There are a number of notable botanical gardens on the Big Island that you can visit when you are in the vicinity. The Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden is part of the respected Bishop Museum, which contains the world’s largest collection of Polynesian artifacts—totaling close to 3 million items. Combine a visit to this Hawaii tropical botanical garden with a visit to the museum for a truly enriching experience. At the Greenwell Gardens, you will find 30 endangered plants among the 225 species. There is a modest suggested donation, and the garden is located in the town of Captain Cook, about twelve miles south of Kailua Kona. This is a good stop on the way to or from Puuhonua or for anyone staying in a Kona seaside hotel.
Located in Kailua Kona on the grounds of Kona Outdoor Circle Educational Center, the Sadie Seymour Botanical Garden comprises one and a half acres of terraced gardens designed by landscape architect Scott Seymour in honor of his mother. Each terraced level contains the flora from a certain region of the world that also grows in Hawaii. The first terrace of this Hawaii tropical botanical garden contains native plants found on the island before the arrival of Polynesians. From there you enter a virtual plant history of the island, with plantings from other Pacific Rim islands, including Australia, and those that arrived through European contact—with plantings from the East Indies, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Admission is free, and you can stop in for self-guided tours during a day of general sightseeing, or book one of the Seymour Botanical Gardens on the Big Island package tours that take place once a month. These full-day tours include a guided tour of the gardens as well as a hosted lunch in town and tours of some other local culinary gardens.
The World Botanical Gardens is located about sixteen miles north of Hilo at Umauma Falls on nearly 300 acres of former sugar cane fields. At these Big Island botanical gardens you can stroll along paved paths on a self-guided tour or book guided tours with botanical experts. There is a modest entry fee to the gardens and additional fees for guided tours. Highlights of the World Botanical Gardens on the Big Island include a walk through a lush rain forest and a visit to the spectacular 300-foot Umauma three-tiered waterfalls.
The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is located in lovely Onomea Bay about five miles north of Hilo. Self-guided tours on the garden trails include access to waterfalls, streams, and the scenic Kona coastline. If you are on your way south from Hilo to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you can stop at the Nani Mau (translated as forever beautiful) Gardens. These Big Island botanical gardens are located about three miles south of Hilo Airport and contain 53 acres of beautiful tropical plants and flowers, with twenty acres artistically landscaped. There is a spectacular orchid garden, tropical fruit orchards, and groves of rare palms, as well as a 30-minute tram ride. A garden restaurant offers brunch, and the facility is available for Big Island weddings. This is a full-service wedding facility with wedding planners, several indoor and outdoor venues, and the ability to cater for up to 300 guests. Other Big Island botanical gardens include the Hiiaka Healing Herb Garden, also between Hilo and Volcanoes National Park; the Manuka State Wayside Park, located on the southern end of the island in the South Kona Forest Reserve; and the University of Hawaii at Hilo Botanical Gardens. These gardens contain one of the largest and most complete collections of cycads, an evergreen with cones often confused with palms, and are conveniently close to the Hilo hotels and attractions.