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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) 768-7135 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) 768-7135 for more information.

LYON ARBORETUM, a 194-acre tropical rainforest research center in upper Mānoa Valley, is an easy drive from Waikīkī. Home to more than 5,000 tropical plants, the arboretum contains one of the world’s largest collections of palms. Open on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and closed on weekends. 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 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 $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 6-12. Keiki under 6 are free. Adult admission for Hawai‘i residents and military personnel (ID required) is $1, and children under 13 are free. Moanalua Gardens can be reached at (808) 834-8612. Note: This garden is temporarily closed to the public. Visit for updates.

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.

HA‘IKU GARDENS offers another view of the awesome Ko‘olau. Ha‘iku 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.