The Best Botanical Gardens On O‘ahu

Many people love to visit a botanical garden, spending hours soaking up the beautiful collection of cultivated plants, enjoying the range and looking at the accompanying labels of each one.

The Best Botanical Gardens On O‘ahu

However, some people may not think to visit these when they’re in Hawai’i and the island of O‘ahu. After all, the place itself is flush with beautiful flowers and plants, with a gorgeous landscape of life. 

However, these people will miss a great deal if they ignore the botanical gardens of O‘ahu – where they can see special cultivations, preservations, and be educated on the life around them. But what are the best botanical gardens on O‘ahu?

Well, we’ve got the answers for you! In our detailed guide below, you’ll find a thorough list of the best botanical gardens you can visit on O‘ahu, along with information on what they contain.

If you’re looking for something specific, you should be able to find it in at least one of them. Read on!

Best Of

You may have a specific interest or taste in mind, and be looking for the botanical garden that will be best for that. Below, we’ve got a few categories that you might fit into. 

Best Education

All the gardens will teach you something, but the best education you’re likely to get is at the Mānoa Heritage Center, which has loads of events and information on the importance of preserving heritage and culture.

Families

If you want to take your family to one of the gardens, then the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is a great choice, because it has fishing and camping.

The Waimea Valley is also a good pick, because of its waterfall that you can swim in.

Peace And Quiet

If you want a more peaceful look around a botanical garden, then the Wahiawā Botanical Garden is the one for you. It’s unlikely to have huge throngs of people, and is relatively hidden away. 

Romance

If you want to take your significant other on a lovely trip to one of the gardens, then many of them have good scenery.

However, the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is the most picturesque, with wonderful mountain views. 

Nature

All botanical gardens in this list will suit you if you love the natural world, because they’re all filled with fascinating plants and trees. Specifically, the Waimea Valley offers a wonderful range.

The Best Botanical Gardens On O‘ahu 

Waimea Valley 

What It Offers: As you can guess from its name, this botanical garden is situated in a valley – which adds to its beauty and sense of place.

The place is huge, with lots of paths and trails to take a walk on, all paved and fitted with directions and signage. It’s extremely long, stretching nearly a mile into the valley.

This is unsurprising, because it has a lot to hold! There are more than 5000 types of plant here, a combination of ones native to Hawai’i and globally endangered. 

There is also a waterfall nearby which is the only one on O‘ahu that is safe to swim in, with lifeguards on hand. Once you’ve looked at all the beautiful plants, enjoy a swim!

Visiting Time: We recommend you spend half a day here, following the tour schedule that’s available online and changes regularly. An entrance fee for an adult is $20, while kids cost just $12. 

In The Area: Across the road is the Waimea Bay, which is a beautiful beach. In the summer, the water is calm, and you can enjoy a swim in the sun.

During the winter, on the other hand, the waves are big and attract lots of surfers – who put on a great display. 

The Best Botanical Gardens On O‘ahu

Foster Botanical Garden

What It Offers: This is a very large botanical garden in downtown Honolulu, offering 14 acres of beautiful and varied trees. This was the first botanical run by the city, so it has historical significance as well. 

Visiting Time: The entry fee is a very cheap and enticing $5. You are unlikely to spend half a day here, but it’s good if you’re in Honolulu and want to pop in and soak up the grand spectacle of the tall trees.

A few shady hours will be enjoyed here by all.

In The Area: And while you’re there, you can have a look at the Lili’uokalani Botanical Gardens (which we’ll get to soon).

On top of that, the downtown area is right by Chinatown, so you can have a look at the stores and food on offer there – enjoying a taste of the culture. 

Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

What It Offers: This is on the east side of O‘ahu and is towered over by the astonishing, enormous, and jagged mountain range.

Even more interesting is the origin of this botanical garden. It was built in the 1980s by – you didn’t guess it – the U.S. Army!

They did it in order to protect the region from flooding, which is a very noble origin. Preserving plants is a good enough reason to make a botanical garden, but saving lives from flooding is even better!

In terms of plants, there’s a great range on show inside the garden, and it organizes them all by their region from across the globe.

It includes plants from Africa, Tropical America, the Philippines, Malaysia, Polynesia, Hawai’i, and more!

Visiting Time: There’s so much to see her that it’s worth you spending half a day here. It’s great for families as well, because of activities that have been put on at the site, such as fishing games. 

In The Area: There are a few bonuses in the area. If you’re interested in fishing, try a tour of the local fishpond. If camping is your thing, you can even spend the night at the gardens! There is an on-site camping ground to sign up for.

Koko Crater Botanical Gardens

What it Offers: Legend has it that the Koko Crater was created when the Pele, the goddess of fires, was chased by the pig god Kamapua’a.

This lovely garden is found on the slopes of the crater, with an astonishing and overwhelming view of the volcanic crater.

It’s a large one too, with sixty-acres of land, and focuses on the cultivation of plants that require little water to live – which is why the garden is popular for its dryland and volcanic plants.

Dryland plants can be very rare, so it’s special to see them here – and in such special surroundings.

Visiting Time: Entry to the garden is free! You can call ahead to book a special guided tour, otherwise you can guide yourself around.

We recommend an hour or two looking at the plants, and taking in the breathtaking surroundings.

In The Area: You can climb to the top of the Koko Crater, for an even better view. You can climb up the tramway track that was built by the U.S. Army – them again!

Moanalua Gardens 

What it Offers: This beautiful garden is especially renowned for its trees. You’ve never seen trees like these! Known as Monkeypod trees, they’re enormous and wide, with umbrella-like tops.

There’s not much else to see in terms of plants, but these astonishing trees make it worth the time. On top of that, you can see some historical buildings, like a famous summer cottage. 

Visiting Time: The entry fee is $5 for adults. We recommend that you go for about an hour, where you can marvel at the massive trees and have a look at the properties. Tours are also available. 

In The Area: The location of this garden is quite close to Pearl Harbor, site of a pivotal moment in World War II.

If you have the time, it’s worth having a look at for its enormous historical significance – it’s the reason that America joined the war. 

Mānoa Heritage Center 

What it Offers: This center is built to promote the importance of cultural and natural heritage, with loads of education and preservation relating to that.

They have five gardens, relatively small in their sizes, that are filled with plants from both Hawai’i and Polynesia. On top of that, there is a plumeria garden.

They have lots of events going on, to further educate people about the state’s plant life, as well as programming. 

Visiting Time: Entry is $20 for an adult. You can have tours that look at the center, as well as covering a rebuilt Hawaiian temple – which is a fascinating piece of history. 

In The Area: You can walk over to the Mānoa Falls and find the start of that trail, which you can then go on. Additionally, the center is quite close to the Lyon Arboretum (which we’ll cover later on). 

Wahiawā Botanical Garden

What it Offers: This large botanical garden offers a not insignificant 27 acres of land. Understandably, it’s packed with all kinds of plants and trees!

You can navigate your way through it all by following the clear paved path, and enjoy the humid atmosphere that the plants thrive off. There’s plenty of shade too.

Despite the good size, the Wahiawā Botanical Garden is oddly crowd-free usually, perhaps because it’s located in the overlooked central O‘ahu

Visiting Times: Entry to this is free, which makes the lack of a crowd even more surprising. We recommend that you spend about an hour here. 

In The Area: There’s plenty to see and do in the larger central O‘ahu area.

The Best Botanical Gardens On O‘ahu

Lyon Arboretum

What It Offers: This is the largest botanical garden on the south end of the O‘ahu island, with an enormous 200 acres of land within it.

As such, it’s absolutely bursting with variety in its plants and trees, with 6000 different species of tropical and subtropical plant life.

There are over seven miles of trails to hike just to cover it all, which may seem daunting at first, but you’ll be so overwhelmed with the lush landscape and contents that you won’t mind.

Interestingly, the Lyon Arboretum is part of the University of Hawai’i, so it’s even more related to education than you think! 

Visiting Times: Surprisingly, given its size and scope, entry is free! However, because of that same size, you’ll need a lot of time to get a good look at as much as you can.

You’ll want at least half a day here, and maybe it’s even worth you coming back to see what you don’t get to in that time. 

In The Area: As if the 7 miles of trails in the Lyon Arboretum weren’t enough, it’s quite near to the Mānoa Falls Trail. This is a fun trek, perfect for the whole family, in no small part because of its large, beautiful waterfall. 

Lili’uokalani Botanical Garden

What It Offers: Quite the contrast, this is a much smaller garden at just 7.5 acres. It is no less lovely though, with little waterfalls, and the constant soft sound of gentle streams.

As for its plant contents, the selection is mainly focused on plants that are native to Hawai’i – which is an important step in preserving the cultural heritage.

Visiting Times: Entry is free. You won’t need to be here too long, because there’s not loads to see. It is peaceful, though, so take the time to switch off and enjoy the peace. 

In The Area: This is located near Chinatown, so enjoy the local food and shopping. On top of that, it’s near to the Foster Botanical Garden we mentioned earlier, so it’s worth stopping off there because this one doesn’t take too long to begin with. 

Halawa Xeriscape Garden

What It Offers: Don’t be put off by the scientific sounding name! Xeriscaping is just the practice of cultivating plants that need very little water, so this is similar to the Koko Crater Botanical Gardens in its focus and plants.

This particular one was created by the Water Supply in order to show people that they should save water, by offering a gorgeous landscape in a residential area that needed little to no watering.

Visiting Times: Unfortunately, the place is only open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. On those days, the opening hours are 9 am to 3 pm.

If this doesn’t fit into your schedule while you’re in the area, you may miss out. 

However if you do get to go, then it’s worth organizing a tour. Sadly these have to be arranged online at least 3 week before, which isn’t ideal if you can’t plan ahead.

With that being said, the tour will teach you lots about how you can garden with dry plants, even when it’s in a tropical environment. 

In The Area: Just like the Moanalua Gardens, this botanical garden is quite close to Pearl Harbor. If you’re interested in seeing a critical landmark of World War II, then it’s worth going and learning about that history too. 

Final Thoughts

And there you have it! The island of O‘ahu  is full of beautiful botanical gardens where you can really appreciate nature, while learning lots about preservation and culture too. Use our list to find the best one for you!

Richard Ennis