A garden lover’s paradise on the Big Island of Hawaii

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Hawaii is America’s very own tropical paradise and a favorite playground for boomer travelers. With breathtaking views, unique culture, fun adventures and tropical landscape, this spectacular group of islands should be on everyone’s travel list. Today, Suzanne Fluhr from Boomeresque offers advice on how to see the incredible local flora up-close at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden on the Big Island.

Our most recent visit to the Big Island of Hawaii was as a port of call on a seven day cruise of the Hawaiian Islands on Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Pride of America. When our ship docked in Hilo, the largest town on the west coast of the Big Island, most of the ship’s excursions involved visiting volcanoes. Because we had already been there and done that, we opted for a tour to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. It turned out to be an excellent choice. The Garden is located about eight miles north of Hilo. The last half of the short drive from Hilo is on a scenic coastal road.

Lizard at Hawaii Tropical Botantical Garden
Green Lizard

Even though I am sad to admit that our house is typically a place where plants go to die, we have enjoyed visiting gardens all over the world. The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden ranks with the best we’ve seen. We had two hours for the self-guided Garden tour and a visit to the gift shop. I think a shorter visit would feel rushed even for those as flora clueless as we are. Although the Garden is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day), the last admission is at 4:00 p.m.

Boardwalk at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens
Photo courtesy of the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, a non-profit, owes its existence to the vision and hard work of Dan and Pauline Lutkenhouse who transformed the valley leading to Onomea Bay into a living museum of the world’s tropical plants. Over 2,000 species of international tropical plants are carefully curated, cared for and displayed in a rainforest setting.

Hawaii Botanical Tropical Garden
Beautiful pink flower at the Hawaii Botanical Tropical Garden

Visitors start at the top of the valley and descend down an elevated boardwalk and then paved trails through lush plantings and water features to the Bay. The round trip walk back to the gift shop is a little over one mile; however, the return up to the gift shop is quite steep. Those who are wheelchair bound can traverse the boardwalk portion of the trail by golf cart. For a small fee, others who are physically limited may also use the golf cart transportation.

Purple Orchid at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens
Purple Orchid

The Hawaii Tropical Garden’s website offers the usual information about hours, directions and the cost of admission ($15.00 for adults when we visited). It also contains an impressive searchable plant database. Be sure to bring your camera. I guarantee you will want to take photographs as you walk through this tropical paradise.

Have you visited the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden or another one that you can recommend to us? Join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook or send us an email to ask a question or share your experience.

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