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Back to the Garden: Rediscovering Kahanu Garden on Maui's Hana Coast

Built on a lava ridge walled and filled in with stones, and covering more than three acres, Piilanihale Heiau is believed to be one of the largest heiau in the Islands.

I remember feeling a bit underwhelmed the first time I visited Kahanu Garden. Underwhelmed, that is, with much else other than the triumph of early Hawaiian engineering and construction that is its monumental centerpiece, Piilanihale Heiau.

Compared to the nonprofit Tropical Botanical Garden organization's three other Hawaii gardens—all on Kauai, and all brimming with acres of native and ornamental tropic flora— Kahanu Garden's huge 464-acre expanse on the scenic Hana Coast seemed, well, empty.

Noni (Indian mulberry) in the park's canoe garden.

There was a "canoe garden" showcasing plants ocean voyagers from Polynesia carried on their migration to Hawaii, all necessary for daily life. On the garden's makai (ocean) end were sweeping sea level views of the coast, and on it's mauka (inland) end views of the massive 50-foot walls of Piilanihale against the backdrop of Haleakala's lush, cloud-covered northwest side. And between it all, a large great lawn I found perplexingly featureless.

A thatched structure—likely a canoe house—near the garden's canoe landing.

The thing is, in the the dozen years that followed, I couldn't get Kahanu Garden out of my mind. Slightly older and wiser, I wanted to return, wanted to linger. And so, I finally did. I wasn't disappointed.

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Check out these related HawaiiMagazine.com posts:
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Hidden Hawaii: Along the Hana coast

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