The Allerton Garden and McBryde Garden may be an unconventional duo.
But these botanical gardens in Kauai fit very naturally, thank you very much, on Hawaii’s lush garden island.
We’re not green thumbs. But exploring these gardens turned out to be one of our favorite things to do in Kauai!
There are three other gardens on Kauai you’ll also love. (At one, you learn all about chocolate and do a chocolate tasting too. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…)
When planning your Hawaiian island trip, be sure your itinerary includes a visit to one or more of these beautiful botanical gardens!
Botanical gardens in Kauai
One of the delightful differences between Kauai and Maui is that the island of Kauai literally blooms with botanical gardens.
The Allerton and McBryde gardens are nestled between rugged cliffs in the secluded Lawai Valley, a 5-minute drive from Poipu on the south side of Kauai. (They’re sometimes referred to as the Poipu botanical gardens.)
Together, these two neighboring Kauai gardens encompass some 280 acres of land.
They showcase a magnificent variety of tropical plants.
We love visiting gardens – and we’ve strolled through some of the world’s most beautiful gardens.
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.
So when given the chance to explore the Allerton McBryde gardens on our last visit to the Kauai island, we signed up.
And we’re so glad we did!
Let’s find out more about these and other beautiful botanical gardens on Kauai…
McBryde and Allerton: Garden history
There are several fun Hawaii facts associated with these botanical gardens on Kauai.
Guided visits share a bit of their quirky history.
The Allerton Garden 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 (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 Allertons, who were world travelers and wealthy philanthropists, bought the property from Alexander 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.
Later, Jacqueline Kennedy enjoyed visiting the Allertons’ garden estate – in part, rumor has it, because the Allertons had an impressive collection of ballet slippers!
1) Allerton Garden, Kauai
Today, the Allerton botanical garden covers an 80-acre area.
Named one of the “50 Places of a Lifetime” to see by National Geographic Traveler, it’s a garden masterpiece – a whimsical combination of garden rooms, sculptures, water features and exotic plants.
Enjoy the grove of golden bamboo gently swaying in the breeze, the cut-flower garden and the tropical heliconias, ginger and orchids.
You can also view 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?
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.
2) McBryde Garden, Kauai
Before Robert Allerton died, he donated money 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.
It became the first garden in the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) collection.
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.
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.
3) Limahuli Garden and Preserve
Limahuli Garden, the third Kauai botanical garden in the NTBG collection, is 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.
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?
4) Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Garden
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 and a man and a boy sitting on a giant fish, sports 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.
5) Princeville Botanical Gardens
The Princeville Botanical Gardens are 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.
Kauai is a garden paradise
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 they’re well worth visiting!
Where to stay? See our reviews of the best hotels and resorts in Kauai
Have you toured any of these botanical gardens in Kauai?
Do you have a favorite? Let us know in the Comments below…
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Photo credits: 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13 and 14 Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase