I’m always looking for the best free attractions and activities in Hawaii – these are things I love to do myself and am eager to share with visitors like you. That’s why I’m excited to talk about Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden on Oahu.
I recently headed out to this beautiful place and was blown away by its tranquility and scenery. Wondering if you should visit Hoʻomaluhia during your Oahu vacation? Check out all my best advice below and then contact Hawaii Aloha Travel for personalized vacation recommendations.
“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 park was designed and built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide flood protection for the town of Kaneohe. But aside from offering protection, Hoʻomaluhia also is an oasis.
What’s In the Garden
Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden features plantings from major tropical regions around the world grouped geographically. You will find plants from the Philippines, Malaysia, Tropical America, India and Sri Lanka, Melanesia, Hawaii, Polynesia, and Africa.
The grounds feature a number of trees, including Breadfruit, palms, and a Banyan tree.
Our Visit to Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden
When we visited Hoʻomaluhia, we arrived right when it opened, at 9:00 am. Although a good portion of the garden had shade trees, we did have to walk in the sun for a little bit.
The first thing we did was go to the Visitor’s Center. Here, 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 and birds from 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. Some of my favorites were cacao, allspice, lipstick plant, and heliconias.
After a short walk, we passed by a gorgeous picnic area overlooking the water. This shaded spot at Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden would be great for lunch on a sunny day.
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 if you’re feeling more adventurous. Some locations require you to drive up the road and access from a different parking lot.
Overall, this is an excellent place for everyone to enjoy Hawaii’s lush scenery. 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!
What to Do at Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden
After hanging out for a long while, we turned around and headed back the way we came. Before leaving, we went into the air-conditioned art gallery, where local art was displayed. This isn’t always open, but if you’re lucky enough to visit during one of their exhibits, you’re in for a treat.
Hoʻomaluhia does offer guided tours for groups, but your visit will most likely be self-guided with one of its detailed maps. This means you can go at your own pace and choose which areas of the gardens you want to see.
Fishing at Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden
A catch-and-release program is sometimes available at Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden. Check their website to see if it’s available for your visit.
If you are fishing during your visit, you should bring walking shoes, insect repellent, rain gear, fishing supplies, barbless hooks, and fresh white bread for bait.
Enjoy a scenic 20-minute walk to the fishing area and enjoy the day surrounded by the garden’s beauty.
If you really want to save some money and enjoy the outdoors, you might want to camp at Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden. You can camp in the garden from 9:00 am Friday through 4:00 pm Monday.
Botanical Drawing and Painting
On Tuesday mornings, the garden hosts a self-directed drawing and pairing program. Make your own rendering of plants, flowers, and seeds from the garden. It’s free to join, but you do need to bring your own supplies. Call the park to make sure the program is running during your visit.
One of the most famous spots at Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden is the main entrance – its lush driveway is an Instagram favorite. However, photographs are no longer allowed at this spot. The guard will kindly demand that you keep moving.
Fortunately, there are lots of photo-worthy locations throughout the garden. So keep moving through the main gate and find a place for your own one-of-a-kind photo.
A Quick Retreat at Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden
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 just enjoy the quiet of nature. Don’t miss out on this hidden gem.