When setting foot into a garden in Hawaii, expect to be engulfed by lush greenery, tightly spiraled ferns, and the sweet wafting fragrance of tropical blossoms. Hawaii’s many native and endemic plants make visiting a garden unique. Here is a compilation of the most beautiful gardens and green spaces in the islands.
This free botanical garden on Oʻahu’s east side is a highly sought-after location for photographers and Instagrammers. When raining, dozens of waterfalls stream down the Koʻolau mountain range, painting a breathtaking backdrop. Visitors wander through botanical collections depicting the tropical environments of the Philippines, India, Polynesia, and others. Watercolor Wednesdays attract artists who love to paint and draw the polychromatic scenery.
Part of the University of Hawaii, Lyon Arboretum houses more than 5,000 different species of tropical plants. The arboretum and botanical gardens are impressive—consisting of nearly 200 acres permeated by numerous self-guided trails.
Foster Botanical Garden is a welcome reprieve from the urban life and busy streets of Downtown Honolulu. Starting in the mid 1800s, this garden has some of the most mature trees in the public park system. Visitors view brightly colored butterflies drawn to the outdoor butterfly habitat, and rare plants in the park’s conservatory.
The 240-acre park is home to one of the largest bronze sculpture collections in the United States, including the limited edition sculpture “Valentine” by George Lundeen. The area’s flat pastureland was transformed into an exotic landscape that contains a koi lagoon, hedge labyrinth, miniature Hawaiian village, and a kid-friendly treehouse. The sculptures are strategically placed throughout, making for an afternoon the whole family will enjoy.
Located on the upper slopes of Haleakalā, Thompson Ranch offers some of the most incredible views of West Maui, and on a clear day the nearby islands of Lanaʻi and Kahoʻolawe. Visitors go horseback riding and watch the sun set across the verdant rolling hills, or spend the day shadowing cowboy Jerry Thompson on the Wrangler Ride Along tour. The working cattle ranch includes numerous horse-riding trails, a eucalyptus forest, native plants, and farm animals.
With ancient taro terraces and a native forest, setting foot in Limahuli Garden & Preserve is like stepping back into the time of ancient Hawaii. The area is one of the most biodiverse in all the state, with horticulturalists caring for the endangered species. Visitors learn about the Hawaiian’s deep connection with the land and their complex land division practices, while coming face-to-face with rare endemic and native plants. In recognition of their work, the preserve was named Best Natural Botanical Garden by the American Horticultural Society, and won the Koa Award for their commitment to perpetuating the Hawaiian culture.
With over 125 inches of rain each year, Panaʻewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens is the only natural tropical rainforest zoo in the country. The free zoo has more than 100 varieties of palms, bromeliads, and a water garden interspersed between animals such as the endemic and endangered ‘io (Hawaiian hawk).