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Kauai’s beautiful Allerton and McBryde botanical gardens

Please only travel when and where it’s safe.

The lush “garden isle” of Kauai is a natural spot for the unconventional duo known as the Allerton and McBryde Gardens – the Allerton Garden and McBryde Garden.

These botanical gardens in Kauai are two of five garden sites that make up the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG).

(The other three NTBG gardens are in Florida, Maui and elsewhere on Kauai.)

A unique water feature at the Allerton Garden in Kauai
A unique water feature at the Allerton Garden in Kauai

Side-by-side botanical gardens in Kauai

In the secluded Lawai Valley between rugged cliffs, the two neighboring Kauai gardens encompass 350 acres of land.

They showcase a magnificent variety of tropical plants.

Some of the beautiful blooms you see at the Allerton and McBryde Gardens

We’re not green thumbs.

But we love visiting gardens – and we’ve strolled through some of the world’s most beautiful gardens.

In Puerto Vallarta, we’ve hiked miles of tropical forest trails – past tangled vines and with the symphony of birdsong in our ears – at the Vallarta Botanical Gardens.

And in Victoria where we live, we take out-of-town company to Victoria gardens, like the world-famous Butchart Gardens. We walk most days through the Government House Gardens near our house too.

Allerton McBryde Gardens, Hawaii
Our Kauai Visitors Bureau host is as pretty as the gardens!

So when given the chance to explore the Allerton and McBryde Gardens on our last visit to the Kauai island, we signed up.

And we’re so glad we did!

Exploring these Kauai botanical gardens turned out to be one of our favorite things to do in Kauai.

Botanical gardens in Kauai: Overlooking Allerton Garden
Overlooking Allerton Garden on Kauai’s southwest coast (Credit: NTBG)

Allerton Garden and McBryde Garden: History

Botanical gardens in Kauai
Rare and beautiful flowers bloom at the Allerton and McBryde Gardens in Kauai

Guided visits share a bit of the quirky history of these Kauai botanical gardens in the southwest part of the island.

The Allerton Garden was once a favored retreat of Hawaii’s Queen Emma in the late 1800s.

She loved to plant rose apples, mangoes, bamboo and bougainvillea on the valley cliffs (you can still see some of these plants today).

An orchid grows on the trunk of a tree at these Kauai botanical gardens
An orchid grows on the trunk of a tree at the Allerton McBryde Gardens

The McBryde family (who owned a large section of agricultural land nearby) bought the property from her, conveying the lower valley to Alexander McBryde in 1899.

Alexander moved one of Queen Emma’s cottages to the valley floor, and lived in it for many years.

He also planted ferns, ginger, plumeria and palms in beachside gardens.

Eye-catching lobster claw flowers

The Allertons, world travelers and wealthy philanthropists, bought the property from Alexander in 1938.

Robert Allerton, who was an artist, and his adopted son John Gregg Allerton, an architect, then set about creating unique outdoor “rooms.”

These garden rooms feature walls of plants, European statuary, fountains, gravity-fed pools and cascading waterfalls.

One of the whimsical garden "rooms" at Allerton Garden
One of the whimsical garden “rooms” at Allerton Garden

Later, Jacqueline Kennedy enjoyed visiting the Allertons’ garden estate – in part, rumor has it, because the Allertons had an impressive collection of ballet slippers.

Allerton Garden

Today, the Allerton Garden covers an 80-acre area.

And it’s a garden masterpiece – a unique and whimsical combination of garden rooms, sculptures, water features and exotic plants.

A miniature fountain in the Kauai Allerton Garden
A miniature fountain in the Allerton Garden, Kauai

You can also see the garden’s towering Moreton Bay Figs that were featured in the Jurassic Park movie.

Remember the enormous exposed buttress roots that hid the raptor eggs?

Today, these trees are a favorite spot for visitor photo-ops.

Moreton Fig Tree roots at Allerton Garden, Kauai
Wow! These fig tree roots are enormous!

Fittingly, best-selling author Michael Crichton (who wrote the Jurassic Park book) once married in the gardens too.

McBryde Garden

The McBryde Garden has a more scientific focus.

It is a veritable Noah’s Ark for plant conservation, for protecting endangered tropical plant species from around the world from extinction (in particular, endemic Hawaiian plants) and for growing Hawaiian fruits like breadfruit.

This includes 27 “canoe plants” that the early Polynesians brought with them in their voyaging canoes to Hawaii to sow for food, medicine and shelter.

Breadfruit is one of the “canoe plants” early Polynesians brought to Kauai

Even world hunger is tackled.

Breadfruit, for example, is an important fruit grown in Hawaii.

Thousands of breadfruits originating here have been shipped to developing countries, with information on how to grow the trees for food.

McBryde and Allerton Garden, Kauai

Tours: 2-½ hour guided tours of both Kauai gardens leave from the South Shore Visitors Center daily.

Times: Tour times are 10:30 am and 2:30 pm

Details: For more information on these and other NTBG Kauai garden tours, see here.

Touring these gardens is an eye-opener in more ways than one!

We’re suckers for gardens! In Vancouver, BC, get your flower fix at the VanDusen Botanical Garden

Limahuli Garden and Preserve

The third Kauai botanical garden in the NTBG collection of gardens on Kauai is Limahuli Garden, located on the north shore of Kauai.

Part of the 985-acre Limahuli Preserve, the garden is a 17-acre terraced garden with taro fields and other native Hawaiian plants.

Looking at Limahuli Garden (closer to the shore) from the ocean, with Limahuli Preserve at the back of the valley
Looking at Limahuli Garden (closer to the shore) from the ocean, with Limahuli Preserve at the back of the valley (Credit: NTBG)

We haven’t had a chance yet to personally tour Limahuli Garden.

Just another reason to revisit Kauai in future, right?

Where to stay? See our reviews of the best hotels and resorts in Kauai

The National Tropical Botanical Garden

The NTBG is a not-for-profit organization. Its mission is to discover, save, study and share knowledge about the world’s tropical plants.

For more information on the NTBG, see here.


Photo credits: 4, 6 to 12 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase


Have you toured any of these botanical gardens in Kauai?

Let us know in the Comments below…


About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the owners and founders of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews and information, insanely useful travel tips and more!

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Josephine Alessi

Sunday 14th of February 2021

We've been members of NTBG since 2005. We've toured the Kauai gardens many times. On our last trip in October 2019 we spent a day pulling weeds at Limahuli. We also love Kahanu Garden in Hana on Maui. A sacred place. Thanks for this article.

Janice and George

Sunday 14th of February 2021

Oh that's a wonderful thing to do -- "voluntouring" by pulling weeds. Some exercise, fresh air, gardens -- and knowing you're doing one more bit to help our planet :-).

We'll bookmark the Kahanu Garden in Maui for our next visit there. We've driven to Hana and stayed there, but don't recall visiting those gardens.

Thanks for sharing!

Susan

Sunday 9th of October 2016

Such a lovely garden, don't you just love the tropical plants! We visited the Botanical Tropical garden on the Big Island and it was magnificent, I couldn't get enough of it ;)

Janice and George

Monday 10th of October 2016

Hawaii certainly has the right weather for sustaining beautiful tropical gardens, that's for sure :-).

Laura

Tuesday 8th of July 2014

Lovely garden! I especially love the huge fig tree. Simply gorgeous!

Nancie Lee

Wednesday 25th of June 2014

Gorgeous gardens!! I will definitely have to visit it one day! I love the vivid colors of tropical flowers. Your photos are lovely. I didn't know about breadfruits being shipped overseas. That's great. I look forward to seeing these gardens up close and personal! :-)

Janice and George

Wednesday 25th of June 2014

If you love gardens, you'll love Kauai. The whole island is one big garden :-).

Dottie Pennington

Friday 7th of February 2014

What is the name of the huge trees with the gigantic roots?

Janice and George

Friday 7th of February 2014

Hi Dottie, Those trees are quite marvellous aren't they? They're called Moreton Bay Figs. :-)