Two superb gardens in lush Lawa‘i Valley, run by the National Tropical Botanical Garden, are open to visitors. Allerton Garden, spreading back from a ravishing beach, once belonged to Hawaii’s Queen Emma. From 1938 onwards, it was landscaped by Chicago transplant Robert Allerton, who besides extensive planting added ‘garden rooms’ featuring pools, sculptures and gazebos. Gorgeous McBryde Garden, further inland, showcases palms, flowering and spice trees, orchids and rare endemic species, plus a pretty stream and waterfall.
Both gardens are accessible by shuttle bus only from the same visitor center up on Lawa‘i Road west of Poi‘pu. For budget travelers, the best value is a self-guided visit to McBryde Garden, which allows you to wander in the vast grounds for as long as you choose. Five interpretative trails here, covering such themes as the plants brought by Kaua‘i’s original Polynesian settlers, are lined with information panels. Hourly shuttle buses leave from the visitor center on the half-hour, and pick up from McBryde Garden on the hour.
Guided tours include the standard 2½hr tour of Allerton Garden (adult/child 6-12yr $60/30), and the 3hr Sunset tour ($100/50), which peeks inside Allerton’s home; the 2½hr Wailele tour ($45/22.50), which leads to a waterfall in McBryde Garden; and the 2½hr ‘Behind the Scenes’ tour ($60/30), which covers both gardens and focuses especially on their conservation and horticultural activities. Current schedules are posted online; reserve well in advance.
Chartered by the US Congress, the National Tropical Botanical Garden is a non-profit organization whose research, conservation and education is aimed at the preservation and survival of tropical plants. As well as Allerton and McBryde gardens, where the NTBG began, it also owns the magnificent Limahuli Garden, near Ha‘ena on Kaua‘i’s North Shore; the Kahanu Garden on Maui; the Awini and Ka‘upulehu preserves on the Big Island, and the Kampong Garden on Florida’s Biscayne Bay.