Hawaii: Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

This morning I left the family behind at the house and made a solo trip to Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden just north of Hilo. I had barely pulled out of the driveway when I saw this arresting sight ahead of me:


I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more brilliant rainbow. You might think the photo above has been tweaked in Photoshop, but the colors were every bit as vibrant. Could there be a better omen for a day of exploration and photography?

The drive to Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden took 40 minutes. My GPS didn’t recognize the street address, 27-717 Old Mamalahoa Highway in Papaikou, so I simply followed the “Scenic Detour” sign to Onomea Bay.The garden is impossible to miss.


Describing itself as “a beautiful garden in a valley on the ocean,” Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is the labor of love of one very dedicated man, Dan Lutkenhouse, and his wife Pauline. The Lutkenhouses bought the completely overgrown 17-acre parcel in 1977 and spent the next eight years clearing the property and removing the junk that had been dumped there, including old cars and appliances. The garden opened to the public in 1984 and has been continually expanded and improved since then. Now a non-profit organization, it is considered to be “the most beautiful accessible tropical jungle garden in the world.”

I spent three hours braving the stifling heat and mosquitoes and took several hundred photos. I will have a dedicated post after I return home, but here are some samples to whet your appetite.




Bambusa beecheyana


Bambusa vulgaris ‘Vittata’


Jungle canopy


Beehive ginger (Zingiber spectabilis)


Torch ginger (Etlingera elatior)

140726_HawaiiTropicalBotanicalGarden_0065  140726_HawaiiTropicalBotanicalGarden_Tacca-integrifolia_0003

LEFT: Philippine orchid (Medinilla magnifica)
RIGHT: White bat flower (Tacca integrifolia)


Onomea Falls


Creek downstream from Onomea Falls

140726_HawaiiTropicalBotanicalGarden_0078 140726_HawaiiTropicalBotanicalGarden_0095

Jungle views


Unlabeled anthurium

In many ways Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden reminded me of the Garden of Eden Arboretum in Maui, but it has an even larger variety of tropical plants and the setting is even more spectacular.


Check out my two detailed posts about the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden:


Hawaii 2014 trip index


  1. Replies
    1. You would have LOVED it here. Word of warning, though: This is bug heaven. Lots and lots of mosquitoes and who knows what else. Bring bug repellent and apply it liberally.

  2. That's one of my favorite gardens in te world. I can't believe your family missed it!

    1. We'll all go back on Monday on our way to the other side of the island. I convinced my family that it's too spectacular to miss. And as bribe, they'll get the best smoothies in the world at What's Shakin' just up the road.

  3. So you (with the help of Heather and Tamara) will be planning the Hawaii Fling, right (if I'm repeating myself here just chalk it up to hopefulness).


Post a Comment