Roughly midway along the Road to Hana proper, the Keanae Arboretum gives travelers touring that acclaimed drive along Maui’s northern coast a pleasant break. Its six acres of arboretum and botanical gardens make a beautiful and tranquil place to stretch your legs—and get acquainted with some remarkable plants!
Established in 1971, Keanae Arboretum charges no entrance fee and is open daily from sunrise to sunset. You’ll find its parking area along the Hana Highway a little past halfway between mile markers 16 and 17. There aren’t any facilities.
The property lies along the Piinaau Stream, one of the many gulch-carving streams draining Haleakala’s northern slope on Maui’s windward side. Terraces constructed centuries ago by ancient Hawaiians for the purposes of growing taro (kalo in Native Hawaiian) flank the stream. Immediately to the north lies the Keanae Peninsula.
You’ll want an hour, at least, to enjoy Keanae Arboretum’s sights and atmosphere. The main path through the grounds is mostly paved and runs an easy six-tenths of a mile.
Many trees, shrubs, and other plants here come labeled by plaques listing the common and Latin names and where the particular species hails from. Probably the most photographed are the vivid, multi-hued rainbow eucalyptus stands. These trees, indigenous to Southeast Asia and Oceania, exhibit peeling bark that reveals strips of orange, red, pinkish-purple, and other eye-catching colors.
You’ll also see palms, bamboo, papaya, bananas, ginger, hibiscus, mountain apple, and the blue marble tree of southern Asia, Indonesia, New Guinea, and Australia. That tree is named for its big, round, blue fruits, which you may see strewn on the ground.
Besides taro, a number of important “canoe plants”—those vital food species Polynesians spread with them through far-flung island groups—are identified here. Breadfruit, for example—known as ulu in Native Hawaiian—is a worthy tree to learn, given its great significance to the Polynesians. It yielded not only heavy crops of fruit but also wood for building and carving as well as medicinal products.
Beyond where the paved part of the path turns to dirt, you’ll find pools along the stream. When the water’s clear, these serve as natural wading and soaking spots. That’s why it’s a good idea to have some swimwear along with you on your Keanae Arboretum walk. Murkier or higher-running waters, however, suggest potentially hazardous conditions, and you should avoid entering.
The upper reaches of the arboretum property beyond this area can be explored on a rougher, and typically very overgrown, trail. Many visitors will prefer to stick to the short, main path and its pavement.
From the rainbow eucalyptus groves to the loi (taro ponds), the Keanae Arboretum’s plantings are mighty pleasing to the eye. If you need a break from the steering wheel (and the curves) on a Hana Highway jaunt, the handsome grounds and no-stress footpath might be just the ticket.
Word to the wise: You’ll want to have some bug spray on hand when visiting the Keanae Arboretum.