When we first went to Hawaii, I didn’t really know what to expect. I mean, I had seen Hawaii Five-O (and played that wonderful theme song, like every high school band in the ’70s). I’d even seen surfing contests on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, back when that was the only Saturday afternoon escape available for a nascent sports junkie.
But what was Hawaii really like? I mean, a tropical paradise? That’s what I saw when I watched South Pacific (and in spite of a spirited discussion we had one night with the family, that is a GREAT musical … but a dated & lousy film at this point!).
Given our love of photography and, uh, pretty things, Velda and I have visited several gardens in Hawaii. Here is our ranking and recommendation for your visit to Hawaii:
1. Kauai – Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens
This is what I think a wonderful botanical garden should be. It’s probably too big: we did a guided tour that was about 2 hours long, and I don’t think we saw 30%, and I know we didn’t enjoy fully most of what we did see.
This garden has it all: it’s got a huge variety of plants. It’s got waterfalls. It’s got statuary. It’s a working hardwood plantation. It’s pretty. Gorgeous, really. I recommend it without reservation — which you will need when you visit.
2. Hawaii (Big Island) – Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
This garden is truly a tropical paradise. You follow a creek through a meandering path with little grottoes liberally sprinkled around the path with exotic flowers and plants everywhere you look. The path goes all the way to the ocean. The views are gorgeous. Do not miss this garden.
Worth the price of admission, but not an essential part of going on the Road to Hana. Pretty plants, wonderful paths to wander around. See some pictures, below.
4. Hawaii (Big Island) – World Botanical Garden & Waterfalls
I wrote about this garden previously, in 30: Hawaii. As I said there, this is the least appealing garden we have visited. Not all bad, but probably not worth the price of admission.
5. Kauai – National Tropical Botanical Garden
There are 3 sites for the NTBG on Kauai:
South Shore – McBryde Garden
South Shore – Alerton Garden
North Shore – Limahuli Garden and Preserve
We visited the office on the South Shore without knowing what we were walking into, and decided that we didn’t have the time to spend on what seemed like an expensive guided tour. We passed, and haven’t found time to go back. I’m sure we will … but for now, I’ll simply state that their tours seemed expensive and their marketing hasn’t been persuasive. We did spend an hour or so in their free access public area around the office, and that was, uh, worth what we paid for it.