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About Wailoa Center

With a Main Gallery upstairs, a smaller Fountain Gallery downstairs and an Educational Space for exhibits and workshops, Wailoa Center hosts up to 24 exhibits a year and a variety of community events. 


Come explore what makes the Wailoa Center and the surrounding area of Piʻopiʻo one of a kind.


History of Wailoa Center

The area where Wailoa Center is located near a once bustling community known as Shinmachi. After the devastation of the 1946 and 1960 tsunami, the area was repurposed into green space in an effort to prevent further loss of life and economic devastation. 


As part of this reimagining of space, the Wailoa Center was created. 


Completed in 1967, Wailoa Center has served the community with art and cultural exhibits for over 50 years. With its unique circular design, the building in itself is a work of art. 


Designed by Ota and McCarty Architects, this unique building was originally intended as a visitor information center. Yet, from the very first exhibition, one about sterling silver, art and culture became the focus of this special building.


 Learn more about the history of Wailoa Center in this Ke Ola article written in 2017 for Wailoa Center’s 50th anniversary. 

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Wailoa Center is located in an area known as Piʻopiʻo. There is an saying or ‘ōlelo noʻeau that says, “Piʻopiʻo, a he wahi i noho ‘ia no hoʻi e na aliʻi mai kahiko mai” (Piʻopiʻo, a dwelling place of chiefs since ancient times). Piʻopiʻo was known for its fresh water, estuaries and its abundance of rich soil. This wealth of resources made it a prime location for the chiefly residences and also earned it a special land designation as an ʻili kūpono. 


The richness of Piʻopiʻo and its famed inhabitants led this area to become the storied place it is today. Explore Piʻopiʻo and its moʻolelo with the links to the Hilo Story Map, information on the Piʻopiʻo Mural or listen to moʻolelo with Lokelani Brant on the podcast, Ka Leo o ka Uluau.


Wailoa River State Recreation Area

Set in a tranquil location near the heart of Hilo, Wailoa River State Recreation Area, is a favorite park of the Hilo community.  Here you can find an abundance of walking trails, fishing opportunities, a boat ramp and pavilions for gatherings. Wailoa River STA is also home to memorials like the Shinmachi Tsunami Memorial and the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials. Open during daylight hours. 

Hawaiʻi Island Art Alliance

Hawaiʻi Island Art Alliance (HIAA) is a non-profit that provides essential support to the exhibits, events and artists at Wailoa Center. From juried shows to educational opportunities, HIAA is a key force in what makes Wailoa Center thrive. 

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