8 Gorgeous Oahu Gardens You Have to Visit! (2024 Guide)

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Considering a visit to Oahu? Garden lovers will be excited to learn that there are many Oahu gardens well worth visiting!

As the most visited Hawaiian island, Oahu offers a wealth of activities and attractions. Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, and Waikiki Beach are among the best places to visit in Hawaii.

But if you are looking for a break from the most popular activities on the island, head to one of the botanical gardens in Oahu for a respite in a green oasis.

Visiting the gardens in Oahu is one of our favorite things to do on longer trips to the island. On each visit, we usually see plants and flowers we haven’t noticed before, and sometimes we are lucky enough to spot a native bird or two.

Cultural sites amidst the gardens in Waimea Valley in Oahu, Hawaii
Cultural sites co-exist with gardens at Waimea Valley on the north shore of Oahu

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If you plan to be based in Waikiki and don’t want to rent a car, Foster Botanical Garden in downtown Honolulu is just an Uber ride away, or you can take the bus or trolley.

If you do plan to rent a car, drive up the scenic east side of Oahu and stop en route at the Koko Crater Botanical Garden and the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden. The latter is one of the largest botanical gardens in the USA!

Or drive up from Waikiki to the north shore and visit the Waimea Valley Botanical Garden, the Wahiawa Botanical Garden, and the Dole Plantation Garden!

In this article, we’ve rounded up eight public botanical gardens in Oahu worth considering for your itinerary for the island. Plus, we have a map that shows their location on the island to help you plan.

Excited? Let’s get started discovering the best gardens in Oahu, Hawaii!

Table of Contents
Best Botanical Gardens in Oahu
Map of the Best Oahu Gardens

Strolling through Wahiawa Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
Walking through Wahiawa Botanical Garden in Central Oahu

Best Gardens in Oahu

1. Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

Arguably the most beautiful garden in Oahu, Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is one of five botanical gardens managed by the City and County of Honolulu.

At 400 acres, this lush rainforest garden is the largest of the public gardens in Oahu.

Driving into Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden in Kaneohe, Oahu, Hawaii
The entrance to Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

In Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, you can tour eight geographically-themed gardens from different parts of the world, hike many nature trails, and stroll around Loko Waimaluhia, a large man-made reservoir.

While the mind-boggling rainforest vegetation is the star of the garden, you will also be captivated by the exceptional views of the imposing Ko’olau mountain range. The garden is nestled at the base of these mountains.

The Koolau Mountains seen from Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu
Views of the Ko’olau Mountains from the Ho’omaluhia Garden

The themed gardens showcased here are from Hawaii, Polynesia, Melanesia, Philippines, Malaysia, India and Sri Lanka, Tropical Americas, and Africa.

Walking the short path from the visitor center down to the lake is a must even on a brief visit to the garden, as are the short walks to viewpoints that offer fabulous views of the Ko’olau Mountains.

The visitor center at Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu
The visitor center at Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is the best place to begin your visit!
Rainforest plants at the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
Lush rainforest vegetation lines the roads in the garden

Really pressed for time? You can also just simply drive through Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, enjoying the views and the vegetation from your car.

Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is located in Kaneohe on Oahu’s scenic east side (see map), and is free to visit.

2. Foster Botanical Garden

Encompassing about 13.5 acres, the compact Foster Botanical Garden is the oldest botanical garden in Oahu, and one of the five Honolulu Botanical Gardens. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

One of the top reasons to visit Foster Botanical Garden is to admire the many “Exceptional Trees.” These trees have been so designated by city ordinance.

Walking through Foster Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
Walking through Foster Botanical Garden in downtown Honolulu

Among them, be sure to see the sacred fig that’s a clone descendant of the Bodhi tree in Sri Lanka under which Gautama Buddha is reported to have sat for inspiration.

Also in the garden there’s a gorgeous rainbow eucalyptus with its colorful trunk, a quipo tree with a trunk that rises into the sky, a cannonball tree, and many beautiful palms.

Cannonball in Foster Botanical Garden. Honolulu, Oahu
A cannonball in Foster Botanical Garden
Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu, Oahu, has many beautiful plams and cycads.
A palm in Foster Botanical Garden

Stroll the Economic Garden, where you’ll see food trees like cinnamon, coffee, breadfruit, macadamia nut, and more.

The Butterfly Garden, with hibiscus and other flowers, offers color in an otherwise largely green garden. A small conservatory houses orchids and other hothouse plants.

Look for the Daibutsu of Kamakura, a statue donated to the garden to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants arriving in Hawaii.

The Daibutsu
The Daibutsu statue at the Foster Botanical Garden

Foster Botanical Garden is a green oasis in the heart of downtown Honolulu (see map). It’s a very easy visit if you happen to be based in Waikiki on your Oahu vacation!

There is an admission fee, $5.00 per person at the time of writing for adults that are not residents of Hawaii.

3. Waimea Valley Botanical Garden

On the scenic north shore of Oahu, Waimea Valley boasts a botanical garden that contains over 5,000 tropical and sub-tropical plants.

Covering about 300 lush acres, the Waimea Valley Botanical Garden features some gorgeous mature trees.

Tree canopy, large tree in Waimea Valley, Oahu
Look at this spectacularly large tree canopy!

Many parts of the world are represented in this botanical garden, including Central and South America, Guam, Fiji, the Pacific Islands, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, and the Seychelles.

Plant collections in Waimea Valley Botanical Garden are arranged in 52 themed gardens, and include many native Hawaiian plants, some of which are rare and endangered.

You’ll see many showy plants as you explore, from ferns to heliconias and gingers, palms, hibiscus, birds of paradise, as well as fruit and nut trees.

A hibiscus in the Waimea Valley Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
A red hibiscus in bloom in the Waimea Valley botanical garden

If you enjoy birding, bring your binoculars! You may see the endangered alae ‘ula, a water bird with a distinctive red shield above its beak. There are wild peacocks at Waimea as well.

Peacock at Waimea Valley, Oahu, Hawaii
You may see a peacock (or three!) at Waimea Valley
Lush vegetation in the Waimea Valley Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
The Waimea Valley Botanical Garden features lush rainforest

Waimea Valley also includes a number of Hawaiian cultural sites, artisans at work, and Waimea Falls, a picturesque waterfall that can be accessed with a hike of about .75 mile.

The botanical gardens are laid out along the sides of the paved trail that leads from the entrance to the falls and you can explore as much of them as you are able.

If you are short on time but would like to see the waterfall (you may be able to swim in the plunge pool!), a shuttle service is offered for a fee. The shuttle is free fpr mobility-challenged visitors.

Waimea Valley is located near Haleiwa on the north shore of Oahu (see map). At the time of writing, admission is $25.00 per adult if you are not a resident of Hawaii. Discounts are offered for seniors, kids, and residents.

4. Koko Crater Botanical Garden

Koko Crater Botanical Garden is laid out over 60 acres along the inner slopes and in the bowl of the 200-acre Koko Crater. It is one of the five Oahu gardens managed by the City and County of Honolulu.

Koko Crater Botanical Garden is a must-visit Oahu garden if you love cacti and succulents!

A view of the Plumeria Grove at Koko Crater Botanical Garden in the winter
A view of the bare plumeria grove in Koko Crater Botanical Garden in January

While dryland plants are the star attraction in Koko Crater Botanical Garden, it also boasts a grove of plumeria trees, bougainvillea, hibiscus, and other plants.

The plumeria here bloom in the spring and early summer. When we visited at the end of January, the trees were just beginning to leaf out and there were a few early blooms that made for great photos.

Plumeria flowers at Koko Crater Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
Early plumeria blossoms at Koko Crater Botanical Garden in January

When the grove is in full bloom, it is spectacular!

You will see bougainvillea in many colors, from white to orange and bright magenta, draping the slopes of the crater.

Walking the trail in Koko Crater Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
A dirt trail runs through Koko Crater Botanical Garden

Plant collections in the garden are arranged by geographic regions: Hawaii, Pacifica, the Americas, Madagascar, and Africa.

In the Hawaiian section, look for several species of native trees: wiliwili, loulu palms, and koa.

The cactus garden contains barrel cactus, yucca, aloes, agave and more. There is a dryland palms section as well.

You may see birds in Koko Crater Botanical Garden as well, so bring your binoculars or a camera with a zoom lens!

A zebra dove in Koko Crater Botanical Garden in Oahu
A zebra dove on the trail in Koko Crater Botanical Garden

A 2-mile loop trail runs through the garden. The dirt trail is a little rugged, so plan to wear good walking shoes.

Bring drinking water, because there’s none at the garden and you will want to stay hydrated as you hike. Also, there is only one portable toilet, just past the plumeria grove by the entrance.

Koko Crater is located in Honolulu (see map), and admission to the garden is free.

5. Dole Plantation Garden

Located in Wahiawa, on the route between Waikiki and the north shore, the Dole Plantation is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Oahu.

Tall ti plants at the Plantation Garden, Dole Plantation, Wahiawa, Oahu
Tall ti plants at the Dole Plantation Garden

Dole Plantation has a number of activities for adults and kids, including a maze that was declared the world’s largest maze in the 2008 Guiness Book of World Records and a mini-train.

But of special interest to garden lovers is a tour of the Plantation Garden, which is made up of eight mini gardens.

Although the Plantation Garden at Dole isn’t large, it is very colorful and a joy to stroll. We had a great time photographing the many plants in this garden, and the birds we saw during our tour.

A white-rumped shama in the Plantation Garden at the Dole Plantation in Oahu, Hawaii
A white-rumped shama in the garden

Look for fragrant plants like plumeria and pikake (jasmine) in the lei garden, hibiscus flowers in many colors in the hibiscus garden, colorful ti with green, pink or variegated leaves, bromeliads (pineapples are from this plant family!), cacao trees, and many other species.

Bird of paradise in the Dole Plantation Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
A lovely bird of paradise flower in the Plantation Garden
Banana in the Dole Plantation Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
Banana flower and fruit at the Dole Plantation Garden

There are large mango trees in the land at the back of the landscaped gardens, and a pond with koi and aquatic plants.

The Dole Plantation Garden is located in the Dole Plantation in Wahiawa (see map). There is a fee to enter, $8.00 per adult if you are not a resident of Hawaii. Small discounts are offered for children and residents.

6. Lyon Arboretum

Managed by the University of Hawaii, the Lyon Arboretum is a public botanical garden in Honolulu. It’s one of the Oahu gardens you should put on your itinerary!

Walking the main trail in Lyon Arboretum, one of the best gardens in Oahu you can visit!
Walking the Main Trail at the Lyon Arboretum

The almost 200-acre garden boasts over 6,000 varieties of tropical and sub-tropical plants. The garden also has seven miles of hiking trails and a waterfall at the back of the valley.

Plus, you get wonderful mountain views from some parts of the arboretum!

Mountain views from the Lyon Arboretum in the Manoa Valley of Oahu, Hawaii
The views of the mountains from Lyon Arboretum are gorgeous!

There are several themed gardens at Lyon Arboretum that you can stroll.

Observe the bromeliads in the Betty Ho Memorial Garden, and snap photos of the antique Chinese pots en route. Admire the gazebo and the pond in the Young Memorial Garden.

The Native Hawaiian Garden features species that were collected in the wild on Oahu, and some from other Hawaiian islands as well. Near the Rain Shelter, look for the standing Buddha statue.

If you are up for a more challenging trek, walk up to Inspiration Point for panoramic views of the mountains and the valley.

Flowering plant at the Lyon Arboretum in Oahu, Hawaii
Lyon Arboretum has many varieties of flowering plants and trees
Moss-covered tree trunks at Lyon Arboretum in Oahu, Hawaii
Beautiful moss-covered tree trunks at Lyon Arboretum make great photo subjects!

If you like chasing waterfalls, hike the main trail all the way to the end to see ʻAihualama Falls, but note that it only flows if it has rained recently.

Enjoy spotting birds on your garden walks? In the tall trees near the visitor center, you’ll see lots of white cockatoos and green ring-necked parakeets. They are both invasive species.

Lyon Arboretum is located in the lush Manoa Valley, adjacent to the trailhead for Manoa Falls (see map). It is free to enter, but a donation is suggested.

7. Wahiawa Botanical Garden

A smallish garden at just 27 acres, Wahiawa Botanical Garden is one of the five gardens in Oahu managed by the City and County of Honolulu.

The garden is located on a high plateau between the Wai‘anae Mountains and the Ko‘olau Mountains, with tropical plants that enjoy the cooler upland location.

Wahiawa Botanical Garden is partly located in a ravine in Central Oahu, Hawaii
A view of Wahiawa Botanical Garden

Wahiawa Botanical Garden makes for a great stop if you are en route to the north shore from Honolulu, even if you just have time for the main terrace.

The main level of Wahiawa Botanical Garden is relatively level and easy to walk. More adventurous visitors can head down some steep steps to explore the lower ravine level, which is less maintained and more rugged.

A flowering plant growing out of tree in Wahiawa Botanical Garden, Oahu
You will see many epiphytic plants in Wahiawa Botanical Garden!

On the main level, there are several beautiful trees to admire, from an enormous ficus with exposed roots snaking along the ground to a cannonball tree with large cannons clinging to it.

Look for the many fruit, nut, and spice trees like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, banana, and coffee. There’s also a spectacular rainbow eucalyptus with its signature colorful trunk.

Rainbow Eucalyptus in Wahiawa Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
The colorful trunk of the rainbow eucalyptus in Wahiawa Botanical Garden
Palm Tree in Wahiawa Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
Palm tree in Wahiawa Botanical Garden

You’ll see many native Hawaiian trees in the garden as well, such as the ohia lehua, wiliwili, and loulu palms.

Wahiawa Botanical Garden is located in the little town of Wahiawa in Central Oahu (see map), and is free to visit.

8. Lili’uokalani Botanical Garden

The small 7.5-acre Lili’uokalani Botanical Garden has a park ambience, with many mature trees. It is set by the Nu’uanu Stream in downtown Honolulu.

The land on which this garden stands today was once the property of Queen Lili’uokalani, the last reigning monarch of Hawaii. She maintained a house on the property for many years.

A few years before she died, Queen Lili’uokalani donated the property to Honolulu, to be maintained for the enjoyment of the public.

And thus this garden became one of the five Honolulu Botanical Gardens.

Banyan Tree in Oahu with aerial roots
Admire the aerial roots of the banyan tree

Much of the property was undeveloped when it was donated, and it has not been much developed since, remaining a natural landscape.

Lili’uokalani mainly features native Hawaiian plants and trees, and one of its striking features is a small waterfall, the Waikahalulu Waterfall.

More than two dozen monkeypod trees, with their beautiful canopies, can be viewed by the stream. A paved path leads from the entrance to the stream and the waterfall.

Also look for banyan, ficus, kukui, tamarind, wiliwili, and loulu palms.

Kukui nut tree with young fruit
Kukui nut tree: the fruit is used to make lei

Lili’uokalani Botanical Garden is located walking distance from Foster Botanical Garden in downtown Honolulu (see map), and is free to visit.

Map of the Best Gardens in Oahu, Hawaii

More Hawaii Travel Inspiration

If you are considering a Hawaii vacation, check out our round-up of the best things to do in Hawaii, by island.

And read our article on the best places to visit in Hawaii, from Kauai’s Na Pali Coast to Pearl Harbor in Oahu.

We also have a compilation of the best things to do in Maui, from sunrise at the top of Halekala to snorkeling at Molokini.

And if you are planning a trip to Oahu, be sure to check out our in-depth guide to visiting the Dole Plantation!

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Discover the best public gardens in Oahu to put on your itinerary for the island. From lush Waimea Valley in the north to the unique Koko Crater Botanical Garden in the bowl of the crater and the very large Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden on Oahu's east side, there are many must-visit botanical gardens in Oahu! #oahutravel #oahuhawaii

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Dhara's travel interests are eclectic, spanning everything from natural wonders to history, culture, art and architecture. She has visited 22 countries, many more than once, plus almost all 50 states of the USA, and has amassed a hoard of cherished travel moments.

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