05 Nov Heliconia Ride: A Visit to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
Black lava rocks lying beside bands of turquoise water are right up our (#beachgoth-loving) alley, but after a few days of beach hopping in Kona, we wanted to feel a bit more…ensconced in greenery. We wanted to get LUSH.
So we headed to the east side of the Big Island of Hawaii, over to Onomea Bay and the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. (After all, a Horticult trip wouldn’t be a Horticult trip without a visit to a botanical garden! Are we right, or are we right?) Eight and a half miles north of Hilo, the garden/plant museum is nestled in a 40-acre valley that, according to the literature, “is a natural greenhouse, protected from buffeting tradewinds and blessed with fertile volcanic soil.”
Visitors experience the garden in a truly organic way, descending into the valley on nature trails that wind through a rainforest, transport you to enchanting plant collections — like “Bromeliad Hill” — past waterfalls and creeks, until you’re shocked by a sudden vista of the Pacific Ocean framed by palm trees. “Dramatic” doesn’t even begin to express the effect of following vines and massive anthurium leaves along your path and then looking up and seeing the jagged, primordial Pacific Coast and hearing the sudden roar of the waves.
It was enough to make us drop our umbrellas! Thoughtfully loaned out by the garden to its visitors, the umbrellas came in handy for a few brief drizzles, but for the most part we stayed dry enough to appreciate the garden’s colossal show of plant life along the one-mile round-trip loop.
Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is home to over 2,000 species of plants from over 125 families and 750 genera, evident in the wide spectrum of ginger flowers that thrilled us, oversize heliconias with attitude to match, outrageous cannonball trees, and anthurium leaves the size of Fiats. And orchids, of course. Cat’s whiskers and bat flowers struck exactly the right balance of tickly and peculiar.
HTBG is a must-see for any plant lover on the Big Island. Join us — Ryan, our friend John and me — on our visit below! You might also notice certain houseplants, from dracaena to monstera to zamioculcas, letting their hair down in the wild. Inside this garden, the plants reach a whole new level of perfection.
Check them out!
Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, 27-717 Old Mamalahoa Highway, 808-964-5233. Open 9am–5pm every day except New Year, Thanksgiving and Christmas, when admission ends at 4pm.