The National Tropical Botanical Garden Kauai is actually part of an organization that maintains a series of tropical gardens and preserves totaling approximately 2,000 acres and located in the only tropical climate regions in the United States. One is on Biscayne Bay in Coconut Grove, Florida. This is the Kampong, named for the Malay or Javanese word for a village or cluster of houses. The others are all located in the Hawaiian Islands. Two are on the Big Island, and one is on Maui. The rest, including the organization’s national headquarters, are on Kauai. You can visit a tropical preserve or botanical garden in Kauai on the island’s south shore, not far from Lihue Airport and next to the Kauai Coffee Company, or on the north shore at the end of the Hanalei Road, otherwise known as Highway 560, just past Kee Beach. Each Kauai botanical garden and preserve is unique, but all are dedicated to preserving the imperiled tropical plants of the world.
While there are a number of tropical gardens throughout the United States, they all are cultivated in controlled greenhouse-type environments. Only the National Tropical Botanical Garden Kauai, as well as on the other Hawaiian Islands and in Florida, provides the natural environment in which these plants normally flourish. The warm, moist tropical belt that encircles the globe is the home to 90 percent of all plant and animal species—and is the location of the highest rate of plant and animal extinction. The National Tropical Botanical Gardens and preserves provide a living laboratory of the culture and history of tropical flora. Each Kauai botanical garden makes guided and self-guided tours available in a Meet the Plants program.
The botanical garden in Kauai that is actually a preserve is located at Limahuli on the north shore of the island, a few miles past the town of Hanalei. It is divided into three areas that surround the Limahuli Stream, the most unspoiled fresh water source on the island, and the Alakai Swamp. The upper part of the preserve spreads up the foothills above Limahuli Falls and 3,000 feet up the mountains that mark the beginning of the rugged Na Pali Coast. This portion of the Limahuli Tropical Botanical Garden in Kauai is accessible only through helicopter tours.
The Kauai botanical garden on the south shore is composed of two adjacent gardens, plus the organization’s national headquarters. The headquarters are located in Kalaheo on the main road southwest of Lihue. McBryde Garden and adjoining Allerton Garden are located near Poipu, past Old Koloa Town. McBryde Garden was the first National Tropical Botanical Garden Kauai and is in a secluded valley surrounded by cliffs. Here, visitors can take canoe rides on a stream that runs through the garden to the sea. Allerton Garden is artistically landscaped and includes a large grove of golden bamboo, tropical fruit trees, and ginger plants, among many others. This was once the lush retreat for Hawaii’s beloved Queen Emma, which accounts for the landscaping and garden architecture that has created a series of beautiful garden rooms. To visit any of these gardens, it is wise to wear long pants and/or apply insect repellent. Reservations are needed to visit the Allerton Garden and to have a guided tour of Limahuli Preserve.
Top image: HTA / Tor Johnson