Big Island Botanical Gardens: Everything You Need to Know

The beauty of the Big Island abounds no matter where you go on your travels. But there’s something magical about seeing a well-curated collection of tropical plants all in one spot. If that’s your jam, you just have to set your sights on the many botanical gardens all across the island landscape. Ready to get started in viewing all the best tropical vegetation around? Here’s where to go.

Sadie Seymour Botanical Gardens

Photo Credits by @nichification on Instagram

Set right on the grounds of the Kona Educational Foundation Center, the Sadie Seymour Botanical Gardens treat you to wonderful views of lush vegetation in every direction. The garden design came from Architect Scott Seymour who wanted the space to take you on a trip around the globe.

So, as you move through the wedge-shaped garden, you’ll start by viewing the first tier of native Hawaiian plants. Then, you’ll get to explore 10 other areas filled with plants from Australia, Indonesia, Africa, Central America, and many other locales.

All the garden areas have signage letting you know just what plants you see before you. During your visit, you’re bound to come across well-cared-for eucalyptus, turmeric, calabash, and many other awesome plants.  

Amy BH Greenwell Ethnobotanical Gardens

Photo Credits by @peterteigephotography on Instagram

The Amy BH Greenwell Ethnobotanical Gardens show all the ecological habitats on the island while exploring plant lore, customs, and ancient uses. To support that mission, over five acres of the garden feature untouched archeological remains that you can view and explore on your educational journey.

As you move through the garden, you’ll encounter dry and wet forest zones, coastal plains, and agricultural sites. Each location will allow you to see how society relies on plants for medicine, food, and as a natural resource.

You’ll want to take a look at the butterfly garden for a glimpse at all the plants favored by these sweet creatures. While you’re there, you may get to see Monarchs, the Kamehameha, and many other important butterfly species.

Paleaku Gardens Peace Sanctuary

hawaiian gardens in maui

The Paleaku Gardens Peace Sanctuary lies deep in the Honaunau Valley, accessible by Painted Church Road. Well-known as the home of the world’s first magical Galaxy Garden, this space promise to put you instantly at ease and promote a sense of inner peace.

Upon arriving, you’ll get to see a well-stocked koi pond full of flashy fish before exploring the Thai Spirit House. Mandalas and shrines fill out the rest of the space, setting the mood for your garden explorations ahead.

Upon making it out into the garden, you’ll get to follow the paths through tropical orchards, which open up to show spectacular views of the nearby Kealakekua Bay. All along the way, you’ll come across a Native American medicine wheel, a full-scale labyrinth, and the Galaxy Garden that mimics the beauty of the night sky.

Lyon Arboretum at the University of Hawaii

Photo Credits by @pietrusewsky on Instagram

With a trip to the Manoa Valley, you can see all the hard work master gardeners and their students put into maintaining the Lyon Arboretum at the University of Hawaii. Since it’s a public botanical garden, all are welcome to walk through the gardens and learn about all the plant life.

To start, you’ll want to grab a map showing you all the themed garden areas, including:

Mapes Memorial Garden
Japanese-inspired green space filled with ornamental plants

Betty Ho Memorial Garden
Local collection of ancient Chinese plants featuring bright bromeliads

Native Hawaiian Garden
Showcase of plants sourced from Oahu and many other islands in the chain

Beatrice H. Krauss Ethnobotanical Garden
Collection of plantsvital to ancient and modern Hawaiian culture

Bromeliad Garden
Pineapples and even more bromeliads growing at their best on a slope

Other amazing sights in the garden include Aihualama Falls and the panoramic views from Inspiration Point.

Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden

Touted as a living classroom, the Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden lets you learn about up to 2,000 plant species thriving on the Big Island. To accommodate all those plants, the bio reserve stretches across 20 acres of land in the valley between the Onomea Stream and Alakahi Stream of Papaikou.

Thanks to the tropical climate, the green space stays alive with beautiful greenery and blooms all year long. The plants take turns putting on their full display before fading into the backdrop to let their fellow plants delight onlookers, too.

Take the scenic route for all the best sights, which will take you past peacock ferns, breadfruit, and so much more. Remember to gaze up into the canopy as well to see the tall trees framing the sky.

Lokahi Garden Sanctuary

Photo Credits by @Lokahigardensanctuary on Instagram

Right in the heart of North Kohala lies the exquisite Lokahi Garden Sanctuary. Acting as a lodge, retreat, and garden, this space serves as a soft place to land whenever you need a break from it all.

Even if you don’t want to stay the whole weekend, their garden tour is well worth the visit. On that tour, you’ll get to explore the bountiful orchards and gardens filled with over 250 trees, shrubs, and plant species.

Your guide will teach you all about how the plants serve as food, medicine, and more, giving you a glimpse into time-honored homesteading practices. You’ll also get a chance to learn all about effectively growing organic foods and living sustainably always.

At the end of the tour, you’ll sit down for tea and fruit while checking out the amazing ocean views. Don’t forget to take a moment to throw the ball for their border collie, Kahu, to give back to the garden before you depart.

Every garden is 100% unique, so they’re all worth visiting at least once. As you do that, take note of your favorite tropical plants, so you can adorn your living space with them upon returning home. Even if the plants will not grow in your space, you can get prints, paintings, and other works done in their honor.