“Waiakue Kaikuono (Waiakue Bay), as it is called by the natives, comprises a spacious harbour, formed by a reef of coral rocks, of about half-a-mile in breadth, through which there is a channel three-quarters of a mile wide, with a depth of water throughout, of about eleven fathoms.” (Hill, 1856)
“Incidently, Hilo Bay was once almost called Vancouver Bay. Vancouver, whose name was given to the great island in British Columbia, and to a fine city in BC and another in southern Washington, was a visitor to Hawaii on several occasions.”
“The men of his party wanted to give Vancouver’s name to Hilo Bay. But somehow it didn’t take.” (Edwards; Honolulu Advertiser, April 29, 1951) It was later referred to as Byron’s Bay and ultimately, Hilo Bay.
“Hilo is a famous sea-shore resort on this island, and from Honolulu by a direct sea route the distance is estimated to be almost one hundred and ninety-two miles, and a steamer of moderate speed can accomplish the trip in almost twenty-four hours.”
“On the map Hilo Bay is frequently marked Byron’s Bay, after Captain Lord Byron, who was the first to make an accurate survey of it, which he did in 1825.” (Hall, 1898)
“Lord Byron, the cousin and successor of the poet (George Gordon Byron), and a very different man, commanding HBM Frigate Blonde, was commissioned by his majesty to convey the bodies of the king and queen (Liholiho and Kamamalu) and the survivors of their suite back to their country.” (Bingham)
“During the voyage Liliha and Kekuanaoa were baptized at their own request by the chaplain, Lord Byron standing as sponsor.” (Taylor)
Actually some suggest its traditional name is Waiakea Bay. “The proper native name for Hilo Bay is Waiakea, but as is quite natural, it is called from the town itself.” (Hall, 1898) “The best landing is at Waiakea, which gives its name to the bay, although it has been called Hilo and Byron’s Bay.”
“The latter name was conferred on it, in compliment to Lord Byron, by Kaahumanu; but the native appellation cannot be set aside, and the bay is now scarcely known among the natives when called Byron’s.” (Wilkes, 1845)
“Excellent water is to be had in abundance, and with great ease, within the mouth of the Wailuku river; but it requires some care in passing in and out the river when the surf is high.” (Wilkes, 1845)
“Lord Byron, with his scientific corps, visited Hila, the great crater of Kilauea, and Kealakahua Bay, and caused accurate surveys to be made of Waikiki Bay, Honolulu harbor, and Hilo Bay, which has since been often called Byron’s Bay.” (Bingham)
“Hilo Bay has an excellent harbor, and if commerce needs it, can be rendered safe and commodious by a breakwater which runs out from the shore to Cocoanut Island. There is room for a whole navy here, if necessary, and the water is deep enough for the largest ship afloat.”
“The town is well laid out and very pretty. One can see great stretches of cane fields all yellow and green, and the tall, graceful cocoa palms with their plumy branches. As the roads in Hilo are not very good, one must either go about on foot or on horseback.” (Hall, 1898)
“Lord Byron drew up the first laws printed and published in Honolulu, being regulations for the harbor of Honolulu. … and by his advice the chiefs began more active measures for suppression of vices which were destroying their race, and for promoting education.”
“The American missionaries, who were still more or less under suspicion, were indebted to him for removing the last doubts as to their mission and motives; telling the natives that these people taught the same religion as that recommended to them by Vancouver, teachers of which he had promised to send them on his return to England, if possible.” (Taylor)
“Before leaving the islands, Lord Byron set up a memorial of Capt. Cook, almost half a century from the time of his death. On the hill of ancient lava, at the head of Kealakekua Bay, and one hundred and fifty rods from the place where that navigator fell …”
“… and near where he was dissected, he erected, on a heap of rough, volcanic stones, a small shaft, or pillar of wood, with a small plate attached”. (Bingham)
In the late 19th century, the growing sugar industry in East Hawai‘i demanded a better and more protected port, and a breakwater was constructed on Blonde Reef to shield ships from rough waters as they entered Hilo Harbor.
In 1908, construction began on a breakwater along the shallow reef, beginning at the shoreline east of Kūhīo Bay. The breakwater was completed in 1929 and extended roughly halfway across the bay. In 1912, contracts were awarded to construct Kūhiō Wharf, to dredge the approach to the new wharf, and to lay railroad track into the new harbor facility.
Work was completed at Kūhiō Wharf, Pier 1 in 1916. Pier 1 was a 1,400-foot long by 150-foot wide wharf with a wooden storage shed. By 1917, a mechanical conveyor for bagged sugar with derricks for loading ships, was constructed.
In 1923, Pier 2 was constructed just west of Pier 1. Additional dredging was conducted in Kūhiō Bay as part of the construction. By 1927, Pier 3 was added on the west side of Pier 2.
Between 1927 and 1928, the approach to Pier 3 was dredged and the pier was widened. In 1929, the 10,080-foot long rubble mound breakwater was completed.
Contrary to urban legend, the Hilo breakwater was not built as a tsunami protection barrier for Hilo; it was built to dissipate general wave energy and reduce wave action in the protected bay, providing calm water within the bay and protection for mooring and operating in the bay.
In fact, in 1946, Hilo was struck by a tsunami generated by an earthquake in the Aleutian Islands; it was struck again in 1960 by a tsunami generated by the great Chilean earthquake – both tsunami overtopped the breakwater and Hilo sustained significant damage, including to the breakwater.