HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
Somebody always asks, “Does it really rain a lot in Hilo?”
Most of the year, Hawaii’s weather comes from the northeast tradewinds, and Hilo’s on the northeast side. Being in the middle of the ocean, though, the island gets most of its rain in brief squalls, from small clouds that drift ashore and empty themselves in a couple of minutes. You can look out to sea from Hilo and watch them coming in, so there’s plenty of time to get under shelter. On average, though, most of Hilo’s rain falls late in the afternoon or at night, when the land is cooler, and those squall clouds pile up against Mauna Kea before condensing.
And occasionally we get two or three or four days of rain in a row. So Hilo does have the reputation of a rainy city. But it’s all relative. Seattle, with about 40 inches of precip a year, gets a rainy reputation. New York gets forty, too, but not the rep.
Hilo does get more rain than any other city in Hawaii, and more than the other northeast-facing towns on the Big Island: annual rainfall goes down as you go up the Hamakua Coast. In a normal year, Hilo will get about 120 inches – one is tempted to say “ten feet” – of rain. When less than eight feet falls in a year, people here will say we’re in a drought.
So, yes, by Mainland standards, Hilo is a rainy city.
But hey! Hilo’s most famous natural attraction isn’t called “Rainbow Falls” for nothing.
You may see a lot of rain here, but you see a lot of rainbows too – like this one just offshore from the beach parks in Keaukaha.
And anyway, Hilo isn’t the wettest place in Hawaii. Far from it. Literally. That honor belongs to Waialeale, on Kauai, which every year gets nearly 500 inches – some forty feet of rain.