Find Flora and FaunaO‘ahu

A tour of O‘ahu’s BOTANICAL GARDENS not only is a walk in beauty, but also is a lesson in the science of tropical plants. Some tours and exhibits are designed to enhance knowledge of various species, while others are more aesthetic, providing photo tours around the island’s gorgeous botanicals.

The gardens below do not represent the full list of O‘ahu’s botanical gardens, but rather a cross-section of destinations throughout the island:

FOSTER BOTANICAL GARDEN is a verdant oasis on the edge of downtown Honolulu, filled with acre upon lush acre of the nation’s largest collection of tropical plants. It’s also home to 43 of O‘ahu’s designated “exceptional trees,” which are protected by law. The collection includes labeled plantings of palms, heliconia, orchids and a primitive cycad garden. The gift shop has packaged plants and seeds that are cleared for entry into the mainland, as well as plant-related gifts and crafts. Call (808) 522-7060 for more information.

LILI‘UOKALANI BOTANICAL GARDEN lies just north of Foster Garden between North Kuakini and School streets. Portions of this property once belonged to Queen Lili‘uokalani, the last reigning monarch of Hawai‘i. Today, this developing garden is devoted to native Hawaiian plants. Call (808) 522-7066 for more information.

LYON ARBORETUM, a 194-acre tropical rainforest research center in upper Manoa Valley, is an easy drive from Waikiki. Home to more than 5,000 tropical plants, the arboretum contains one of the world’s largest collections of palms. Open on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. the arboretum is an independent research unit within the University of Hawai‘i, and is the only university arboretum in the country set within a tropical rainforest. The entrance to the arboretum is at the end of Manoa Road. Reach the arboretum by phone at (808) 988-0456 for more information.

MOANALUA GARDENS is located a few miles northwest of Honolulu. The 24-acre private park is

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the site of the Kamehameha V Cottage (originally built in the 1850s by Prince Lot Kapuaiwa, who would later become King Kamehameha V). A main attraction of the gardens is a magnificent spread of aged monkeypod trees (one of which, the Hitachi tree, is world-famous), which shade the vast green lawns that are designed for picnicking. The gardens include two streams, a taro patch, a carp pond and a group of ancient petroglyphs. Admission costs $3 for adults and $1 for Hawai‘i residents and military personnel (ID required). Children 12 and under are free. Moanalua Gardens can be reached at (808) 834-8612.

HO‘OMALUHIA BOTANICAL GARDENS lies on the Windward side of the island. The gardens are laid out on 400 acres in the shadow of the Ko‘olau Mountains and are divided into sections devoted to different types of tropical plants. Guided hikes are offered. Camping permits and information are available at Ho‘omaluhia Visitor Center. Call (808) 233-7323.

HAIKU GARDENS offers another view of the awesome Ko‘olau. Haiku is a small 6-acre garden in Kane‘ohe that features picturesque lily ponds, short but beautiful paths that wander throughout the property, and a fair share of exotic tropical flowers. To book a wedding reception or other event at the garden, call (808) 247-0605.

SENATOR FONG’S PLANTATION AND GARDENS is a short drive up the coast from Kane‘ohe. With 725 aces to play with, Fong, the first Chinese-American elected to the U.S. Senate, had plenty of room to grow. A guided walking tour takes you through five gardens named for the American presidents under whom Fong served. Tours take approximately 1.5 hours and depart at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.; guests must be present 15 minutes before the tour to purchase tickets (cash only). At the visitor center, guests can learn how to string their own lei. Call (808) 239-6775.