You will find many botanical treasures if you take the Road to Hana along Maui’s northwestern shoreline, but some are a bit further off that main throughway than others. The Kahanu Garden, an extension of the National Botanical Garden, is one such place.
You will find Kahanu Garden near the end of Ulaino Road, a road that winds northwest from Hana, well past the famed Hana Lava Tube. You will continue down the road, do not be deterred by the broken pavement, and cross over a stream ford. Kahanu Garden is located just beyond this ford, the entrance on the right side of the road. Note, however, that this area is prone to flooding and if water is flowing above the poll markers, do not continue.
Kahanu Garden is one of five botanical gardens that are a part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden institution. The National Tropical Botanical Garden is a non-for-profit organization that specializes in studying tropical plants. This is a critical group that works to conserve endangered and threatened species by collecting, curating, growing, and outplanting vital species on the Plant Extinction Prevention Program. They have locations both in Florida and Hawaii, with Kahanu Garden one of the most visited.
This botanical garden covers 122 acres and, as you would expect from a National Tropical Botanical Garden, is full of rare native Hawaiian plant species. You will also find several tree and fern specimens that were introduced by the Polynesians when they made their big trek over to the Hawaiian islands. Kahanu Gardens is most well known for its collection of breadfruit trees. Their collection is one of the largest in the world.
Kahanu Garden can be explored either on your own or via a guided Kahanu Garden Tour. The self-guided tour can be done fully at your pace as it is technically a Day Pass that allows you full access to all of the paths and archaeological wonders that exist at Kahanu Garden. Generally, however, most visitors to this garden who opt for the self-guided tour will spend between one and two hours.
The guided Kahanu Garden Tour is a full two hours and is recommended for all who are really interested in learning more about how the National Tropical Botanical Garden works to conserve rare spaces as well as those interested in learning more about the unique archeological finds here. One such archeological wonder is a heaiu that was created during the 14th century completely out of lava rock.
This guided tour includes background stories not just of that century, but of the later ones. You will learn both about the plants Polynesians brought with them to the islands as well as their traditional uses and how we view them today. While this tour is a touch more expensive than your typical botanical garden tour –prices at the time of this publication were $30 for ages 13 and older and free for children age 12 and under — those who are interested in history and plantlife will find the experience engaging and worth the price. In contrast, the self-guided tour is half this price and only $7 for those who can show a valid Hawaiian ID.
Note that while this is a botanical garden and you will see plenty of unique plant species, this is not a flower-type of place. Most of the plants here are trees, ferns, and similar species of plants. So if you are expecting to see rows and rows of blooming flowers and bushes, you will likely be disappointed by a visit here.
Just before you make the turn onto Ulaino Road for Kahanu Garden, you will see the Hana Farms Roadside Stand, Pizza Oven and Bakery. This is a fantastic spot to stop and enjoy a filling meal before the rest of your adventures. We love this place for the good food, nice scenery, and often live music.