Community and Environment

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo is located in the city of Hilo, on the east side of Hawaiʻi Island, about 200 air miles from Honolulu. The peaceful city offers a moderate cost of living, a beautiful environment, and a highly diverse, low-density population of about 45,000. Within ten minutes of campus are shopping malls, theaters, and restaurants, as well as a major harbor and the Hilo International Airport.

Palm trees and beautiful greenery accent this port city and the campus. To nurture the lush tropical foliage, trade winds bring abundant rains, occasionally heavy, with most of the precipitation falling at night. Daytime temperatures often reach 80 degrees with night time temperatures seldom falling below 65 degrees.

Hilo is set against the backdrop of Maunakea and Maunaloa, two of five volcanoes that form the island. Each of the mountains varies in geographic features, together spreading out over 4,208 square miles and creating more distinctive climate zones and ecosystem types than anywhere else in the state. Other diverse features of the island landscape are snow-capped mountains and deserts, dormant and active volcanoes, lava flows encircling lush rainforests, rivers slicing through wind-swept pastures, and coastal reefs dropping off into the Pacific Ocean. The University designs many of its programs for hands-on learning in this living laboratory.

In addition, the island community is one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the nation, rooted in a strong indigenous host culture. It is a multilayered community that highly values science and technology, business and innovation, art, music, dance, language, teaching, and culture revitalization. The university designs many of its programs for applied learning in this uniquely diverse community and environment.

The economy of Hawaiʻi Island is still in transition following the demise of the sugar industry in the nineties. The three mainstays of the economy are adapting to this change with a spirit of entrepreneurship and creativity. Agriculture is diversifying with special emphasis on sustainable food systems, tourism is growing to include eco- and edu-tourism, and astronomy facilities continue to develop a scholarly and technical community to support the world renowned observatories atop Maunakea.

UH Hilo plays a significant role in the island’s economic revitalization through its commitment to workforce development for the new economy and its emphasis on applied research and learning to benefit the island, state, and region.