The Hilo Sampan Bus is an interesting bit of history. According to my research, they were built by the Hilo Taxi Company starting in 1931, and for a time were the only public transportation available in Hilo. Sampans (named after the skiffs used for water travel in China and Japan and other Asian countries) were replaced by more conventional vans and buses in 1976. In the mid-90’s, Hilo tried to revive the use of Sampans for tourist transport to and from cruise ships but the effort failed, perhaps due to insistence on modern comforts such as air-conditioning.
In 1999, the remaining Sampans were auctioned off to private buyers, and the ones in use still draw a lot of interest from those unused to them.