Hawaii, known for its unparalleled natural beauty, is not only a tropical paradise for beachgoers but also a haven for plant enthusiasts. The state is home to approximately 1,400 vascular plant taxa, with nearly 90% found nowhere else on Earth. Among the various conservation efforts in Hawaii, the Rare Plant Program is working diligently to protect and preserve these extraordinary plant species.
Thus, it’s no surprise that the locals’ love for magnificent flora transcends beyond mere admiration, but also includes passion, culture, and way of life. Starting your trip by booking a traditional Hawaiian lei greeting — available on Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island — is a heartwarming and aromatic introduction to the islands, whether it’s a lei made purely out of fresh flowers or with a combination of shells, feathers, or beads. This practice was begun centuries ago by Polynesian settlers and today serves as a gesture of love and affection.
So, if you were hoping to explore the islands’ stunning floral diversity, there’s no better way to start your journey than with a traditional lei greeting. Afterwards, your mind, heart, and body are set to begin their exploration of the best gardens in Hawaii.
The Big Island: Liliʻuokalani Park and Gardens
Located in Hilo, Liliʻuokalani Park and Gardens is a blend of Hawaiian and Japanese influences, offering a serene escape for locals and tourists alike. In this historic park, you can find authentic suhama, or stone beaches, recently rebuilt with the help of Japanese gardeners. The park’s landscape is a reflection of its Hawaiian and Asian heritage, featuring banyan trees, koi ponds, and views of Hilo Bay.
Maui: Kula Botanical Garden and the Garden of Eden Arboretum & Botanical Garden
Perched on the slopes of Haleakalā, the Kula Botanical Garden on Maui provides a botanical delight amidst breathtaking natural surroundings. With well-maintained pathways and lookout points, you can explore a wide range of orchids, proteas, and anthuriums. The garden’s strategic location also offers panoramic views of Maui’s unique landscapes.
Meanwhile, situated on Maui’s scenic Hana Highway is the Garden of Eden Arboretum & Botanical Garden. This lush garden showcases an incredible variety of Hawaiian native and exotic species, with Rainbow Eucalyptus trees and majestic waterfalls making it a photographer’s paradise. There’s even a Jurassic Park film location within the garden.
Oʻahu: Moanalua Gardens and Foster Botanical Garden
With its rich cultural heritage, Moanalua Gardens offers visitors a glimpse into Hawaiian history. Notably, the gardens were home to the celebrated Hitachi Tree, a majestic monkeypod tree that was over 110 years old. Unfortunately, it fell in August 2023, but locals plan to let its legacy thrive by transforming the tree into pieces of woodwork that are bound to live long lives as well.
In a similar essence, the Foster Botanical Garden in the heart of Honolulu is one of the oldest botanical gardens in Hawaii. It’s a green oasis in the midst of the bustling city, with rare palms, gingers, and orchids.
Kauaʻi: Garden Island Chocolate and Na ʻAina Kai Botanical Gardens
On the lush island of Kauaʻi, you’ll find Garden Island Chocolate, a unique destination for chocolate and nature enthusiasts. The unique plantation of Garden Island Chocolate is an eco-friendly haven that blends cacao trees with various companion plants, such as jackfruit and banana trees, acai palms, and more. Visitors can embark on cacao plantation tours and learn about the delicate art of cacao cultivation.
Otherwise, the Na ʻAina Kai Botanical Gardens include themed areas like the Children’s Garden and the Lagoon Garden. Visitors can explore a fascinating assortment of orchids, heliconias, and native plants before crossing over to the nearby beach, creating a unique and memorable garden experience.
Each island’s unique gardens promise a rich and unforgettable adventure that celebrates Hawaii’s natural treasures. Book your trip to Hawaii today and revel in the islands’ natural beauty.
Featured image: Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden / Daniel Ramirez-CC BY-SA 4.0