Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii

Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii (Ultimate 2024 Guide!)

Want some time in nature away from the beach in Oahu? Head to Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden on the east side of the island for a picturesque green break.

One of the five botanical gardens in Oahu managed by the City and County of Honolulu, Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is a rainforest garden encompassing 400 acres in Kāneʻohe.

Established in 1982, Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden was designed and built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to provide flood protection for Kaneohe.

Ho’omaluhia translates to “place of tranquility,” and the garden is indeed a serene green place.

Driving through the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
Driving through the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

With lush vegetation on either side of the road and drop-dead gorgeous views of the Ko’olau Mountains, Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is a must-visit in Oahu for landscape photographers and nature lovers.

Garden enthusiasts will enjoy collections from many tropical regions around the world, which include many rare and endangered species. Birdwatchers can try to spot some of the close to two dozen species seen in the park.

We’ve visited the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden several times now, even if it’s just a drive through when we are exploring sights on the windward side of Oahu. It’s one of the most scenic and tranquil spots on the island.

In this article, we describe how to visit Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden: what to see and do in the garden, how to get there, and our tips for the best experience.

And if you are a garden enthusiast, also be sure to read our guides to the Koko Crater Botanical Garden and Foster Botanical Garden!

Planning your trip to Oahu? Check out our 2024 guide to the most popular tours and excursions in Oahu!

And now, let’s get started discovering how to visit Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden!

Lush vegetation in Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
Lush vegetation in the Ho’omaluhia Garden

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Things to Do in the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

Drive through the Hoomaluhia Garden

At its simplest, a visit to Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden involves driving the scenic Park Access Road through the garden.

The drive through Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is about 5 miles round trip, and should take you about 15 to 20 minutes going slow.

The entrance to Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is a photo subject that’s very popular on Instagram. The road here, lined with palm trees and other plants and trees, with the backdrop of the Koolau Mountains, does indeed make for a stunning scene.

Entrance to the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
The entrance to Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

There are lots of signs asking that you not stop your vehicle to take photos or pose for middle-of-the-road photos here. Please heed the signs!

The speed limit is very low, though, so if you are a passenger, you can take photos as you go.

Or, if there is a spot open outside the security gate, you can park there while you walk in and take your photos.

The rest of the drive is very picturesque as well, with several places that offer gorgeous views of the Ko’olau Range. The mountains are so close that it feels like you can reach out and touch them!

if you visit after rains, you may see impromptu waterfalls running down the mist-laden ridges: it’s an amazing sight.

You will see a bewildering variety of plants and trees on either side of the road.

View of the Koolau Mountains on the drive through the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
A view of the Ko’olau Mountains on the drive through the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
A flowering plant in the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
A flowering plant seen on a drive through the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden

Note that the Park Access Road dead-ends, at which point you have to turn around and return to the start point in order to exit the garden.

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

Step inside the visitor center

If you plan to explore Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden in greater depth (and you should!), then the garden visitor center is a good first stop.

Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden Visitor Center, Oahu, Hawaii
The visitor center at the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

Here you can obtain information about the garden, get a map if you did not download one from the site, and browse the small art gallery that showcases the works of local artists.

Stroll down to the lake

At the visitor center is one of the must-walk trails in Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden. The trail is paved part of the way and leads down to the lake.

The 32-acre man-made reservoir, called Loko Waimaluhia, contains fish, mainly tilapia and bright orange midas cichlid. You may see waterfowl as well.

Cichlid in the lake at Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
Cichlid at Loko Waimaluhia

At the time of writing, the garden’s catch-and-release fishing program has been suspended, but you can feed the fish if you wish.

The trail down to the lake and back is pleasant, and should take about 20 minutes each way if you stop to observe the many fine plant specimens along the route.

The trail to the lake in Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii

Look for the lipstick plant, heliconias, cacao, monkeypod, ficus, cashew, and other plants and trees.

Note that entry into the water is prohibited due to the presence of bacteria.

Tour the showcase gardens

There are eight geographically themed gardens at Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden, and for the garden enthusiast, they are the highlight of this large park-like garden.

The impressive botanical collections come from the Philippines, Malaysia, Tropical America, India and Sri Lanka, Melanesia, Hawaii, Polynesia, and Africa.

Important plants and trees in the showcase gardens and elsewhere are labeled.

Elephant apple tree
Look for the elephant apple tree in the India section

The gardens are laid out along the Park Access Road, and the most efficient way to visit them is to drive the road in your car, park at designated parking areas, and view the nearby collections.

The Hawaii section features native Hawaiian plants like the loulu palm and the alahe’e tree with its glossy green leaves. The Polynesian section features hala, breadfruit, and other species.

Polynesian section of Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden
The Polynesian section of the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden

You’ll find plants and trees to admire in each of these showcase gardens, with several varieties of palms, flowering bushes, and trees that bear edible fruit.

Stop at the Kilonani Mauka viewpoint

The parking area at the Kilonani Mauka viewpoint along the Park Access Road offers fabulous views of the Koolau Mountains.

Parking area at the Kilonani Mauka Overlook at Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu
View of the Koolau Mountains from the parking area at the Kilonani Mauka Overlook

There is a short steep trail you can walk here that leads to a viewing area with views over the whole garden and the mountains.

If you have the time, this short walk is great for taking photos. The vegetation all around is lush and green as well.

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

And at the Kahua Nui viewpoint

The Kahua Nui viewpoint comes up almost toward the end of the Park Access Road, where the Africa section is located.

Kilonani Mauka Viewpoint at the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
Walking up to the viewing area at Kahua Nui

Walk up to the pavilion for gorgeous views of the Ko’olau Mountains.

Enjoy a picnic

There are picnic tables scattered throughout the garden, and the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is the perfect place to eat a meal in nature.

Right by the visitor center is a large grassy area with several picnic tables and views of the mountains if you want to stop here to eat after you explore the garden.

Picnic tables near rthe visitor center at Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
Picnic tables by the visitor center

Hike a trail

You can of course park at the entrance and the walk the length of the Park Access Road and back for a five-mile walk along the paved road. We’ve seen people walking the road on more than one of our visits to the garden!

But most visitors pick some of the shorter trails and paths in Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden to explore.

The trail from the visitor center down to the lake and back is the most popular trail in the garden.

Ti plants and palms on the trail to the reservoir at Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
Ti plants and palms along the trail to the lake at Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden

But you can also walk another loop trail at the back of the India + Sri Lanka garden that takes you to the edge of Loko Waimaluhia and offers a view of the island in the lake.

There’s also a trail that follows one of the streams running through the garden.

Look for the trails on the garden map or ask about them at the visitor center if you have the time and want to walk them!

Look for birds

Close to two dozen species of birds have been spotted at the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden.

Red-crested cardinal at the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu, HI
Red-crested cardinal in the garden

If you are an avid birdwatcher, you will want to bring your binoculars and zoom lens and keep your eyes peeled for Hawaiian birds as you stroll the paths in the garden.

You can obtain a birding guide at the visitor center.

The common mynah and the red-crested cardinal are very common and you will almost certainly see these species.

Also fairly common are the Java finch, the white-rumped shama (a very pretty bird!), and the Pacific golden plover. Mallard ducks are plentiful by the lake.


Want to experience the quiet surroundings of Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden overnight? You can camp here on weekends!

Tent camping at the campsites here is allowed by prior reservation, from 9 a.m. Friday until 4 p.m. Monday.

You will find restrooms, showers, and potable water.

Getting to the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

The Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is located in Kaneohe on the east side of Oahu. The street address is 45-680 Luluku Rd, Kaneohe, HI 96744.

Driving yourself is the easiest way to visit the garden. From Waikiki, the garden is about a 40-minute drive via Highway 1 West and Highway 63 North in normal traffic (see map).

You can also take TheBus, the local public bus, from the Ala Moana Center. Take the number 60 bus and get off at the Anoi/Hinamoe stop, which is a 10-minute walk from the botanical garden gate.

The bus takes much longer though, and it will also take longer to explore the garden on foot, so allow for enough time.

Koolau Mountains from Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu
A view of the Koolau Mountains from Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden

Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden Hours and Fees

Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is open daily from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., other than on Christmas and New Year’s, when it is closed.

There is no entrance fee and no parking fee to visit the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden.

The Best Time to Visit Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden

You can visit the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden year round. The gardens are large enough that they do not feel crowded.

Note that this part of Oahu is rainy, so check the weather forecast before you head out.

Lush vegetation at the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden on Oahu, Hawaii
Lush rainforest vegetation in the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

Ideally, if your itinerary allows, plan to visit on a dry day just after a rainy period. The mountains look wonderful shrouded in mist and you may see temporary waterfalls cascading down the ridges.

We love visiting the garden in the morning, when it’s a little cooler.

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

What to Do Near the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

There are plenty of Oahu attractions to visit near the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden!

Admire the Byodo-In Temple

A smaller replica of the centuries-old Byodo-In Temple in Japan, Oahu’s Byodo-In Buddhist temple makes a striking statement against the backdrop of the Koolau Mountains.

Admire the lovely architecture of the red temple, ring the sacred bell at the entrance, stroll the lush grounds, and feed the koi and the swans in the pond!

Intrigued? Read our in-depth guide to the Byodo-In Temple on Oahu!

The Byodo-In Temple in Oahu, Hawaii
The Byodo-In Temple in Oahu

Snorkel at the Kaneohe Sandbar

The Kaneohe Sandbar is a unique sight on Oahu’s east side.

At low tide, the strip of sand is surrounded by ocean on all sides, making for a cool place to sunbathe, play beach games, and swim or snorkel if conditions allow.

The views from the sandbar are fabulous as well!

Stop by Kualoa Regional Park

A quick stop at the Kualoa Regional Park yields beautiful views of the Mokoliʻi islet, also known as Chinaman’s Hat.

A view of Chinaman's Hat from Kualoa Regional Park in Oahu, Hawaii

If you have more time, you can kayak out to the islet and hike to the top.

Kualoa Regional Park also offers wonderful views of the Koolau Mountains. The white sand beach makes for a pleasant stroll.

Birdwatchers should bring their binoculars and try to spot some of the many wetland birds you can see here, from the black-crowned night heron to the wedge-tailed shearwater.

Join a tour at Kualoa Ranch

Kualoa Ranch, which is located across from Kualoa Regional park, is a popular tourist destination on Oahu.

The working cattle ranch has a very picturesque setting at the base of the Koolau Range and is home to many movie sites.

You have to invest in a tour to see the ranch: book the popular Hollywood Sites Tour to explore the ranch by bus, or opt for the more adventurous UTV Raptor Tour!

Map of Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, Oahu

Tips for Your Visit to the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

Bring rain gear

The rainforest environment of Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden creates a magical ambience, but visit prepared for rain showers!

We always bring lightweight ponchos or rain jackets in our backpacks or daybags when we go sightseeing in Hawaii. They’ve come in handy on more than one occasion!

Wear sun protection

Sun protection is a must, even though you’ll find shady areas at the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden for respite.

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

Also be sure to 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.

A striking bush in the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
A beautiful bush in the garden on a nice sunny day

Use bug spray

Bring bug spray or bug wipes to minimize the chance of bites as you stroll the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden: the rainforest location means lots of mosquitoes, especially by the lake and in shady areas.

Bring a camera with zoom lens for macro photography

If you like photographing birds, plants, or flowers, but do not want to lug around a heavy lens when you hike or sightsee, check out this tiny camera that fits into your pocket but has a nice powerful zoom lens.

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

White-rumped shama in Oahu, Hawaii
A white-rumped shama

Allow enough time

If you just want to drive through the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden, you only need about 30 minutes or so. It’s an easy and quick activity as part of a broader Oahu east side itinerary.

But if you can afford the time, allow about 3-4 hours at the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden to really soak in the beauty of the setting, walk the trail down to the lake, admire individual plant specimens in the showcase gardens, and enjoy a leisurely picnic on the grounds.

Stay hydrated as you explore

Bring your refillable water bottle to Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden, so you can fill up and stay hydrated.

You will find bottle-filling stations at the visitor center.

Palm tree in the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii
You will see many varieties of palm at the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden!
We loved the trunk of this palm tree!

Bring snacks and / or a picnic

Planning to spend a few hours in the garden?

Pack snacks to stay fueled as you explore, and a picnic meal to enjoy at one of the picnic areas amidst the trees and plants!

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.

Also wear comfortable walking shoes

Be sure to wear appropriate walking shoes if you plan to explore the garden on foot.

Closed-toed shoes with good grip are helpful on paths that can be muddy and slippery after rain.

Views of the Koolau Mountains from Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu
A view of the Koolau Mountains from the garden

Exercise care as you walk the paths and trails

Paths and trails in the gardens may be uneven, or wet and slick. There may be thorns, exposed roots, vegetation debris, and loose stones and rocks.

Always watch where you are stepping, and be alert to falling branches or fruit.

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 centipedes or other bugs on tree trunks and plants. Do not lean against trees.

Keep your distance from wildlife

Observe wildlife such as mongoose from a distance. Never touch or feed wildlife or birds you see in the gardens. Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden does permit you to feed the fish in the reservoir.

A banyan tree at Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu, HI
A banyan tree in the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

Do not pick plants, flowers, fruit, or seeds

Leave only with memories and photos and video!

Do not bring pets

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

Dine at Haleiwa Joe’s

Looking for a cool place to dine after your visit to the garden?

Haleiwa Joe’s in Kaneohe is as famous for the view from its patio as for its food. It’s located close to the garden, so it’s a great place to go for dinner.

They do not accept reservations though, so plan to arrive a few minutes before opening time or be prepared to wait.

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!

Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu, HI
Many plants and trees throughout the garden are labeled

Honolulu Airport-Hotel Shuttle in Oahu

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!

Vegetation on the drive through Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu, HI
Lush vegetation along the Park Access Road in Hoomaluhia Botanical 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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