The Allerton Gardens in the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Po‘ipu.

The Allerton Gardens in the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Po‘ipu. Photo © Les Williams, licensed Creative Commons & ShareAlike.

Consisting of both the McBryde and Allerton Gardens, the National Tropical Botanical Garden (visitors center, 4425 Lawa‘i Rd., 808/742-2623, 8:30am-5pm daily) is the only tropical plant research facility in the United States. In an effort to preserve, propagate, and dispense knowledge about tropical plants, the nonprofit organization is supported only by private donations. You’ll want to remember your camera for this stop, and it’s a fun place for photography fans to spend time trying to get good angles and lighting. If you don’t have the time or the motivation to explore the gardens, go for a gander around the entrance. Even wandering around the entrance of the gardens is enjoyable. A pond with beautiful pink lilies and numerous varieties of tropical flowers to smell are here.

You’ll want to remember your camera for this stop, and it’s a fun place for photography fans to spend time trying to get good angles and lighting.Over 6,000 tropical plant species flourish at the 259-acre McBryde Garden. Here you can explore a seemingly infinite array of plants and flowers ranging from bamboo to orchids. The gardens are divided into sections dedicated to medicinal and nutritional plants, herbs and spices, endangered species, fruits, and much more. Trams take visitors into the McBryde Garden every hour daily beginning at 9:30am until 2:30pm; self-guided tours cost $20 for adults 13 years old and up, $10 for children 6-12, and children 5 and under are free.

The 80-acre Allerton Garden is named after John Allerton, who started the garden and was a member of a Mainland cattle-raising family that founded the First National Bank of Chicago. The garden dates from the 1870s, when Queen Emma first planted here at one of her summer vacation homes. In 1938 Robert Allerton bought the property, and for the next two decades he and his son John cleared the land. John traveled the Pacific extensively, bringing back exotic plants to Kaua‘i. Cutting through the property is the Lawa‘i River, and small garden rooms and pools make it quite an enchanting experience. Here guided tours are offered beginning at 9 and 10am and 1 and 2pm from Monday to Saturday. Reservations are necessary even about a week in advance, as they are often booked up, especially during holiday seasons. The price to visit the Allerton Garden is higher than the McBryde. It’s $45 for those 13 years old and up and $20 for children 8-12. Children under eight are not allowed on the tour.

Drop by the visitors center across from Spouting Horn to check out the gift shop and displays in the former plantation manager’s restored house. In here you can find Hawaiian crafts, Ni‘ihau shell lei, and books about Hawaii. Around this center, which was constructed in 1997 after the last center was destroyed in Hurricane ‘Iniki, are the demonstration gardens, which are worth exploring on their own. Tours leave from the visitors center. Remember good walking shoes and mosquito repellent, and scan the sky to determine if you want to bring an umbrella. Don’t forget your camera.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.