East and south of Hilo is the Puna district and the funky little town of Pahoa (often called Hawai'i's outlaw town). This is an diverse area of rain forests, lava fields, and rugged coastline. One of the major attractions in Puna is the Lava Tree State Park. In 1790 a lava flow passed through a forest of ohia trees and today the molds of these trees are all that remain. It's quite an attraction. Geothermal pools are another large attraction in the area.

Highway 137 on the coast is often compared to the Road to Hana on Maui. It's a stunningly beautiful drive along the 'red road' ending at the location of Kilaueas most recent destruction where the town of Kalapana once flourished. In 1990 Pele, the Volcano Goddess of Hawaii, changed the landscape of the Big Island dramatically. For nearly eight months lava flowed relentlessly, slowly burying much of the town under as much as 30 feet of molten rock. The Royal Garden Subdivision to the north and west was another victim of this devastating flow. One of Hawai'i's most beautiful black sand beaches was also lost to the molten rock during this flow. But alas, a new black sand beach is slowly forming in its place.