Lonely Planet review
This one-of-a-kind place delivers a double blast of mana (spiritual essence). Hawaii’s largest temple and one of its most important ethnobotanical gardens share the 294-acre site. The National Tropical Botanical Garden, which is dedicated to the conservation of rare and medicinal plants from the tropical Pacific, maintains Kahanu. Most interesting is the canoe garden , landscaped with taro and other plants brought to Hawaii by early Polynesian settlers. The scope is amazing, as the garden holds the world’s largest breadfruit tree collection and a remarkable variety of coconut palms.
The garden paths also skirt Piʻilanihale Heiau , an immense lava-stone platform reaching 450ft in length. The history of this astounding heiau (temple) is shrouded in mystery, but there’s no doubt that it was an important religious site for Hawaiians. Archaeologists believe construction began as early as AD 1200 and the heiau was built in sequences. The final grand scale was the work of Piʻilani (the heiau’s name means House of Piʻilani), the 14th-century Maui chief who is also credited with the construction of many of the coastal fishponds in the Hana area. It’s a memorable place to bring the entire family.
Since visiting Kahanu Garden takes a couple of hours, few day-trippers come this way and you may well have the place to yourself. The site, on Kalahu Point, is 1.5 miles down ʻUlaʻino Rd from the Hana Hwy. The road is crossed by a streambed immediately before reaching the gardens; if it’s dry you should be able to drive over it OK, but if it’s been raining heavily don’t even try.