Things To Do In Hawaii (Complete with Maps)

Hawaii’s Botanical Gardens

Waimea Valley Entrance - Hawaii Botanical Gardens

Waimea Valley. Image by Travis Thurston

It might seem odd to visit a botanical garden in Hawaii. After all, the state is one huge, lush tropical garden, so why bother?

The fact is that Hawaii is lovely, but it is also very developed these days. As a result, much of the nature has moved to protected areas over the generations.

In short, the best flora are sometimes to be found in Hawaii’s botanical gardens.

Foster Botanical Gardens

A mere 13.5 acres, Foster Botanical Gardens may be small, but it is mighty. Mighty in possessing some of the oldest and finest of the state’s outstanding plant species. It is surrounded by urban landscape, which makes it very accessible. At the same time, as the oldest botanical garden in Hawaii, it holds some of the best samples.

The Lyon Orchid Garden offers an exceptionally good display of species of flower that one naturally associates with Hawaii. That’s ironic, given that so much of the state’s plant life was actually imported from elsewhere. The Prehistoric Glen offers primitive plant species that are rarely seen elsewhere. The Middle Terraces offer heliconias, aroids and more. Don’t miss the Main Terrace, dating back to the gardens beginning in 1853.

Located at 50 North Vineyard Blvd, Honolulu, the Foster Botanical Garden is a must see.

Nani Mau Gardens

Located in Hilo on the Big Island, visitors will enjoy 20 acres of waterfalls, quiet paths and thousands of lovely plant species.

The Annual Garden houses six acres of tapestry gardens. Red Salvia sit alongside Norfolk Island pines. Nearby are African Tulip trees and a Bombax, whose flowers pop open with color and an audible sound. The pua-kenikeni aroma will remind many of the island’s finest leis.

The European Garden is another unexpected treat in this tropical paradise. The roses on the gazebo invite you to sit and breath in the fragrant air. You’ll want to munch on the huge pummelo fruit as you breath in the aroma of delightful herbs nearby.

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

Part of the famed Onomea Falls, the Garden is 8.5 miles north of Hilo along the Scenic Route of Onomea Bay. Gingers and bromeliads are only two of the over 2,000 species that call this garden home. Surrounded by lush tropical jungle, the facility offers comfortable chairs and unparalleled sights and smells.

An elevated boardwalk provides an excellent view of the Kahalii Ravine, filled with giant bamboo, banana trees, orchids and ferns. Along the Palm Vista Trail visitors can see some of the more than 200 species of palm, including the fast growing Wanga from Malaysia and the Areca with its distinctive red seeds. Further on there’s a fine view of a huge Jackfruit Tree with colorful fruit over two feet long.

Finish your visit by seeing the Onomea Falls. Three high terraces provide an outstanding ladder for water that rushes through giant palms and ferns. At the base there are numerous native species of fish and prawns.

Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden

But the prize for largest botanical garden has to go to the Waimea Arboretum, otherwise known as the Waimea Valley Audubon Center. Sited on 100 acres, it houses 36 major botanical collections visited by over 150,000 guests every year.

Located on Oahu’s north shore, it is part of Waimea Falls Park. The falls themselves are spectacular and the gardens equally so. Several species of native hibiscus share space with rare dune plants. The erythrina offers a view of some of the collections’ many medicinal plants.

Don’t leave without seeing one of the amazing cliff-diving shows, either.

Hawaii has several dozen botanical gardens to choose from. Given that a visit to the island state is often motivated by a desire to enjoy its natural beauty, this is a can’t lose situation.

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