National Tropical Botanical Gardens (808) 742-2623.
Described as a “Noah’s Ark” for plants, this non-profit organization preserves more than a thousand categories of endangered plants from Hawaii and other Pacific islands. These three gardens are on Kauai.
Allerton Garden 4425 Lawai Rd., Poipu, (808) 742-2623. Daily. $40, 6-12 $15. Reservations required. Located just across the road from Spouting Horn, this once privately-owned garden boasts bougainvilleas planted in the late 1800s by Queen Emma--wife of King Kamehameha IV--as well as more than 600 species of palms and 1,200 species of flowering plants and ferns. Of interest to many school-age kids, parts of Jurassic Park were filmed here and you can take your family’s picture amid the massive, snake-like roots of the Moreton Bay Fig trees seen in the movie. The 2½-hour tour begins with a ride on an open-air tram that follows the rail-bed of an old sugar cane train and takes you to the heart of the garden. Then you’ll enjoy a leisurely walk, viewing tropical plants from all over the world as well as the world’s largest collection of native Hawaiian plants. Special pains are taken by the docent guides to interest kids. The visitor center and gift shop is inside a restored 1920s clapboard sugar plantation cottage.
●McBryde Garden $20, 6-12 $10. Self-guided tour. A tram shuttles visitors along a cliff-side road to the garden, which holds the world’s largest collection of native Hawaiian flora. A Canoe Garden highlights 27 lifesaving plants brought here by ancient Polynesians in canoes. A Monkeypod tree at heart of garden, and you’ll also see exquisite strangler figs and snake cacti in this colorful garden.
Limahuli Garden and Preserve 5-8291 Kuhio Hwy., Haena, on North Shore, (808) 826-1053. Tu-Sat 9:30-4; age 19+ $20. Guided 2½-hr. tour at 10; age 19+ $40; reservations required; tour is recommended for children age 10+. Situated on one of the earliest sites of human habitation in the Hawaiian islands, this valley is now carefully nurtured and preserved. The 985-acre jungle-like preserve is largely inaccessible, but a 17-acre garden is open to explore along a ¾-mile loop trail.
The garden features original indiginous native Hawaiian plants--many of which are on the endangered list and on the verge of extinction—as well as flowers and fruits introduced during Hawaii’s plantation era, and also a canoe garden with beautiful and rare plants brought to the islands from Polynesia. Lovely lava stone agricultural terraces are believed to be well over 700 years old. Five native species of freshwater fish and also several species of freshwater shrimp are found here.
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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers