Foster Botanical Garden in Oahu

Foster Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii (Complete 2024 Guide!)

A must-visit Honolulu attraction, Foster Botanical Garden is the oldest botanical garden on the island of Oahu.

Foster Botanical Garden is one of the five botanical gardens on Oahu managed by the City and County of Honolulu. It is a tranquil green oasis in the heart of the bustling city.

Covering just 14 compact acres, Foster Botanical Garden is known in particular for its mature trees. Some of the magnificent specimens here were planted in the 1850s and are the core of what ultimately became the botanical garden.

Sausage Tree at the Foster Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
The sausage tree at the Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu

We’ve visited Foster Botanical Garden a few times now, in fact it’s one of our favorite relaxing things to do in Oahu. It is not very far from Waikiki, where we usually base when we visit the island, and makes for a nice stroll if you love plants, as we do.

In this article, we describe what to see and do at the Foster Botanical Garden, how to get there, and our tips for an enjoyable experience.

If you enjoy gardens, we also have guides to the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden and the Koko Crater Botanical Garden, both in Oahu.

Looking for fun excursions for your Oahu itinerary? Consider a snorkeling tour at Turtle Canyon, where Hawaiian green sea turtle sightings are very commonplace!

And now, let’s get starting discovering how to visit the Foster Botanical Garden!

Walking into Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu, Oahu
Walking into the Foster Botanical Garden

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Things to Do in Foster Botanical Garden

Take a self-guided tour of the themed gardens

When you pay your entrance fee, you will receive a detailed map to Foster Botanical Garden.

Using your map as a guide, wander the pathways to view the different sections of the garden.

Water feature at the entrance to Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu, Oahu
A water feature at the entrance to the garden

Many of the mature trees in Foster Botanical Garden are located in the middle and upper terraces. The upper terrace also houses the garden’s collection of beautiful palms.

The middle terrace has some of the flowering plants in the garden (it’s a largely green garden with not a lot of color). Look for heliconias and birds of paradise!

Heliconia at the Foster Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
A heliconia at the Foster Botanical Garden

The economic garden houses many mature specimens, including cinnamon, coffee, breadfruit, macadamia nut, and cacao. You can walk on the lawn here to view the trees up close if you like.

The garden also houses a collection of cycads, as well as bromeliads and plumeria.

There is a lovely gazebo in the upper part of the garden, perfect for photos.

Gazebo at Foster Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
Pretty gazebo in Foster Botanical Garden

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!

Admire the “Exceptional Trees”

The “exceptional trees” are very much the stars of Foster Botanical Garden. They have been singled out by the City and County of Honolulu for protection because of various factors like age, rarity, or historic or cultural value.

There are about two dozen exceptional trees in Foster Botanical Garden.

Quipo Tree at the Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu, Oahu

Near the entrance is the Bo Tree, a clone descendant of the original Bodhi Tree under which Gautama Buddha sought enlightenment. The cutting was received in Honolulu in 1913 and planted here.

You’ll have to crane your neck to look up towards the top of the quipo tree, whose trunk towers up into the sky. This is the largest quipo tree in the country.

The cannonball tree bears flowers on stalks that project directly from the trunk, and the giant fruit — the cannonballs — are a curiosity you have to see.

Cannonball tree in Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu, Oahu
Cannonball tree at the Foster Botanical Garden

You’ll want to stand clear though — you definitely don’t want one of those cannonballs falling on your head.

Step inside the small conservatory

The conservatory at the Foster Botanical Garden is just a small room, but it’s worthwhile stepping inside.

Here you will find a few varieties of colorful orchids and other hothouse plants from different parts of the world.

Orchids in the conservatory at the Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu, Oahu
Orchids in the Foster Botanical Garden conservatory
Hothouse plants in the conservatory at the Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu, Oahu
A pitcher plant in the conservatory at Foster Botanical Garden

There is also a corpse flower here, which puts forth its gigantic smelly bloom only once in several years. If you happen to read that it’s in bloom when you visit, be sure to stop in to see it!

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!

Look for colorful butterflies in the Butterfly Garden

Just outside the conservatory is a small garden with colorful flowers like hibiscus. It’s one of the few areas in the garden that offers bursts of color.

Hibiscus in butterfly garden at Foster Botanical Garden in Oahu
A hibiscus in the butterfly garden
Informational sign at Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu
A sign helps you identify the butterflies you may see!

If you are patient, you will likely see one or more butterflies alighting on the flowers.

There is also a gorgeous flame of the forest tree just outside the conservatory. It looks stunning in bloom.

Snap photos of the Hiroshima Monument

The Hiroshima Monument is a granite sculpture that was donated by the United Japanese Society of Hawaii to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii.

The sculpture was created by Yoshinari Kochi, and stands near the conservatory at the Foster Botanical Garden.

The Hiroshima Monument at the Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu
The Hiroshima Monument

Admire the statue of Daibutsu

The statue of Daibutsu, a replica of the Great Buddha of Kamakura, also stands in the grounds of the Foster Botanical Garden.

The statue of Daibutsu at the Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu, Oahu
The statue of Daibutsu
Trunk of baobab tree at Foster Botanical Garden in Oahu
The trunk of the massive baobab tree at Foster Botanical Garden

This statue was dedicated in 1968, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii.

Here you will also find a magnificent baobab tree, planted in the early 1900s.

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!

Look for birds

You may see (and hear!) birds as you stroll through the Foster Botanical Garden.

The common mynah is a very common sight, as is the red-crested cardinal. We usually see a couple of white-rumped shamas and zebra doves as well.

You can download a bird list if you enjoy birdwatching.

White-rumped shama in oahu, Hawaii
A white-rumped shama is one of the birds you may see in the garden!

View the informative displays at the gift shop

The gift shop and visitor center at the entrance has several informative displays that are worth browsing.

You’ll see fruits and seed from some of the trees in the garden.

Informative display at the Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu, Oahu
One of the informative displays at the entrance to Foster Botanical Garden

The gift shop also has a variety of garden-themed souvenirs for sale, as well as some Hawaii-themed books and bags. Worth a browse!

Gift shop at the Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu, Oahu

Getting to the Foster Botanical Garden

Foster Botanical Garden is located in downtown Honolulu. The street address is 180 N. Vineyard Blvd. Honolulu, HI 96817.

By Car

The easiest way to visit the garden, if you have a rental car, is to drive. From Waikiki, where many visitors to the island stay, it is about a 15-minute drive in normal traffic (see map).

Foster Botanical Garden has a parking lot. Parking is free and we’ve never had an issue finding a vacant slot.

Sign at entrance to the Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, Oahu
Driving into the parking lot at the garden

By Bus

If you do not have a car, you can take TheBus, the local public bus. Take bus number 2 or 13 to Liliha and Vineyard and walk to Foster Botanical Garden, or take number 4 to Nuuanu and Vineyard.

The bus takes much longer than driving though (about 40 minutes each way), so allow for enough time.

By Hop On, Hop Off Trolley

If you opted for the Waikiki Trolley (Hop On, Hop Off), Foster Botanical Garden is a stop on their red line, which also covers other attractions in downtown Honolulu.

By Uber or Lyft

And finally, you can take an Uber or Lyft from Waikiki to Foster Botanical Garden. If you avoid the morning rush hour time, rates are reasonable and rides are plentiful.

The Bo Tree at the Foster Botanical Garden in Oahu
The Bo Tree in the garden

Foster Botanical Garden Hours and Fees

Foster Botanical Garden is open daily from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. It is closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

There is an entrance fee but no parking fee to visit Foster Botanical Garden. At the time of writing, general adult admission is $5.00. Hawaii residents pay $3.00 per adult. Kids 6-12 are charged $1.00 each, and kids under 6 are admitted free.

Lilies blooming in Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu
Lilies in bloom at the garden

The Best Time to Visit Foster Botanical Garden

You can visit Foster Botanical Garden year round.

Foster Botanical Garden is largely a “green” garden with lots of trees and a park-like ambience, so it’s worth visiting regardless of the season. There are a few flowering trees and plants, but not enough to build a visit around them.

In the summer, the garden can offer a little bit of shade on a day you are walking around the historic district of Honolulu.

What to Do Near Foster Botanical Garden

Visit the Lili’uokalani Botanical Garden

Just a short walk from Foster Botanical Garden, Lili’uokalani Botanical Garden houses many mature trees.

Some of the land on which the garden stands was gifted to the city by Queen Lili’uokalani, the last reigning monarch of Hawaii.

Marvel at the gorgeous banyans and the many mature monkeypod trees by the Nuuanu Stream, and snap photos of the pretty little waterfall.

Admire the beautiful shrines

Just by the entrance to Foster Botanical Garden you will find the beautiful Kuan Yin Temple, with its signature green roof and striking red columns.

Kuan Yin Temple Honolulu Oahu
The Kuan Yin Temple in Honolulu

The Chinese Buddhist temple is the oldest temple in Honolulu, and if it’s open, you may want to step inside for a few moments of meditation.

The interior is richly carved and has a large statue of the Buddha.

Across the street is the Izumo Taishakyo Mission of Hawaii, a Shinto shrine with a gorgeous roof.

Explore Chinatown

Chinatown Honolulu has a somewhat seedy past, but it has undergone a rejuvenation and is a historic district worth exploring.

Stroll Maunakea Street, where you will find the colorful Maunkea Marketplace, and lei shops where you can see people making fresh lei.

Maunakea Marketplace Chinatown Honolulu
The Maunakea Marketplace in Chinatown in Honolulu

There are many beautiful buildings to admire in Chinatown! Many of them date back to the early 1900s, built after a fire in 1900 destroyed the area.

Walk Honolulu’s historic core

Honolulu’s historic district has a plethora of attractions, from the iconic Iolani Palace to the statue of King Kamehameha.

Take a self-guided walking tour to admire the many historic buildings.

Allow plenty of time if you want to tour the inside of the Iolani Palace or visit the Hawaii State Art Museum.

Map of Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu, Oahu

Tips for Visiting the Foster Botanical Garden in Oahu

Allow enough time

Foster Botanical Garden is not very large, but there are lots of trees and plants to view, so if you enjoy plants and gardens, you will want to allow a couple of hours.

There are benches strewn about the garden, where you can sit for a bit to enjoy the surroundings and to enjoy the birdsong.

Look for artwork in the garden

Along with the plants and trees you may see artwork on display in the garden, so keep your eyes open for sculptures!

Artwork at the Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu, Oahu
A sculpture among the plants in the garden

Wear sun protection

Even though Foster Botanical Garden is somewhat shady, sun protection is still a must.

We use this reef-safe sunscreen that’s perfect for Hawaii. We also use this one sometimes: it’s great for sensitive skin!

Also wear a sun hat with a broad brim (men’s/women’s on Amazon) and sunglasses (we like this brand), and use a lip balm with SPF.

Use bug spray

Bring bug spray or bug wipes to minimize the chance of bites as you stroll the Foster Botanical Garden.

Bring a camera with zoom lens for macro photography

Like photographing birds, plants, or flowers?

If you do not want to bring a heavy lens when you hike or sightsee, check out this tiny camera that fits into your pocket but has a powerful zoom lens.

If you enjoy birding, compact binoculars are great to bring as well.

Stay hydrated as you explore

Bring an adequate supply of drinking water so you can stay hydrated as you explore.

Cold drinks are available for purchase at the gift shop.

Bring snacks

If you plan to stay for some time in the garden, bring some snacks to stay fueled. The gift shop has no snacks, but there is a Napoleons Bakery across the street on Vineyard Boulevard.

If you bring a meal to enjoy in the garden, note that there are benches but no tables. Bring a blanket to lay on the grass! The Upper Terrace has a large grassy area.

What to wear for your visit to the garden

Wear light-colored, loose long-sleeved shirts and long pants to help protect from bug bites, and the sun.

You will find mosquitoes at Foster Botanical Garden no matter the time of day or year. It’s shady, and there is standing water in some places.

Colorful flowers on the cannonball tree at Foster Botanical Garden in Oahu
The colorful flowers of the cannonball tree

Also wear comfortable walking shoes

Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes.

Although the pathways within the garden are mostly level and paved, you will still find uneven parts, as well as a lot of plant debris.

Closed-toed shoes with good grip are helpful.

Exercise care as you walk the paths and trail

The paths in the garden may have uneven patches and cracks.

You will also likely walk on mud and damp grass, and there will be fallen branches and protruding roots.

Watch your step as you explore!

Do not touch the plants

Do not handle plants or put any plants or plant parts in your mouth. Some plants may be poisonous or cause adverse reactions.

There may be bugs on tree trunks and plants. Do not lean against trees.

Keep your distance from wildlife

Observe wildlife such as mongoose from a distance. Do not touch or feed wildlife or birds you see in the garden!

Do not pick plants, flowers, fruit, or seeds

This one should be obvious. Please leave only with memories and photos!

A cycad at the Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu, Oahu
A stunning cycad in the garden

Do not bring pets

Pets are not permitted in the Foster Botanical Garden, so you’ll want to leave them behind on your visit to this garden.

There are restrooms in the garden

You will find two sets of restrooms in the garden, one by the entrance and one on the Upper Terrace.

Do not leave personal belongings visible in your car

Foster Botanical Garden has a fairly well-trafficked parking lot, but it’s good to be prudent and put all personal belongings out of sight in the trunk of your car.

Take valuables with you.

Ti plant in bloom at the Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu
A ti plant in bloom in the garden

The Best Oahu Tours

Have you booked these popular Oahu tours and excursions yet?

Love snorkeling? This Turtle Canyon snorkeling excursion from Waikiki lets you frolic with colorful fish and Hawaiian green sea turtles. Hands down the MOST BOOKED Oahu snorkeling tour: turtle sightings are guaranteed!

The most popular luau in Oahu, Paradise Cove Luau has a 4.5 rating on Viator with over 3.5K reviews. The tour includes pick-up from your Waikiki hotel, pre-dinner games, arts, and crafts, a delicious meal, and an award-winning show.

Based in Waikiki but want to see more of the island? This full-day Oahu Circle Island Tour includes Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Haleiwa, the Dole Plantation, and more!

Pay your respects at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor! This popular Pearl Harbor tour includes boat tickets and round-trip transport from Waikiki.

A super popular Oahu North Shore excursion, this Oahu shark cage dive allows you to observe wild sharks in the open ocean from the safety of a cage! It’s a THRILLING Oahu adventure for your bucket list.

We have a detailed guide to the top Oahu tours and excursions if you are in the midst of planning your itinerary for the island.

Renting a Car in Oahu

If you want to explore more of the island of Oahu on your vacation, you should get a rental car.

Oahu’s popular attractions are spread over the island: the windward coast, the North Shore, and Ko Olina are great places to explore beyond Waikiki (or the greater Honolulu area).

While Oahu does have public transport options that are better than the other islands, a car offers a lot more flexibility and time savings.

We always use Discover Cars to book Oahu car rentals. They search across a variety of rental car companies, both budget and brand, to offer you the best deals, AND they offer free cancellations. Plus, there are no hidden fees.

>> Check availability and prices on Oahu car rentals now!

Honolulu Airport-Hotel Shuttle

If you are not planning to get a rental car at Honolulu Airport, consider booking shuttle transport in advance!

This shared shuttle can be canceled up to 24 hours from the date of service. It serves hotels in Waikiki and Honolulu and then back again to the airport the day you leave. It’s convenient and inexpensive, and saves time and hassle!

>> Check prices and availability for shared round-trip airport transfer in Oahu now!

Staying in Ko Olina? Consider this round-trip airport transfer instead!

Where to Stay in Oahu

Honolulu (Waikiki in particular) offers a large number of hotels and resorts, along with shopping and dining options. Most visitors to Oahu choose to base in Honolulu at least for a part of their stay.

While many of the large chains have a presence if you are looking to use your memberships, Honolulu also has several unique boutiques to consider.

Our faves include Halekulani for a splurge stay, the Lotus Honolulu for views of Diamond Head, and The Laylow for its awesome location.

Want more room to spread out or looking to stay elsewhere on Oahu? You will find VRBO listings all over the island!

On previous trips to Oahu, we have stayed in VRBO rentals in Waikiki as well as on the North Shore and the east coast and we’ve found the choice and quality great.

>> Look for an Oahu vacation rental on VRBO now!

Pincushion flower in bloom at the Foster Botanical Garden in Oahu
A pincushion flower in bloom in the garden

More Oahu Travel Inspiration

Planning a trip to Oahu? Check out our other in-depth Oahu travel guides for help finalizing your Oahu itinerary!

Start by discovering the best things to do in Oahu. We also have a detailed guide to Oahu’s North Shore, a round-up of things to do on the east side of Oahu, and the best things to do in Ko Olina, on the west coast of the island.

If you ar planning a short first visit to the island, we have the perfect day-by-day 3 days in Oahu itinerary for you!

Of course you’ll want to learn about all the exciting things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital, and Waikiki, the touristic core of Oahu. We also have an article on the best places to eat in Waikiki!

Check out our guide to the best beaches in Oahu, and a round-up of the best beaches on the north shore of Oahu. Also read about must-visit Oahu waterfalls and botanical gardens in Oahu you have to visit.

Oahu is home to so many must-visit landmarks! Check out our in-depth article on how to visit Pearl Harbor, and our guides on the beautiful Waimea Valley in Oahu and the spectacular Byodo-In Temple.

Want to enjoy the thrill of observing sharks in the wild? Check out our article on shark cage diving on Oahu’s North Shore!

Discover the top places to go snorkeling in west Oahu, where you will find a long coastline with lovely beaches, and tips for snorkeling Kaneohe Sandbar on the island’s east coast as well as the super popular Hanauma Bay.

And if you love marine life, also check out our complete guide to (respectfully!) see and swim with dolphins in Oahu, and the best spots to snorkel with turtles in Oahu.

For hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, we have a round-up of the best Oahu hikes, and if you are looking to exclude the harder Oahu trails, a guide to the best easy Oahu hikes.

Find out how to do the iconic (and VERY popular) Diamond Head Hike near Waikiki for exceptional views. We also have a guide to the very popular Manoa Falls Trail in Honolulu.

More advanced hikers will want to read up on the Koko Head Hike, a long set of stairs leading to expansive views.

Learn where to go for the best sunsets in Oahu, whether you want to hike or enjoy watching a colorful Hawaiian sunset without working up a sweat.

We also have a guide to the best sunrise hikes in Oahu, one of which is the spectacular Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail in the southeastern part of the island. The Lanikai Pillbox Hike is another wonderful sunrise hike on Oahu!

If you are a garden enthusiast, check out our detailed guide to the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, our article on the unique Koko Crater Botanical Garden, and our guide to Foster Botanical Garden!

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Discover the complete guide to visiting the Foster Botanical Garden in downtown Honolulu in Oahu, Hawaii! What to see and do, how to get to the garden, and the best time to go.

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