areas” in the country (From “A micro consists of a central community with 10,000 to 50,000 residents, along with the surrounding countryside. It is, in effect, a small-scale version of a metropolitan area.”)

Hilo came in #41.

Photo: Hawaiian Sea

This really isn’t a surprise to most of us who live here. It truly is a wonderful place to live. The town is fronted by a beautiful crescent bay lined with coconut trees. Unlikely as it sounds, the bayfront is void of development (because of the area’s propensity toward tsunami–which is, perhaps, one of the only non-dreamy aspects) and is, instead, parkland. It is lovely.

Photo: eye of einstein

Buildings in downtown Hilo are all low-to-the-ground, nothing more than two stories, and many were constructed in the early 1900s and so there is interesting architecture everywhere. I wrote a book called Exploring Historic Hilo if you’d like to read more about the town’s history, and see some terrific old photos.

Photo: eye of einstein

There are good restaurants, interesting shops and one of those terrific old movie theaters, the Palace Theatre, that shows art house movies. The farmer’s market at the corner of Kamehameha Avenue and Mamo Street sells amazing tropical flowers and even more amazing tropical fruits (think lychee, rambutan, papaya, mango, durian, longan and dragonfruit, just off the top of my head).

The air smells of salt and flowers and the pace is slower here, and that suits us just fine. It’s a casual, laidback lifestyle with lots of friendly people. If you see someone walking around in a suit and tie, they’re certainly here on business from somewhere else.

Photo: brewbooks used different categories than mine to come to its conclusions. It used U.S. Census Bureau data to analyze 20 statistical categories — such as population growth, commute times, median household income, poverty rate, unemployment rate, homeownership rate, and others — to calculate each town’s “quality of life” score and rank the cities.

In 2006, Hilo’s “micropolitan area” (Hawaii County) had a population of about 171,000, the average work commute took 25 minutes and residents had a median household income of $55,390.

Here are the country’s top 10 “dream towns,” but I’m happy here in #41. I’m not going anywhere.

  1. Bozeman, Montana
  2. Jackson, Wyoming
  3. Durango, Colorado
  4. Easton, Maryland
  5. Laramie, Wyoming
  6. Edwards, Colorado
  7. Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina
  8. Pierre, South Dakota
  9. Silverthorne, Colorado
  10. Los Alamos, New Mexico

Watch Hilo video.

Explore more here.

About the Author


Leslie Lang is an award-winning writer whose work has been featured on the radio and in newpapers, magazines, books and literary journals. She grew up in California but returned to Hawaii as an adult to live and write on beautiful, long-time family land where her Hawaiian great-great-great grandfather once grew the Hawaiian staple food kalo and pounded poi for the family. Leslie is the only member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors to live on the flanks of the volcano Maunakea.


Photo: SparkyLeigh

Photo: Aloha Jan

Photo: Peter Baer

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