If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the natural wonders of Hawaii’s garden island, Kauai, then a visit to its stunning botanical gardens is an absolute must! With five exceptional gardens to explore, including the Allerton Garden and McBryde Garden, your trip to Kauai will be enriched by these captivating green spaces. And guess what? You don’t have to be a gardening enthusiast to appreciate their beauty – we certainly aren’t experts, but these gardens quickly became one of our favorite experiences on the island!
A Paradise of Botanical Gardens in Kauai
One of the delightful aspects that sets Kauai apart from Maui is its abundance of botanical gardens. Tucked away in the secluded Lawai Valley, just a short drive from Poipu on the southern side of Kauai, you’ll find the Allerton and McBryde gardens (also known as the Poipu botanical gardens). These neighboring gems collectively span a staggering 280 acres, showcasing an incredible array of tropical plants.
As avid garden enthusiasts, we’ve had the privilege of strolling through some of the world’s most spectacular gardens. Back home in Victoria, we often bring our out-of-town visitors to the world-renowned Butchart Gardens, and we make it a point to take daily walks through the Government House Gardens near our house. So, when given the opportunity to explore the Allerton McBryde gardens during our last visit to Kauai, we jumped at the chance – and we’re so glad we did!
The History of Allerton and McBryde Gardens
These Kauai botanical gardens have an interesting history, filled with fun facts about Hawaii. When you join a guided tour, you’ll be treated to intriguing tales that add a touch of quirkiness to your experience. The Allerton Garden, once a beloved retreat of Hawaii’s Queen Emma in the late 1800s, features plants such as rose apples, mangoes, bamboo, and bougainvillea, which the queen herself planted on the cliffs of the valley.
In 1899, the property was sold to the McBryde family, who owned vast agricultural land nearby. Alexander McBryde moved one of Queen Emma’s cottages to the valley floor and resided there for many years. He also created beachside gardens, where he planted ferns, plumeria, and palms.
In 1938, the Allertons, renowned philanthropists and avid travelers, purchased the property from Alexander. Robert Allerton, an artist, and his adopted son John Gregg Allerton, an architect, transformed the gardens into a remarkable masterpiece. They designed unique garden “rooms,” featuring lush walls of plants, European statuary, fountains, gravity-fed pools, and cascading waterfalls. Rumor has it that Jacqueline Kennedy even enjoyed visiting the Allertons’ garden estate, partly because they boasted an impressive collection of ballet slippers!
1) Allerton Garden, Kauai
Spread across 80 acres, the Allerton botanical garden has rightfully earned its place as one of National Geographic Traveler’s “50 Places of a Lifetime” to visit. Prepare to be enchanted by the whimsical combination of garden rooms, sculptures, water features, and exotic plants. Marvel at the serene grove of golden bamboo swaying gently in the breeze, explore the cut-flower garden, and immerse yourself in the vibrant beauty of tropical heliconias, ginger, and orchids. Fun fact: Best-selling author Michael Crichton, the mastermind behind Jurassic Park, tied the knot in this magical garden.
2) McBryde Garden, Kauai
Prior to Robert Allerton’s passing, he generously donated funds to acquire the neighboring McBryde property, which was then named the McBryde Garden in 2000, thanks to the philanthropic contributions of the McBryde family. Spanning an impressive 200 acres, these botanical gardens have a more scientific focus compared to the Allerton Garden. They serve as a crucial Noah’s Ark for plant conservation and a living laboratory for protecting endangered tropical plant species from around the world, particularly Hawaiian endemics. Additionally, they play a vital role in cultivating Hawaiian fruits such as breadfruit. You’ll even find 27 “canoe plants” that early Polynesians brought to Hawaii for sustenance, medicine, and shelter. These gardens are dedicated to addressing global hunger as well, with thousands of breadfruit trees sent to developing countries, along with guidance on cultivating them for food.
Other Botanical Gardens to Explore
While the Allerton and McBryde gardens are undoubtedly the highlights, there are three more botanical treasures on Kauai waiting to be discovered!
3) Limahuli Garden
Situated on Kauai’s breathtaking North Shore, the Limahuli Garden is part of the 985-acre Limahuli Preserve. This beautiful 17-acre terraced garden showcases traditional taro fields and various native Hawaiian plant species. As you follow the trail up the lava rock terraces, you’ll encounter informative signs that introduce you to the fascinating array of exotic plants. Once you reach the top, be prepared to be astounded by the awe-inspiring views of the Pacific Ocean and the majestic Kauai mountains.
4) Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens
Na ‘Aina Kai, which translates to “Lands By the Sea,” is an enchanting garden paradise located along Kauai’s North Shore. What started as a personal hobby for Joyce and Ed Doty eventually flourished into a brilliant family-operated botanical garden spanning 240 acres. The gardens feature a hardwood plantation, formal gardens with breathtaking lagoons and cascading waterfalls, a picturesque shower tree park adorned with blooming hibiscus, a serene Japanese teahouse, an intricately designed miniature ahupua’a showcasing an ancient Hawaiian village, and even a reproduction of a Navajo compound. The artistic side of Na ‘Aina Kai is equally remarkable, with around 200 whimsical bronze sculptures scattered throughout the gardens. These life-sized and imaginative sculptures include depictions of families reading on benches, a man and a boy perched atop a giant fish, bears, flocks of birds soaring from lagoons, and even a contemplative frog in a pond. Children will love the Swiss Family Robinson-inspired treehouse and the poinciana maze!
5) Princeville Botanical Gardens
Nestled away on Kauai’s secluded North Shore, the Princeville Botanical Gardens began as a personal venture for Bill and Lucinda Robertson over 20 years ago. Thanks to their dedication and hard work, these family-operated gardens have flourished into a breathtaking collection of plants, trees, and flowers. Like the McBryde gardens, they feature a diverse range of healthy food plants, as well as native and “canoe” species unique to Hawaii. Wander through groves buzzing with honey bees, marvel at endangered and exotic flowers, discover medicinal plants, and explore the coffee and cacao trees that grace these gardens.
Kauai: A Paradise for Garden Lovers
Kauai truly lives up to its name as the “garden isle,” boasting unparalleled natural beauty. The botanical gardens of Kauai play a vital role in preserving rare plants, sacred flowers, indigenous flora, and vital canoe plants that have the potential to nourish communities worldwide. Visiting these stunning gardens is not only a treat for the eyes but also an opportunity to appreciate the wonders of nature.
So, why not plan your trip to Kauai and include a visit to one or more of these exquisite botanical gardens? Trust us, you won’t be disappointed!
Where to Stay?
Check out our comprehensive reviews of the best hotels and resorts in Kauai to find the perfect accommodation for your garden adventure.
Have You Explored These Kauai Botanical Gardens?
If you’ve had the chance to tour any of these magnificent gardens, we’d love to hear about your experience! Share your favorite moments and insights in the Comments below.