Mokuola (Coconut Island) is an island in Hilo bay with a few small beaches and a large grassy area with several picnic tables. Access is straightforward and you can easily spend a few hours relaxing and swimming in the protected bay, enjoying the views and of course looking at all the kids showing off while jumping in the water from a 20 ft tower.
Coconut Island: swimming, relaxing and tower jumping!
Coconut Island is popular with local families that come here to relax on the grass and have a picnic on the grass or the small pavilions. It is a very accessible place to go swimming within Hilo, and its proximity to the Queen Liliuokalani Gardens means you can easily visit both at once. There are clean restrooms on the island.
The two sandy beaches are sheltered by the Hilo pier so the waters are calm. There are also several tide pools to explore which is especially fun for kids. The water in the bay is unfortunately often murky so coconut island is not a good place to go snorkeling.
Pro tip: bring fruits and a sandwich or plate lunch from the Hilo Farmers Market for a small picnic.
This place is most popular with the local kids though, because of the small stone tower on the northern tip of the island from which they can jump in the ocean while performing all kinds of acrobatics! The tower has two levels that are about 10 and 20 ft. above the ocean level.
You can see some of these tower-jumping shenanigans in the video below:
Oh, we almost forgot: this is a great place to take pictures of downtown Hilo. On a clear day you can see the Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes behind Hilo, and on a rainy day the passing showers can be quite dramatic:
So, why is Coconut island called Mokuola (or vice versa)?
Mokuola literately mean “Island of Life” in the Hawaiian language (Moku means “Island” and Ola means “Life”). The reason why is under debate, but two possible explanations are  that it used to contain and ancient temple dedicated to healing or  that it served as a place of refuge for the Hilo region (source).
As for the current name of Coconut Island, well, there are a lot of coconut palms on the island :).
By the way, now that we are having fun with names, did you know that Coconut Island is also known as (source):
- Cocoanut Island (Cocoanut is an old-fashioned spelling for coconut)
- Moku-o-Lo‘e (Loʻe means ” Curve of a fishhook“, referring to the shape of the island)
- and the more self-explanatory Moku Ola and Mokuola Island
Getting to Coconut Island
This is a small island in Hilo bay accessible with a bridge from Banyan drive just north of the Queen Liliuokalani Gardens. For those wanting an address to put in their favorite drive guide: 77 Keliipio Pl, Hilo HI 96720.
Parking is straightforward: there is a small parking lot just before the bridge where you can park your car. If the parking lot is full you can park your car on Banyan drive and walk a small distance.
Once you have parked your car you have to cross a 75 meters (250 feet) long footbridge and you have arrived at your destination!
Coconut Island on Oahu
There are more coconut islands in the state of Hawai’i! On Oahu for example, you can find the 28 acre Coconut island in Kāne’ohe Bay. This is a marine research facility and not accessible to the general public except by (very interesting!) supervised visits.