The 5 Best Botanical Gardens on Kauai

Take a break in nature at your favorite botanical gardens from our 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards.

If you’re still wondering why Kauai is called The Garden Isle, look no further than these Top 5 botanical gardens. With picturesque views and one-of-a-kind plant collections, these spots from our 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards prove the island is worthy of its name.

1. Allerton Garden

Photo: Getty Images

Film buffs will recognize this garden’s iconic Moreton Bay fig tree backdrop as the location of several scenes in “Jurassic Park” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Tucked within the Lawai Valley on the south side of Kauai, this lush garden is home to over 858 blooming plants and ferns. Once owned by Queen Emma, you can still spot some of the flora she added to the garden in the 1800s. Now it contains plants from across the Pacific, including impressive arrays of heliconia, torch ginger and bougainvillea. Visitors can choose from a variety of guided tours, ranging from a sunset meal on the Allerton House lanai (porch) to explorations of the exceptional garden rooms—a good decision either way. 4423 Lawai Road, Koloa, (808) 742-2623, ntbg.org/gardens/allerton

2. Limahuli Garden and Preserve

Photo: Getty Images

Nestled in the Limahuli (which means “turning hand” in Hawaiian) Valley on the northern side of Kauai, this garden holds a treasure trove of archaeological sites and endemic Hawaiian plant species. It was historically one of only two spots where the oahi (fireworks) ceremony took place on Makana Mountain and was mentioned in the epic of Hiiaka (volcano goddess Pele’s youngest sister). The site focuses on maintaining native culture, allowing you a glimpse into the Hawaii of the past. It contains rare plants such as kokio keokeo, a white hibiscus that was once believed to be extinct. You can choose from self-guided or guided tours; family, private or specialty tours are also available. This puuhonua (place of refuge) is set to reopen in June for the first time since it closed after last April’s floods. 5-8291 Kuhio Highway, Hanalei, (808) 826-1053, ntbg.org/gardens/limahuli

3. Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens

Landscaping reaches a whole new level at Na Aina Kai, a private-estate-turned-botanical-garden in Kilauea. With a tranquil lagoon and 123 acres of hardwood forest alone, you would never know the years of work that went into this man-made oasis. The 240-acre garden features over 120 full-size bronze sculptures, a replica ahupuaa (traditional Hawaiian land division) and even a reproduction of a Navajo village. With several tour styles and emphases to choose from, Na Aina Kai has something for everyone—even tours for families with younger kids. Note: All of the tours are guided. 4101 Wailapa Road, Kilauea, (808) 828-0525, naainakai.org

4. McBryde Garden

Photo: Kevin Allen

Another Lawai Valley find, McBryde Garden boasts the largest ex situ (off-site conservation) collection of native Hawaiian plants in the world. What was once the McBryde sugarcane plantation is now home to plants such as alula, or vulcan palm—only one of which is known to exist in the wild—and all 27 “canoe plants” that early voyagers transported with them for the creation of new villages. You can see all McBryde has to offer through either self-guided or guided tours, including twilight tours on select evenings. 4425 Lawai Road, Koloa, (808) 742-2623, ntbg.org/gardens/mcbryde

5. Princeville Botanical Gardens

What’s better than exploring the jungle and enjoying gorgeous views off Kauai? Try adding chocolate-tasting to the mix. The family-owned Princeville Botanical Gardens hold three-hour tours complete with chocolate, fruit and honey samplings. You’ll learn about the chocolate-making process and the fruit and cacao trees hidden within the jungle. This slice of Kauai rainforest has only been open to the public since 2010; before that, the owners had spent years fighting the effects of invasive species on what was previously cattle land. The gardens are only available for guided tours. 3840 Ahonui Place, Princeville, (808) 634-5505, kauaibotanicalgardens.com

Additional Information: 

For all the winners from our 2019 HAWAII Magazine Readers’ Choice Awards, pick up a copy of our March/April 2019 issue by calling our Circulation Department at (800) 788-4230 or emailing circulation@hawaiimagazine.com.