Limahuli Garden and Preserve in Kauai, Hawaii

Limahuli Garden in Kauai, Hawaii: The Complete 2024 Guide!

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Garden lover planning a visit to Kauai? Be sure to put Limahuli Garden on your itinerary for the island!

One of the best botanical gardens in Kauai, Limahuli Botanical Garden is located on the island’s scenic north shore. In fact, visiting the garden is one of the best things to do on the north shore of Kauai.

Limahuli Garden is home to numerous native and culturally-significant plant species, in an authentic Hawaiian setting. If you are interested in native Hawaiian plants, you won’t find a better place in Kauai to see and enjoy them!

Tree bark in Limahuli Garden Kauai
Limahuli Garden is a nature photographer’s paradise!

While Kauai has several gardens you can visit — it’s nicknamed the Garden Isle, after all — our favorite Kauai garden is Limahuli. There’s something about walking this garden on a misty north shore morning that’s quintessential Kauai.

Not only does Limahuli Garden boast impressive plant collections, the setting is also spectacular. At the very top of the walk, you’ll enjoy views out to the Pacific Ocean!

For garden enthusiasts, nature lovers, photographers, and history and culture buffs, visiting Limahuli Garden is without a doubt one of the best things to do in Kauai.

In this article, we describe how to visit Limahuli Garden — what to see and do in the garden, how to get there, and the best time to visit.

Visiting Kauai? The only way to get a real feel for the rugged beauty of this incredible island is through a helicopter tour!

A view of the Pacific Ocean from Limahuli Garden in Kauai, Hawaii
Looking out at the Pacific Ocean from Limahuli Garden!

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A Brief History of Limahuli Garden

The 1,000-acre property in Limahuli Valley where Limahuli Garden is located was bought by Ms. Juliet Rice Wichman in 1967. Ms. Wichman was a Hawaiian conservationist and botanist known for her work in preserving Hawaiian culture.

In 1976, Ms. Wichman, who had been restoring the valley in the intervening years, donated 17 acres closest to the Pacific Ocean to the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG), and Limahuli Garden was born.

Landscape in Limahuli Garden in Kauai Hawaii
Beautiful landscape in Limahuli Garden

Today the NTBG manages Limahuli Garden, along with McBryde Garden and Allerton Garden on the south shore of Kauai.

In 1994, the remaining 985 acres were also donated by the Wichman family to the NTBG, creating Limahuli Preserve.

Limahuli Garden and Preserve holds numerous treasures, both in terms of plants and wildlife and cultural and archaeological sites.

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

Things to See and Do in Limahuli Garden

A walking trail in Limahuli Garden leads you through the various exhibits. You’ll get a booklet with a map at the entrance with your paid admission.

The trail is 0.75 mile long, with an elevation change of about 200 feet. Note that there are many steps.

We’ve highlighted some of the areas of Limahuli Garden here, but you’ll find more to see when you explore!

Canoe Garden

Near the entrance is the “canoe” garden, that houses plants that were important to the Hawaiian civilization that once flourished here.

Turmeric plant in Limahuli Garden in Kauai, Hawaii
A turmeric plant in the Canoe Garden

These plants were brought to the valley long ago by the Polynesian peoples that settled here: the plants were used for food, medicine, shelter and more.

You’ll see several varieties of taro on the terraces, as well as ti, with its waxy leaves, sweet potato, turmeric, and more.

Medicine Garden

Right next to the Canoe Garden is the Medicine Garden, where you’ll find plants prized for their therapeutic value. The garden includes native, canoe, and modern plants.

Plants in this garden are changed from time to time, but look for aloe, māmaki (a native plant that’s used to regulate blood pressure), comfrey, ‘olena (a Polynesian canoe plant), and noni, also a Polynesian import.

The noni plant with fruit
Noni fruit

Plantation Garden

In this part of Limahuli Garden you’ll find many of the plants that you typically associate with Hawaii, like plumeria, pineapple, or papaya.

Plumeria in Hawaii
Sweetly scented plumeria

The plants in this garden were brought to Hawaii in the Plantation Era, most of them less than 200 years ago, when immigrant workers from countries like China, Japan, the Philippines, and Portugal arrived to work in the sugar plantations.

Look for the sweetly fragrant plumeria, used to make lei, mango, papaya, colorful bird of paradise, bright orchids, ginger, and heliconia.

You’ll also find vegetables like daikon, bok choy, Chinese broccoli, tatsoi, and tangerine.

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

Limahuli Stream

Limahuli Stream flows through the garden and is a wonderful place to just sit for a few minutes, soaking in the beauty and tranquility of this place.

Limahuli Stream in Limahuli Garden in Kauai, Hawaii
Limahuli Stream cascades over boulders

The stream starts at the top of Limahuli Valley and plunges in an 800-foot waterfall before reaching the valley floor.

Limahuli Stream is home to all five species of native Hawaiian freshwater fish!

Walking down to the stream isn’t advised.

The Hala Plant

The hala plant is native to Hawaii but was also brought here by the Polynesians.

The leaves of this plant were used by the Polynesians to make sails for their canoes, so it was an important plant for them! The leaves were also used to make woven baskets, mats, and other household items.

Hala plants at Limahuli Garden in Kauai, Hawaii
Hala plants at Limahuli Garden

The hala is a striking flowering plant, with male and female trees producing different types of flowers. The flowers on female trees look like pineapples!

Archaeological Site

This area contains rocks believed to have been part of a home or a cultural use site built by ancient Hawaiians.

Stones are the building materials used by Hawaiians to build homes, heiau or sacred sites, terraces to grow crops, and more.

Native Forest

Possibly one of the most exciting parts of Limahuli Garden is the Native Forest Walk.

Here you will find the re-creation of a Hawaiian mesic forest, made possible by removal of alien trees from the area.

Uhiuhi Tree in Limahuli Garden in Kauai, Hawaii
One of the rare trees in the garden

Today you won’t find such a forest in the wild in the lowlands of Hawaii, and you’d have to go up into the mountains to find one.

Some very rare plants have been nurtured here for educational purposes: some of them are extinct in the wild, or very few remain.

Nearby you can also walk through an invasive forest!

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Kauai tours now!

‘Ōhi’a Lehua Trees

The ‘ohi’a lehua tree is revered in Hawaiian culture, and often referenced in song and poetry. The unopened buds, flowers, and leaves are used to make lei.

Ohia lehua trees in Limahuli Garden in Kauai, HI
The Ohia lehua tree is significant in Hawaiian culture
Beautiful flowers from the ohia lehua evergreen plant
Ohia lehua flower

The tree bears beautiful crimson flowers. You can find honey made from the blossoms in the garden gift shop.

‘Ōhi’a lehua trees in Hawaii are being damaged or killed by fungal pathogens. Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death has been detected at various places in Kauai.

Fortunately, the trees at Limahuli are safe so far.

Hale

Toward the end of your walk through Limahuli Garden, you will come to a hale, a traditional Hawaiian house built to resemble one from an ancient complex.

Limahuli Garden on Kauai's north shore.
The hale at Limahuli

The hale is built from strawberry guava, a modern tree, and thatched partially with loulu, a native Hawaiian fan palm.

Limahuli Garden Gift Shop

Be sure to stop by the garden gift shop on your way out!

From botanical themed stationery to jewelry, soap, candles, and other gifts, you will enjoy browsing the shop for souvenirs to take back home.

We picked up some plumeria hair clips that we love!

Plumeria hairclips from Limahuli Garden in Kauai, HI
We love our plumeria hair clips from the gift shop at the garden!

Getting to Limahuli Garden

Limahuli Garden & Preserve is located in the valley of the same name in the northwest part of the island of Kauai. It is just under 7 miles west of Hanalei.

If you have a rental car, you can drive to Limahuli Garden on your own. Take Kuhio Highway west almost to the end of the road. Limahuli Garden comes up just before Haena State Park, which marks the end of the road (see map).

Parking at the garden is tight, and walk-ins may not always be accommodated, so please read the tour reservation information below. A parking spot is included with the advance online purchase of a tour.

You can also take the North Shore Shuttle to Limahuli Garden. Advance reservation of a tour is not required if you have a shuttle voucher you can show at the entrance, and you also get a discount on the garden admission.

The North Shore Shuttle runs between the Waipa Park and Ride Haena State Park Shuttle stop along the Kuhio Highway and Haena State Park.

Seats on the shuttle sell out quickly so buy your shuttle ticket as soon as you know your dates.

An unusual plant in Limahuli Garden in Kauai, HI
Unusual plants abound in the garden!

Limahuli Garden Hours

Limahuli Garden is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8.30 a.m to 4 p.m. Last check-in is at 2.15 p.m., when the entrance gate is shut.

Limahuli Garden Tours and Reservations

You can visit Limahuli Garden on a self-guided tour or a guided tour. We’ve visited both ways.

The guided tour was great for our first visit: the docent was knowledgeable and answered lots of questions!

The Limahuli Garden guided tour is led by a docent and is 2.5 hours long. Online reservations are mandatory for guided tours, whether you plan to drive or use the shuttle. If you plan to drive, request a parking space with your booking.

Guided tours are only offered Tuesday and Thursday, at 9 a.m. Check-in is at 8.45 a.m.

The guided tour is restricted to ages 13 and older, and costs $60.00 per person. For residents of Hawaii, the fee is $40.00 per person, and for NTBG members, $45.00 per person.

If you arrive by the North Shore Shuttle, you receive a discount of $5.00 off the ticket price.

Limahuli Garden can also be visited on a self-guided tour. A minimum of 90 minutes is recommended, but we usually spend 2 to 3 hours.

Online reservations are highly recommended if you need a parking spot. If you arrive without a reservation, you may be turned away if a parking spot isn’t available. You can also arrive by shuttle and walk in.

Self-guided tour slots start at 8.30 a.m. and the last departure is at 2 p.m.

The self-guided tour costs $30.00 per person for ages 13 and up. Kids 12 and under are free. For residents of Hawaii, the fee is $10.00 per person, and for NTBG members, entrance is free.

If you arrive by the North Shore Shuttle, you receive a discount of $5.00 off the ticket price.

We recommend checking operating hours and fees on the official garden website right before your visit.

Hala Flower Limahuli Garden Kauai
Flower on female hala plant in Limahuli Garden

The Best Time to Visit Limahuli Garden

Limahuli Garden is open year round for guided and self-guided tours.

The north shore of Kauai tends to receive a lot of rain in the winter months (between November and March), so summer is the best time to visit from a weather perspective.

If you do visit during the winter, try to pick a relatively dry day if your itinerary allows!

Summer is also the time when plumeria is in bloom and you can smell the sweet fragrance of the flowers.

A view in Limahuli Garden in Kauai
One of the many beautiful views in Limahuli Garden!

Map of Limahuli Garden and Preserve, Kauai

Tips for Visiting Limahuli Botanical Garden in Kauai

Reserve your tour ahead of time if you need parking

Although Limahuli Garden will try to accommodate walk-ins, parking is limited and we’ve never arrived to plenty of vacant spots.

If touring this beautiful garden is on your Kauai bucket list, definitely plan on reserving a tour ahead of your visit. It’s required if you want to join a docent-led tour and also a must if you need a parking spot.

Allow plenty of time

If you plan to tour Limahuli Garden on your own, allow at least two hours (the garden recommends a minimum of 90 minutes).

We love plants and usually spend a morning in the garden (3 to 4 hours). There are benches to sit and relax for a bit and the views are great everywhere you look.

Plus, there’s lots to read in terms of signage (and a very informative guide book), and many, many plants, trees, flowers, and fruit to admire and photograph.

Bud in Limahuli Garden Kauai Hawaii
There is a lot to photograph in Limahuli Garden!

Arrive early

It’s cooler in the mornings, and that’s our preferred time of day to visit Limahuli.

Once it gets hot, the uphill walk can get a little uncomfortable.

Bring a refillable water bottle

Stay hydrated as you explore!

There’s a water station by the visitor center where you can fill up your water bottle.

Wear comfortable walking shoes

You’ll need comfortable walking shoes with good grip for the gentle uphill trail in Limahuli Garden.

The walk can be a little muddy if it’s rained recently or raining when you visit.

a view of Mount Makana from Limahuli Garden in Kauai
Looking up at the mighty Makana mountain from the garden

Bring a rain jacket or poncho

It can rain any time in Kauai! No matter when you visit, be sure to carry a rain jacket or poncho when exploring outdoors.

Many times during our stays on the north shore it has started raining hard with little warning and then dries up completely after a bit.

Without a rain jacket, you may get drenched if you’re caught in one of these frequent showers!

Use bug spray

Limahuli is a tropical garden with some shady areas.

Be sure to use bug spray before you start your exploration of Limahuli Garden, to minimize the potential for bites.

Water cascade in Limahuli Garden in Kauai
Water cascades over rocks in Limahuli Garden

Wear sun protection

Parts of the trail are exposed, so sun protection is a must: sun hat with broad brim, sunscreen, sunglasses, and lip balm with SPF.

We also wear clothing that’s UV resistant if we know we are going to be outdoors for an extended period of time.

Do not expect cellphone coverage

Cellphone coverage can be spotty or non-existent. Download or print your reservation information prior to arriving at the garden so you have it readily available.

The Best Kauai Tours

Have you booked these top Kauai guided adventures yet?

Sunset catamaran tour of the Na Pali Coast (relatively more stable ride, insane views on good weather days!)

Doors-off helicopter tour of Kauai (unobstructed views, chance to see more of the island than you can by land, no middle seats!)

Kayak on the Wailua River plus hike to a waterfall (a super fun activity for active travelers, albeit a little muddy sometimes!)

Raft trip to the Na Pali Coast plus snorkeling (prepare to get wet on this exhilarating adventure!)

Eurocopter ECO-Star helicopter tour over Kauai (the most booked Kauai helicopter tour on Viator with close to 2K reviews and a 5-star rating!)

Entire Kauai Island Air Tour (super popular, less expensive than a heli tour, large bubble windows for flightseeing!)

Renting a Car in Kauai

The best things to do in Kauai are scattered all over the island.

Public transport options on Kauai aren’t great, so if you want to explore the island beyond your base, you’ll want to book a rental car for your Kauai trip.

We always use Discover Cars to book Kauai 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 Kauai car rentals now!

Lihue Airport-Hotel Shuttle

Not planning to pick up a rental car at Lihue airport? Pre-arrange round trip transfer from the airport to your hotel and back!

This shared shuttle serves hotels or vacation rentals in Princeville, Kahala, Poipu, Kapaa, or Lihue, and then back again. It’s convenient and inexpensive, and saves time and hassle!

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

Where to Stay in Kauai

Depending on whether you want a vacation rental with more room and the option to cook some of your meals, or you want a resort or hotel experience, and depending on which part of Kauai you want to choose as your base, you have a variety of options.

Since you’ll likely want to base in a couple places on your trip to Kauai, we suggest starting your search for Kauai accommodations by browsing vacation rentals on VRBO.

We have stayed in VRBO rentals in both Poipu and Princeville and find that the choice and quality are generally great.

>> Look for a Kauai vacation rental on VRBO now!

Want detailed recommendations for accommodations in Kauai? Check out our comprehensive guide to the best places to stay in Kauai!

More Kauai Travel Inspiration

Considering a trip to the Garden Isle in Hawaii? You’ll definitely want to check out some of our other comprehensive Kauai travel and attraction guides!

If you are a first-time visitor to Kauai, start by discovering the best things to do in Kauai! From beaches and botanical gardens to cliffs, canyons, and waterfalls, Kauai has it all, and our round-up lists all of Kauai’s must-experience activities and attractions.

Planning to split a week between Kauai and another island? We have a 3 days in Kauai itinerary article you must read to help flesh out what you would like to see and do!

Learn about the best things to do in Hanalei and Kauai’s scenic north shore, the best things to do in Poipu and Kauai’s south shore, and the most exciting things to do on Kauai’s Coconut Side or east side.

Read our in-depth guide to visiting the Na Pali Coast of Kauai. We give you the full scoop on the best ways to visit this stunning coast in the remote northwest of the island.

Discover our round-up of the nine spectacular state parks in Kauai, which house some of Kauai’s most treasured natural wonders.

We also have visitor’s guides to popular parks like Waimea Canyon State Park, which protects the namesake canyon, nearby Kokee State Park, and the remote but beautiful Polihale State Park.

Also check out the ultimate guide to visiting Haena State Park on Kauai’s north shore, and a full guide to hiking the epic Kalalau Trail.

Check out our round-up of the most beautiful waterfalls in Kauai, from waterfalls you can view from the road to falls that require hiking and falls that are best seen from a helicopter or sightseeing flight. We also have an article on everything you need to know to visit Secret Falls Kauai on an exciting kayaking and hiking tour.

Read our guide to Wailua River State Park to discover two easy-to-access Kauai waterfalls, and our trail guide for the easy hike to Ho’opi’i Falls. We also have an article on the best Kauai waterfall hikes.

And if a helicopter tour is part of your plans for Kauai, read our article on the top-rated helicopter tours in Kauai!

Hiking enthusiasts will want to read our article on the best hikes in Koke’e State Park: the trails here are some of the best hikes in Kauai!

We have detailed trail guides for the most popular Koke’e hikes, from the scenic Canyon Trail to the top of Waipo’o Falls, to the epic Awa’awapuhi Trail, challenging but very rewarding!

Also discover the best hikes in Waimea Canyon State Park, and the best hikes on Kauai’s north shore.

We also have a trail guide for the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail on Kauai’s scenic south shore, an article on how to hike the Sleeping Giant Trail, and a guide to the Kuilau Ridge Trail, one of the easy hikes on Kauai.

Get the scoop on the best botanical gardens in Kauai, from Limahuli Garden on the north shore to McBryde and Allerton Gardens on the south shore. The botanical gardens are great spots to look for the birds of Kauai, as is Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.

Read our guide to the best swimming beaches on Kauai, from Hanalei Bay on the north shore to Poipu Beach on the south shore!

We also have a guide to the best snorkeling beaches on Kauai, a round-up of the best Kauai north shore beaches, and an article on the best Kauai south shore beaches!

And if you love watching the sun go down in a burst of color, be sure to read our article on where to go for the best sunsets on Kauai!

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Discover everything you need to know to visit Limahuli Garden in Kauai, Hawaii. One of the top botanical gardens in Kauai, Limahuli has an impressive collection of native plants. #kauaitravel #limahuligarden

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