Many know Hilo as being the friendly host to the world-renowned Merrie Monarch festival, but it is also the center of many Hawaiian myths and legends. Hilo is located on the eastern side of the Big Island of Hawai‘i – there are few stories that tell about how Hilo got its name. Historians believe that Hilo was actually named after the first night of the new moon, or after a Polynesian navigator. But Hawaiian stories say Hilo was named a bit differently.
King Kamehameha the Great was one of the greatest and most noble warriors of Hawai‘i, but he also had many enemies. He was once encamped near the mouth of Wailuku and he planned to visit Reed’s Island, without a bodyguard because he felt safe meeting a friend of his who was a powerful chief. While he was away, he left his servants to watch his canoe. In time, his servants began to grow worried about him, afraid that he was ambushed. They decided to twist Ti leaves into ropes to hold the canoe together and go to look for Kamehameha. They found him unharmed and but he was concerned about his canoe, asking how they tied it. He had thought that only those from Waipio knew how to tie like that. The servant then began to tell him that he came from Waipio. The King was pleased and named the area Hilo, which has the learning meaning “to twist.”