Skip to Content

5 Beautiful Botanical Gardens in Kauai, Hawaii, You Must See!

Exploring the beautiful botanical gardens in Kauai turned out to be one of our favorite activities on the Garden Island.

In fact, if trying to choose between Kauai or Maui, one of the delightful differences between them is that the island of Kauai literally blooms with gardens.

You’ll find stunning botanical gardens on both the North Shore and the South Shore.

They showcase a magnificent variety of tropical plants and flowers. (One even invites you to learn all about chocolate and do a chocolate tasting too. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…)

So when planning your Hawaiian island trip, be sure your Kauai itinerary includes a visit to one or more of the following gardens!

You’ll love every petal and leaf on display.

Visiting the botanical gardens in Kauai is a must-do on the Garden Island!
Visit Kauai’s botanical gardens to enjoy beautiful blooms and learn about Hawaii’s unique plant life too

Best botanical gardens in Kauai

1) Allerton Garden, Kauai

A unique water feature at the Allerton Garden in Kauai
The Allerton Garden in Kauai is known for its unique water features as well as its exotic tropical flora

We’re going to start with our favorite Kauai garden – the Allerton Garden.

Named one of the “50 Places of a Lifetime” to see by National Geographic Traveler, it’s a garden masterpiece – a whimsical combination of outdoor garden “rooms,” sculptures, water features and exotic plants.

You’ll also enjoy the grove of golden bamboo gently swaying in the breeze, the cut-flower garden and the tropical heliconias (lobster claws), ginger and orchids.

Botanical gardens in Kauai
Beautiful and rare flowers bloom at the Allerton Garden in Kauai

Spreading out over 80 acres, the Allerton botanical garden is found cradled between rugged cliffs in the secluded Lawai Valley. It snuggles up to its bigger sister, the McBryde Garden (covered below in #2)

(Together, the Allerton and Mcbryde gardens are sometimes referred to as the Poipu botanical gardens, as they’re located less than a 10-minute drive from Poipu on Kauai’s South Shore, a popular area to stay on the island.)

At the Allerton Garden, you can also view the towering Moreton Bay Figs that were featured in the Jurassic Park movie.

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

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

These trees are now a favorite spot for visitor photo-ops.

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

We’ve strolled through some of the world’s most gorgeous gardens. And we can say without hesitation that Kauai’s Allerton Garden is right up there with the best.

One of the whimsical garden "rooms" at Allerton Garden
Along with the beautiful blooms, we loved the whimsical garden “rooms” and fountains at Allerton Garden

Visiting Allerton Garden

Part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) collection, the Allerton Garden can only be visited on a guided tour.

For example, the NTBG offers this popular and informative 2½-hour small-group guided tour.

A variety of other Allerton Garden tours are also offered, and you can book your reservation online.

You might like the “Allerton by Fire” tour. Here, your guided botanical tour is followed by a luau dinner, which is accompanied by live music, Polynesian dancing and a fire performer.

There’s also a 3-hour Allerton Garden sunset tour, with dinner at the private Allerton Estate House.

All tours leave from the South Shore Visitors Center. A short narrated tram ride takes you into the gardens.

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

2) McBryde Garden, Kauai

Also part of the NTBG, the 200-acre McBryde botanical gardens have a more scientific focus than the Allerton Garden.

They’re a veritable Noah’s Ark for plant conservation – a living laboratory 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 (at McBryde Garden) is one of the "canoe plants" early Polynesians brought to Kauai.
Breadfruit is one of the “canoe plants” early Polynesians brought to Kauai

Even world hunger is tackled at the McBryde Garden.

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.

So touring the McBryde gardens is an eye-opener, in more ways than one!

McBryde Garden tours

You have the option to view the McBryde Garden at your own pace (self-guided) – see this day pass, which includes the return tram ride.

If you want to do a guided tour of McBryde Garden, you can only do so in conjunction with a tour of the Allerton Garden.

For example, there’s a 2½-hour “Best of Both Worlds” tour, as well as a twilight tour of both the McBryde and Allerton gardens.

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

History of the Allerton McBryde Gardens

There are several fun Hawaii facts associated with these two botanical gardens on Kauai.

On our guided tour, we learned quite a bit about the gardens’ quirky history.

Queen Emma

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

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

The McBryde family

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, plumeria and palms in beachside gardens.

The Allerton family

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

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

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

Jackie Kennedy

Jacqueline Kennedy was just one of several famous guests the Allertons hosted at their garden estate.

Rumor has it that she greatly enjoyed her visit, in part because the Allertons had an impressive collection of ballet slippers!

Leaving a legacy to the National Tropical Botanical Garden

In the 1960s, Robert Allerton teamed up with a collective aiming to form a tropical botanical garden for the United States. He donated money to the collective to buy the McBryde property beside the Allerton Garden.

Initially called the Lawai Garden, that property was renamed the McBryde Garden in 2000, as a result of generous donations by the McBryde family.

After John Gregg Allerton died, the Allerton Garden was left to a trust. Together with the McBryde Garden, it’s managed today by the National Tropical Botanical Garden.

Our take?

The Allerton Garden and McBryde Garden may be an unconventional botanical garden duo.

But these two Kauai gardens fit quite naturally on Hawaii’s lush garden island. They’re a Kauai must-do – especially if you’re a garden enthusiast.

3) Limahuli Garden and Preserve

Emerald green terraces of Limahuli Garden
Limahuli Garden hugs the ocean shoreline, with Limahuli Preserve at the back of the valley

Located on the North Shore of Kauai, the Limahuli Garden is the third National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kauai.

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

The garden is well laid out, and it’s easy to follow the trail to the top of the lava rock terraces. Signs identify the various exotic plants, and at the top, you’re rewarded with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and Kauai’s mountains.

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

(Just another reason to revisit Kauai in future, right?)

Limahuli Garden tours

If you choose to go on your own, you’re given an excellent booklet to follow as you walk through the gardens.

The total walk takes about 1½ hours on a gravel path and lava steps, with some uneven terrain and an elevation gain of 200 feet.

Guided tours with the garden’s docent are also offered. They’re 2½ hours long.

The Limahuli botanical garden is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm.

For more information and to make reservations, see here.

4) Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Garden

Beach at Nai Aina Kai Botanical Gardens, Kauai
Bronze sculptures, beautiful flowers and a wild beach – what’s not to love! (Credit: Nai ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens)

After retiring to Kauai in 1982, Joyce and Ed Doty began creating one of the most eclectic gardens on Kauai.

They then donated the entire gardens to a not-for-profit foundation in 1999. In 2000, the Dotys were ready to open the Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens to the public – as part garden tour and part art exhibit.

There’s lots to see here. Na ‘Aina Kai means “Lands By the Sea” – and these gardens comprise 240 acres hugging the coast on the island’s North Shore.

The garden part includes a hardwood plantation, formal gardens with a lagoon and plunging waterfalls, a shower tree park with flowering hibiscus and a Japanese teahouse, a miniature ahupua’a portraying an ancient Hawaiian village, a recreation of a Navajo compound and more.

On the art side, art buffs will be entranced by the 200 or so fanciful bronze sculptures scattered throughout the gardens.

One of the largest collections of bronze sculptures in the United States, they include life-size figures of people, like a family reading a book on a bench plus a man and a boy sitting on a giant fish with a tree trunk for a tail.

Other sculptures depict bears, a flock of birds flying from the lagoon and a pensive frog in a pond.

Children are drawn to the treehouse right out of the Swiss Family Robinson book and a poinciana maze.

Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Garden tours

Several tours are offered on different days of the week, including the following:

  • Ride – A 3-hour riding tour on a covered open-air cart (youths must be 13 or older)
  • Stroll – Guided 1½-hour walking tour
  • Beach walk – A moderate nature hike that takes you from the formal gardens through a wild forest down to Kaluakai Beach (the path is moderately sloped with rope handrails in steeper areas)
  • Self-guided walking tour of the formal gardens and sculpture park

The Na ‘Aina Kai garden is open Monday to Friday. It’s closed on the weekends.

For hours, tour reservations and more info, see here.

5) Princeville Botanical Gardens

Flowers at Princeville Botanical Gardens
Not only are there beautiful flowers to see, but you get a chocolate tasting too at these gardens! (Credit: Princeville Botanical Gardens

The Princeville Botanical Gardens are also tucked away on Kauai’s North Shore.

What started as a personal hobby for Bill and Lucinda Robertson more than 20 years ago has now blossomed into a full-time passion.

The Robertsons fought back the jungle, removed invasive plant species and created a family-operated botanical garden with a diverse collection of plants, trees and flowers.

Like the McBryde gardens (#2 above), the Princeville gardens showcase many healthy food plants and native and “canoe” species of the Hawaiian islands.

They’re home to groves of fruit trees buzzing with honey bees, endangered and exotic flowers, medicinal plants, and coffee and cacao trees.

Kids on a bridge at Princeville Botanical Gardens
A curious-looking Beehive Ginger plant, a bridge over a stream and more… (Credit: Princeville Botanical Gardens)

Princeville Botanical Gardens tours

You can only visit the Princeville garden on a guided tour.

A 3-hour guided tour takes you through the gardens and working fruit orchards, where you get to taste samples of the garden’s honey, fresh fruit and organic dark chocolate.

At the end, there’s a 30-minute interactive session where you learn more about cacao, watch chocolatiers at work and, yes, taste more chocolate!

Tours go rain or shine. Walking sticks, bug spray and umbrellas are offered at the start. (We recommend taking a walking stick as the trail can be a bit slippery if wet.)

Note that there are some slopes and stairs you need to climb.

For more information about this combined Princeville garden and Princeville chocolate tour, see here.

About the National Tropical Botanical Garden

The NTBG is a Hawaii-based, not-for-profit organization.

Through scientific research, habitat restoration and education, their mission is to discover, study and share knowledge about the world’s tropical plants and to preserve native Hawaiian flora for future generations.

The McBryde Garden (#2) became the first garden in the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) collection.

The Allerton Garden (#1) also later became part of the NTBG.

Limahuli Garden (see #3) is the third garden in the collection.

(The other two NTBG gardens are Kahanu Garden in Maui and The Kampong in Coconut Grove, Florida.)

Botanical gardens in Kauai
Orchids are one of our favorite flowers on Kauai (and elsewhere too!)

Tips for having a blooming good time on Kauai garden tours

1) Book ahead

In the high winter season, especially, tours get snapped up quicker than you’d think. You can usually cancel up to 24 hours ahead, giving you flexibility and peace of mind.

2) Use mosquito spray

Lush canopies, cool shadows and trickling water = a haven for little biting things. Don’t give bugs a chance. Protect yourself with a trusty bug spray.

3) Dress for protection

To dodge those pesky mosquitoes, think light loose clothing. Slip into airy long-sleeved tops and long pants in neutral colors.

4) Prepare for rain

It’s Kauai, and a surprise shower is part of the charm.

Tours go on, come rain or shine. So stash a rain jacket in your backpack or bag, and don’t fuss about every drizzle and drop.

5) Wear comfortable shoes

You’ll be walking on uneven ground, so be sure to wear comfy walking shoes.

That wraps up our guide on the botanical gardens of Kauai!

The Garden Isle is a place of great natural beauty.

As refuges for rare plants, sacred flowers, delicious fruit trees, native flora and canoe plants that can help feed the world, the botanical gardens have a special place on Kauai.

They’re some of the most beautiful places on Kauai. And when you’re ready to take a break from the island’s beaches – they’re well worth visiting!

Have you enjoyed any Kauai botanical garden tours?

Do you have a favorite garden? Let us know in the Comments below… You can also read comments from other readers.

Our top travel tips and resources

Hotels: Booking.com is great for scoring a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one. (We especially like their flexible cancellation policy!)

Vacation homes, condos and rentals: We prefer and use Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner).

Tours: For the best local food, walking and other guided tours, plus skip-the-line tickets to attractions, check out Viator (a TripAdvisor company) and GetYourGuide.

Car rental: Renting a car is often one of the best ways to explore off the beaten path. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.

Travel insurance: SafetyWing is designed for frequent travelers, long-term adventurers and digital nomads. It covers medical expenses, lost checked luggage, trip interruption and more. We also have and recommend Medjet for global air medical transportation and travel security.

Travel gear: See our travel shop to find the best luggage, accessories and other travel gear. (We suggest these comfy travel sandals for city walking, the beach and kicking about.)

Need more help planning your trip? Check out our travel tips and resources guide for airline booking tips, ways to save money, how to find great hotels and other crazy useful trip planning info.

Pssst! If you make a booking or purchase through our site, we may earn a small commission (at no cost to you). Thanks!


Share the Aloha and save it on Pinterest!

Best Botanical Gardens in Kauai

Photo credits: 1, 5 to 9, 11, 12 Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase


About the authors

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

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

David Foster

Tuesday 6th of February 2024

Thanks for this article. I too love Kauai's gardens.

Though it comes last on your list, Princeville is hands down my favorite. I love the wide array of flowers and trees that are so accessible. While they require a tour, the whole vibe is low key and personal. I've been there 4 or 5 times and I'm always ready to go back.

My other favorite is Limahuli. I love the freedom to explore on my own, at my pace, and it's so beautiful, both the flora and the aina (land).

Janice and George

Tuesday 6th of February 2024

Nice to hear from a fellow garden lover! Thanks for letting us know your two favorite gardens on Kauai :-).

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 gardens! I especially love the huge fig trees. 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 :-).