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Living here is expensive, too, so I’m always on the lookout for free things to do. Luckily, there are a lot of free activities here in Hawaii. Some of my favorite things to do are hanging out on the beach, swimming in the ocean, hiking, and enjoying the sunsets. And they’re all free!
I was looking for something new to do this week. My only requirement was that it was free. I decided to check out Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden, and I was blown away by the beauty and tranquility of this garden.
“To make a place of peace and tranquility”
The word Hoʻomaluhia means “to make a place of peace and tranquility,” and this garden is rightfully named. Opened in 1982, the garden was designed and built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide flood protection for the town of Kaneohe. But aside from providing protection, the garden also is an oasis, with plantings from major tropical regions around the world grouped geographically. You will find plants from Philippines, Malaysia, Tropical America, India and Sri Lanka, Melanesia, Hawaii, Polynesia, and Africa.
The garden is open every day from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, closed only on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. I would recommend bringing sunscreen, a hat, water, a snack or picnic lunch, walking shoes, and bug spray.
Visiting Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden
We arrived right when it opened, at 9:00 am. Although a good portion of the garden had trees that provided great shade, did have to walk in the sun for a little bit.
The first thing we did was go to the Visitor’s Center. We got a map and talked to a volunteer, who told us to take the main trail down to the reservoir. If you love bird watching, make sure to pick up a bird checklist, which has pictures of the different kinds of birds to look for along with lots of information about each one. The garden is home to native birds as well as birds native to Asia, India, Africa, South America, Spain, and Indonesia.
The trail was pretty short, and along the way, we saw lots of tropical plants and flowers. We saw caca0, allspice, lipstick plant, heliconias, and more.
After a short walk, we passed by this gorgeous picnic area overlooking the water.
We hung out by the water for a bit, looking at the fish and the ducks. There are more areas of the garden that you can explore on your own. Volunteers can help you find other trails to take if you’re feeling more adventurous.
One of my friends had her two young children with her, and they were able to take this short walk with no problem. They loved looking at the fish!
After a hanging out for a good long while, we turned around and headed back the way we came. Before we left, we went into the air-conditioned art gallery. Local artists are on display. These are some beautiful pieces of art that I’m so glad I got to see.
Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden offers Guided Nature Walks on Saturdays at 10:00 am and Sundays at 1:00 pm. Reservations are required. Call 808-233-7323 for more information.
A family-friendly catch-and-release program is available on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. It is recommended that you bring walking shoes, insect repellent, rain gear, fishing supplies, barb-less hooks, and fresh white bread for bait.
A limited number of bamboo poles are available to borrow from 9:30 am to 1:00 pm on a first-come, first- served basis. Enjoy a scenic 20-minute walk to the fishing area and enjoy the day surrounded by the beauty of the garden. Call 808-233-7323 for more information.
If you really want to save some money and enjoy the outdoors, you might want to camp at Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden. You can camp at the garden from 9:00 am Friday through 4:00 pm Monday.
Botanical Drawing and Painting
On Wednesdays, from 9:30 am to 12:00 pm, the garden hosts a self-directed drawing and pairing program. Make your own rendering of plants, flowers, and seeds from the garden. Bring supplies: #4 round brush, Bristol paper, and quality watercolor set or watercolor pencils. Some drawing/watercolor experience is helpful. There is no fee, but reservations are required. Call 808- 233-7323 to make a reservation.
I loved that Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden was so beautiful, yet so accessible. You don’t have to spend a lot of time here, making it a great morning or afternoon stop. We saw a lot in just two hours, and it really felt like a retreat to be able to just enjoy the quiet in nature. Don’t miss out on this hidden gem.
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