@wild_away via Unsplash

@wild_away via Unsplash

4 Amazing Botanical Gardens on Oahu, Hawaii

Spencer Lowe

Given the Island’s naturally beautiful foliage, visiting the botanical gardens on Oahu might seem a bit redundant -- sort of like going to the zoo in Australia.

Like, just walk outside… 

But we can assure you that Hawaii’s botanical gardens are absolutely worth the trip. In this article, we’ll give you everything you need to know before you tour the botanical gardens on Oahu!

1. The University of Hawaii at Manoa Botanical Gardens

Much of the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s campus is actually considered a botanical garden. The university’s botanical gardens even have an official tour route!

Anyone who has walked through the university’s campus probably isn’t too surprised to learn that the school is basically one giant botanical garden. In fact, each dot on this map represents a plant you may be interested in seeing!

We’d particularly recommend checking out the Japanese garden just off of East-West street below Jefferson Hall. The area is absolutely beautiful and has plants you can’t see anywhere else on the island.

The university’s Japanese garden was designed by the famous architect Kenzo Ogata and has a coral shower tree planted by the current emperor of Japan when he was just a prince!

The University of Oahu also operates the Lyon Arboretum, which has many individual gardens inside. It's located in Manoa, not too far from campus, and is a stop on Shaka Guide's Honolulu Backyard Rainforest Tour! We recommend turning on the tour to check it out along with the beautiful overlooks and waterfall this area has to offer. 

  • Ease of Access: Extremely easy and accessible for all
  • Location/Address: The entire University of Hawaii at Manoa campus. Check signs carefully to know if parking passes are required in a specific lot.
  • Best Times To Visit: Spring for the blooms
  • Cost: No cost depending on where you park. If you drive past a certain point on East-West street, there’s a campus toll booth.
  • How long will you spend there: You can do all of the gardens in two hours, according to the official tour.

RELATED: Manoa Falls Travel Guide

2. Waimea Valley Botanical Garden

The Waimea Valley Botanical Garden is home to 36 botanical gardens and collections. Each one has its own theme such as the ethnobotany collection which features plants used in Hawaiian culture as food, medicine, tools, and even weapons.

There is so much to see here.

Across these 36 gardens and collections, there are over 5000 different species of plants. Many of these plants are native to Hawaii and endangered. A select few species are found nowhere else in the world besides the Waimea Valley thanks to the staff’s commitment to acquiring and preserving endangered species.

In addition to the gardens, your admission includes access to all Waimea Valley has to offer -- this means you can take the short hike to a waterfall where you can swim beneath the falls. 

  • Ease of Access: Easy paved hike
  • Location/Address: At the end of Waimea Valley Road, across from Waimea Bay. For google maps users: 59-864 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712
  • Best Times To Visit: Spring for the blooms. Open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
  • Cost: A full-day pass costs $20 for nonresident adults; $12 for nonresident children. $12.95 for adult residents of Hawaii and military; $6.00 for their children. Additional $4.00 discount for seniors and students with ID.
  • How long will you spend there: At least a couple of hours, but there is a lot more to see (we'll explain below) 

Shaka Guide visits Waimea Valley on our Oahu Grand Circle Island Tour. Use the app to guide you to this spot, then continue the tour to check out more awesome spots on Oahu's North Shore. 

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RELATED POST: How to Find Four of the Best Waterfalls on Oahu

3. Foster Botanical Garden

This 14-acre Honolulu botanical garden can be found right downtown just outside of Chinatown. If you need a break from the city without going too far, this Honolulu botanical garden is the spot for you. 

Some of Foster Garden’s plants have been there since the 1850's when Dr. William Hillebrand first started the garden and thus the entire Honolulu Botanical Gardens system. Foster Garden now includes a conservatory, an outdoor butterfly garden, a palm garden, and a prehistoric Glen Cycad Collection.

  • Ease of Access: Very easy and accessible, paved walk.
  • Location/Address: Downtown Honolulu at 180 N. Vineyard Blvd. Honolulu, HI 96817
  • Best Times To Visit: Spring for the blooms. 9:00 am - 4:00 pm every day except Christmas and New Years Day.
  • Cost: Adults: $5, Hawaii Residents: $3, Children 6-12: $1, Children under 5: Free
  • How long will you spend there: Approximately two hours.

Foster Botanical Garden is a stop on Shaka Guide's Honolulu Backyard Rainforest Tour

4. Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

Ho’omaluhia is a really impressive 400-acre botanical garden in Kaneohe. It has several different groupings of tropical plants from different parts of the world including the Philippines, Africa, Malaysia, tropical America, India, Melanesia, and more. You can identify them with this map.

There’s also a ton of fun stuff to do at Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden.

There is free fishing on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, equipment included and on Wednesdays there is plant and scenery painting.

This is also a great place to camp from Friday to Monday. You can reserve a campsite here. The mountains, lake, and plants make this one of our favorite camping spots on Oahu. The bird-watching at Ho’omaluhia is excellent, too. 

  • Ease of Access: Varies
  • Location/Address: 45-680 Luluku Rd. K?ne?ohe, Hawai?i 96744
  • Best Times To Visit: Spring for the blooms. 9:00 am - 4:00 pm every day except Christmas and New Years Day.
  • Cost: Free!
  • How long will you spend there: Varies depending on activity, but budget at least an hour. 

Ho'omaluhia is a stop on Shaka Guide's East Oahu Shoreline Drive. End your day strolling through the garden with breathtaking views of the Koolau Mountains around you. 

There are More Gardens to Explore on Oahu...

All in all , the Honolulu Botanical Gardens System consists of five botanical Gardens spread across the island of Oahu. The system includes Fosters and Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, which we've included above, as well as Lili’uokalani Botanical Garden, Koko Crater Botanical Garden, and Wahiaw? Botanical Garden.

And each garden is wonderfully unique.

From the cacti inside Koko Crater to the favored picnicking grounds of Hawaii’s last queen at Lili?uokalani Botanical Gardens, each of these attractions brings something beautiful and unique to Oahu’s botanical garden scene.

RELATED: Must-See Scenic Spots in Oahu

Final Thoughts on Oahu’s Botanical Gardens

There is more to see at these gardens than you feasibly could in one trip. If you live on the island or are going to be here a while, these gardens are awesome attractions to visit repeatedly.

Furthermore, they are open year-round, so you never have an excuse to be bored on Oahu! You’re sure to learn something new and see something beautiful every single time you visit one of Oahu’s Botanical Gardens.

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Ready to take the tour? Check out Shaka Guide's Oahu Tours!

We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at aloha@shakaguide.com.

For more detailed information to help you plan, check out our Oahu Maps.

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botanical garden in oahu

This article was originally published on June 5, 2019. It has since been updated. 


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