city, seat of Hawaii county, northeastern Hawaii island, Hawaii, U.S. It lies along Hilo Bay and is the island's business centre. Polynesians settled the area about AD 1100, establishing agricultural and fishing communities. Christian missionaries arrived c. 1822 and were followed by whaling and trade ships that did business in Hilo's port. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the city attracted tourists who came to view the island's active volcanoes. In 1946 and 1960 the city was damaged by tsunamis. Tourism increased dramatically after 1967, when direct air links with the U.S. mainland began. Sugar was once the city's economic mainstay, but the industry has since declined. Hilo supports a thriving orchid industry. Exports include orchids, papaya, anthuriums, macadamia nuts, and cattle. Its deepwater harbour is protected by a breakwater. Wailoa River flows through the area and provides berths for a large fishing fleet. Hilo's lush beauty is fed by more than 275 days of rain per year, a factor in its much slower growth as a tourist spot compared with other destinations in Hawaii
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