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Botanical Gardens in Bloom

May is arguably one of the best times to visit Honolulu. The city begins to dry out from its rainy season, ocean and air temperatures hit the high 70s to low 80s, and Hawaii’s famous biodiversity is on full display.

Thankfully, O’ahu is home to no fewer than five botanical gardens where you can observe the enormous variety of plants, flowers, butterflies, and birds who call Hawaii home and flourish at this time of year.

Foster Botanical Garden
Take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life at this 14-acre urban oasis. Foster Botanical Garden might be located in the heart of Honolulu’s vibrant Chinatown neighborhood but it’s as serene a setting as one can find on O’ahu.

Foster’s history dates back to the 1850s, when a German physician and botanist acquired a land lease from Queen Kalama and planted several of the trees that still tower over the Garden’s historic upper terrace. Among Foster’s most notable specimens is a Sacred Fig tree that is a clonal descendent of the Bodhi tree that the Buddha meditated under to reach enlightenment. So, head over to Foster when you’re ready for a break from Honolulu’s busy streets, and see if you can find some inner peace of your own!

Foster Botanical Garden is open 7 days a week from 9am-4pm. Admission is $5.

Lili’uokalani Botanical Garden

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Adjacent to Foster is Lili’uokalani Botanical Garden, a 7.5-acre haven for native Hawaiian plants. The garden is named after Queen Lili’uokalani, who frequented the site as her favorite picnic spot.

Lili’uokalani offers a paved walking path leading to a stream and a small waterfall, majestic banyan trees, and a picnic area where you can walk in the Queen’s footsteps. Best of all, the park is free to the public. Drop by during its opening hours of Monday-Sunday from 7am-5pm.

Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

For those willing to trek outside the city, Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden awaits. Ranging across 400 acres on O’ahu’s verdant Windward Coast, Ho’omaluhia lives up to its name as a “peaceful refuge.”

Open since 1982, the garden is divided into sections focused on different tropical regions from around the world, including the Philippines, Malaysia, America, India, Melanesia, Hawaii, Polynesia, and Africa. Lose yourself in Honolulu’s biggest botanical garden and walk or drive through the world’s tropics.

Ho’omaluhia is open Monday-Sunday from 9am-4pm and does not charge admissions.

Koko Crater Botanical Gardens

If Ho’omaluhia celebrates the world’s balmy regions, Koko Crater Botanical Gardens is a living ode to its dry places. Set across 60 acres of an enormous crater basin are collections of rare and endangered dryland plants.

Plant collections include showpieces from Hawaii as well as Africa, Madagascar, and various cacti, succulents, and palms from around the world. A 2-mile loop path facilitates a self-guided tour that lasts about 1.5 hours. Admission is free daily from sunrise to sunset.

Wahiawā Botanical Garden

Honolulu’s fifth and final botanical garden lies in central O’ahu between the Wai’anae and Ko’olau mountain ranges. Originally developed in the 1930s by sugar planters experimenting with horticultural techniques, Wahiawā today exhibits the plant life of Hawaii’s cool highlands and shady rainforests. Check out lush tree ferns, colorful arums, and other Hawaiian native plants as you explore Wahiawā’s 27 forested acres.

Open daily from 9am-4pm at no cost.

Preparing for Your Garden Party

Most of Honolulu’s botanical gardens are in fairly remote locations and do not have visitor centers, gift shops, or other amenities on hand, so you’ll want to bring everything you need. Pack plenty of water and snacks, comfortable shoes, and a rain jacket or poncho in case of a late-season cloudburst.

Written by Chris, a local expert guide for Waikiki Crawling. A historian on the lam from the world of academia, Chris enjoys gardening, hiking, and playing at open mic nights after one too many beers. Want to learn more about Honolulu’s hidden history? Join us on an Aloha Pub Crawl!

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