Luxuriant and artfully landscaped tropical grounds define the Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park, a well-known tourist attraction on Kauai’s North Shore east of Kilauea. This elaborate and diverse garden scape, which encompasses more than 300 acres, also stands as a testament to the vision of its founding couple, Joyce and Ed Doty.
Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens includes a number of distinct zones, the centerpiece being the Formal Gardens. These include several themed garden spreads, including the International Desert Garden and the Palm Garden, as well as the beautiful Kaula Lagoon with its tropic-bird sculpture island and a Japanese tea house and waterfall along its banks. Other highlights of the Formal Gardens include the Poinciana Maze—originally inspired by a trip the Dotys took to England—as well as Shower Tree Park.
Na ‘Aina Kai also includes the Wild Forest Garden, the Horticultural Amusement Garden, Kulihaili Canyon, and the “Under the Rainbow” Children’s Garden, which one Saturday every month opens for full-on family playtime during “Keiki Day.”
With more than 200 pieces on display, Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens also lays claim to one of the most extensive collections of outdoor bronze sculptures in the U.S. A definite highlight of this collection is the Jack & the Beanstalk-inspired fountain sculpture, which towers some 16 feet tall.
To visit Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park, you’ll have to make advanced reservations for one of the established, rain-or-shine visitor tours, one or another of which is on offer Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. All of these are guided tours except for the self-guided walking tour of the Formal Gardens, during which interpretive docents are on hand at various stations to supply information.
A number of the tours provide combo explorations taking in different sections of Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens, such as the Formal Gardens and the Wild Forest Garden.
This guided tour, as its name suggests, involves riding atop a covered open-air cart. This tour is the best for seeing the full scope and variety of the Gardens as it meanders along dedicated cart trails in both the Formal Gardens and the Wild Forest Garden. Guests can expect to see the miniature Hawaiian ahupua’a (which is a natural land division), a recreated Athabascan village, the extensive bronze sculpture collection, and much more.
This guided tour takes place in the Formal Gardens only, but it offers guests to linger as they learn. You’ll learn about the history of the Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park and all of its exquisite tropical flowers and foliage. This tour also affords close and personal experience with the garden’s plunging waterfall and island, a Japanese teahouse, and Desert Garden.
The Beach Walk
This guided tour takes you past the Formal Gardens and instead onto the Wild Forest path. Here, you can view a more wild garden, one manicured where most needed but in large left to grow as it has always grown. The Beach Walk trail takes guests through the woodsy Kuliha’ili Canyon and on down to the Kaluakai Beach, a beach that is publicly only accessible via this path.
Flower lovers, art lovers, nature lovers, and families alike will want to consider swinging by Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park when touring Kauai’s lush North Shore.
-While you won’t find a restaurant on the grounds of Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park, the Orchid House Gift Shop does sell snacks and refreshments. On the once-a-month Keiki Day playdays in the “Under the Rainbow” Children’s Garden, you can bring in outside food.
-Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens & Sculpture Park is also one of the notable places in Kauai for tying the knot: The property includes a number of different venues and is well set up for hosting private weddings.
-Don’t fret if it rains. This group not only continues tours on rainy days, but they will provide the umbrellas and rain ponchos necessary to stay comfortable and dry.