Perhaps the most beautiful spot on an island of unsurpassed beauty, this magnificent garden is a must-see stop on any North Shore itinerary. Besides cherishing species unique to this region of Kaua‘i – some to this very valley – it also displays plants brought to Hawaii from elsewhere. While guided and self-guided tours follow a three-quarter-mile trail through its landscaped front portion, the preserve’s 985 acres extend back into the sheer-walled depths of the valley, where its serious conservation work takes place.
This wonderful place forms part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, which also runs two gardens in Po‘ipu. To give it the time it deserves, come as early as possible, before the day’s full heat sets in. Allow 1½ hours to walk the trail, enjoying spectacular close-up views of Makana Peak (popularly known as Bali Hai). In winter, it’s common to see whales breaching offshore.
The garden’s driveway climbs inland just before the stream that marks the boundary of Haʻena State Park. Although you don’t need a permit to drive here, you have to reserve in advance for a specific time, and you’re only allowed to park here during your actual visit.