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Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden | Best Free Things to see in Oahu, Hawaii

Updated on October 11, 2014
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Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden

If you visit Hawaii want to experience extraordinary tropical vegetation and actually learn about the plants and their uses, skip the Dole Plantation and head straight to Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden. It is free, conveniently located, non-commercial, and beautiful - what more could you ask for?

Hoomaluhia a fantastic place to learn about tropical plant species, their origins, and their uses throughout human history. A small museum, gallery of local artists, several well-kept restroom facilitates, picnic tables, special programs, a 32 acre lake, serene trails, and campsites make Hoomaluhia a great destination for an hour or a weekend. Although it is operated by the Honolulu parks, its special nature as a botanical preserve for rare and endangered plants mean Hoomaluhia visitors must comply with specific rules and regulations at all times, so make sure to read up on the park and its requirements before planning a visit.

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How to Find Hoomaluhia

To enter Hoomaluhia, you must drive through residential streets. There are clearly marked signs to keep you on track, but it may not feel particularly like you're heading in the right direction. The park's entrance is through a chain link gate, which is open from 9 am until 4 pm every day except Christmas and New Year's, with a stop sign and a small guard house. When I visited, the guard house was empty, but I stopped because some wild chickens were sleeping in the middle of the road!

If you've ever been to Hawaii, you know there is a huge wild chicken population. I've heard them called feral chickens, but 'feral' conjures up images of ferocious, rabid birds chasing you around. They tend to leave you alone, unless you threaten them or their young, but they are everywhere. There are a couple different stories about how chickens came to Hawaii, but one thing is certain: they lack natural predators and are thriving in their new home. If you visit Hoomaluhia, be prepared to brake for chickens!

A markerHoomaluhia Botanical Gardens -
45 Luluku Rd, Kaneohe, HI 96744, USA
get directions

It's cool to look at - but leave it for someone else to admire, too.
It's cool to look at - but leave it for someone else to admire, too. | Source

Hoomaluhia Rules and Regulations

Hoomaluhia means 'to make a place of peace and tranquility,' and the park truly lives up to its name. As a result, the 400 acre preserve is strictly a botanical garden, not a recreational facility. There are no playgrounds or ball fields, and pets are not allowed. Neither swimming nor boating are permitted in the lake, though fishing is allowed at specific times. Visitors are not allowed to play loud music or generally cause a disturbance, and you should never touch the plants. Not only does picking flowers and playing with the plants harm the plants and detract from other visitor's experiences, but many of the exotic plants at Hoomaluhia contain irritating, or even toxic, substances. For sensitive people, even touching an unknown plant can lead to a harmful and painful reaction. For a complete list of rules, please see the Hoomaluhia official website.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The museum is small and old-school, but informative Learn about traditional Hawaiian plant useSee handicrafts made from plants
The museum is small and old-school, but informative
The museum is small and old-school, but informative | Source
Learn about traditional Hawaiian plant use
Learn about traditional Hawaiian plant use | Source
See handicrafts made from plants
See handicrafts made from plants | Source

Visiting Hoomaluhia

There are several places, including right outside the gate, where you may park and continue exploring Hoomaluhia on foot, but if this is your first time visiting, you should proceed to the main parking lot. This allows you to explore the Visitor Center. You may want to enter the Visitor Center's small museum. In my experience, the staff is more than helpful and will make sure you know where to go and what there is to see. The museum is, honestly, kind of a blast from the past. It is small - just a single room - and has a collection of items with explanatory signs that look like they belong in the 1970s. It is still informative, though, and the items are examples of things created by native Hawaiians using various types of plants.

After leaving the museum, you may choose to explore the rest of the Visitor Center complex. There is a classroom, and a schedule of events and classes, so if you're local, or in the area for a while, you might want to check out this schedule. There is also a small art exhibition showing work from local artists. Restrooms are also available, but there are other restrooms on the park grounds.

Walking the Grounds

After leaving the Visitor Center, I highly recommend walking the cement path, instead of immediately taking one of the unpaved paths. These unpaved paths are worth exploring, but the cement path takes you past dozens of tropical plants with fantastic explanatory signs. I discovered plants I didn't even know existed, such as the sealing wax palm. The following list is not exhaustive, but these are a few of the plants and plant types you encounter on this walk:

Bromeliads- While this plant family has over 3000 members, its best-known representative is the pineapple. These plants typically have overlapping leaves, and many bromeliads collect water in the areas created by these overlaps. Other members of the family have structures called trichomes, basically tiny hairs or scales, that allow them to collect water in cloudy forest and reflect sunlight in desert environments. Hoomaluhia grows many types of bromeliads, but the most unique may be the imperial bromeliad. After 20 years of growth, an imperial bromeliad produces a flower spike that can extend 10 feet into the air!

Epiphytes - Epiphytes are commonly called "air plants" because they do not grow in the ground. Instead, they cling to other trees, walls, and other structures. Epiphytes are not their own family of plants. Orchids, mosses, and some bromeliads are epiphytes. They are not parasitic - this is a common myth!

Panama hat plant- The Panama hat plant is from Ecuador, not Panama! The hat style received its name because many of them were shipped workers constructing the Panama canal. Today, a high-quality Panama hat can cost thousands of dollars.

Allspice tree - Holiday cooking frequently calls for allspice berries. At Hoomaluhia you can see an allspice tree, which is actually an evergreen shrub. It is essential in traditional Jamaican cooking and named "allspice" by the English, who thought it tasted a bit like cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, all at once.

Cacao tree - This shrub's fruit is used to make cacao powder for chocolate. 'Nuff said!


Some of Hoomaluhia's Fantastic Plants with Informative Signs

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Sealing wax palmSealing wax palmFlorida thatch palmPanama hat plantPanama hat plantImperial bromeliadLipstick plantAllspice treeCuachilote Cacao tree
Sealing wax palm
Sealing wax palm | Source
Sealing wax palm
Sealing wax palm | Source
Florida thatch palm
Florida thatch palm | Source
Panama hat plant
Panama hat plant | Source
Panama hat plant
Panama hat plant | Source
Imperial bromeliad
Imperial bromeliad | Source
Lipstick plant
Lipstick plant | Source
Allspice tree
Allspice tree | Source
Cuachilote
Cuachilote | Source
Cacao tree
Cacao tree | Source

After walking this informative trail, you have almost endless possibilities for further exploration. You can branch out and explore other, unpaved paths, visit the lake, decide you want to go camping, have a picnic - almost anything relaxing and 'unplugged.'

Beautiful Sights at Hoomaluhia Gardens

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Purple berriesBlack bambooThis strange-looking flower smells like honeysuckle, but is in the coffee familyPicnic facilities are available for groupsThe lake at HoomaluhiaDon't lean against this tree!Serene pathways characterize HoomaluhiaStunning views of the mountainsHawaiian red ginger plant
Purple berries
Purple berries | Source
Black bamboo
Black bamboo | Source
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This strange-looking flower smells like honeysuckle, but is in the coffee family
This strange-looking flower smells like honeysuckle, but is in the coffee family | Source
Picnic facilities are available for groups
Picnic facilities are available for groups | Source
The lake at Hoomaluhia
The lake at Hoomaluhia | Source
Don't lean against this tree!
Don't lean against this tree! | Source
Serene pathways characterize Hoomaluhia
Serene pathways characterize Hoomaluhia | Source
Stunning views of the mountains
Stunning views of the mountains | Source
Hawaiian red ginger plant
Hawaiian red ginger plant | Source

The 400 acre preserve offers plenty of opportunities for exploration. If you would prefer more information, visit the park on the weekend. Guided tours are offered at 10 am on Saturdays and 1 pm on Sundays. Just don't plan a visit on Christmas or New Year's Day - these are the only days all year when the park is closed.

Hoomaluhia is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited. It is also blissfully quite - a rare commodity on Oahu! On the most densely-populated Hawaiian island, finding such a quiet, relatively empty spot can be tricky. If you want a break from downtown Honolulu, hop on the interstate, head towards Kaneohe, and pay Hoomaluhia a visit. It is also fairly unique because you may not have to layer on sunscreen before visiting, but do bring your bugspray! And, most of all, enjoy.

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    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      Your photos are beautiful. We are thinking about a trip to the Islands. I really enjoyed reading about things to do. I will bookmark this and go over it again. Thanks for sharing.

    • Natashalh profile image
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      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you! I took even more photos, but I thought the hub was getting a little full. Hawaii is beautiful - I hope you take your trip.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 4 years ago from Wales

      Fabulous, and I agree with Carol, your photos are amazing!

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 4 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      I love, love , love it! The photos are great! I wish to visit a place like that...

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I have never been to the tropics but what always stands out are the vibrant colors of the plant life AND the birds....these pictures are beautiful...I can see why you would want to live there.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you, everyone! I'm glad y'all enjoyed the photos! You know what's interesting? Bromeliads look so primordial (to me), but they're actually one of the newest plant families.

      If any of you do get the chance to visit, it's probably cooler than you would guess. The temps are usually in the 80s and there are strong winds most days, but it's easy to get sunburned!

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Natasha, what a great spot. Will have to bookmark this for a future trip to Hawaii? Your photos of the flowers are just stunning, great job. This looks like one of those off the beaten path places that I like to find except you found it for me....thank you. Great job. Voting up and sharing.

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      summerberrie 4 years ago

      Wow, Natashalh your pictures are beautiful. What a great place you shared!

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you, bdegiulio! I hope you get the chance to visit. It is kind of off the beaten path, as you said, and it's well worth the visit! I hope you have the opportunity.

      Thanks, summerberrie! I am glad you liked the photos.

      And thank you, both, for sharing! I really appreciate it.

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 4 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      I've just GOT to get to the islands one day. One day....

      Thanks for the hub and beautiful photos. We can all use a little more beauty in our lives.

    • Natashalh profile image
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      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you, Wilderness! Now that I've got Oahu, I need the other islands! That's the fun thing about life - there's always more to explore.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Hoomaluhia sounds like a very exciting and beautiful experience. I love the photos posted here, shows the beauty of the tropical plants. Glad you shared this with us, very educational.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you. Tropical plants fascinate me! I can't pass by one without whipping out my camera.

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 4 years ago from London

      wonderful hub & amazing plant photos! I would love to visit such a tropical garden once .. thanks

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you! I glad to have such a wonderful place to share my photos.

    • tonymead60 profile image

      Tony Mead 4 years ago from Yorkshire

      natashalh

      I doubt that I will ever get to this botanical garden, but your article has brought it across the seas to me and I certainly enjoyed it. Your choice of photographs makes interesting viewing, I particularly liked the panama hat tree and the sealing wax tree.

      voted up and I look forward to reading more of your work.

      regards

      Tony

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Wow, thank you! Yes, it looks like you're almost halfway around the world from Hawaii, but you never know where life will take you.

      I'm glad you like those two plants, as well. Both of them were plants I'd never heard of before my visit to Hoomaluhia.

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