We spent the morning at the Hawai’i Tropical Botanical Garden, just north of Hilo. It is in the Onomea Valley, located off a “scenic drive” – translation: narrow winding road with no shoulder, overshadowed by large trees, with several one-lane bridges. Dan and Pauline Lutkenhouse reclaimed the valley and opened the Garden to the public in 1984. You can read more about it here.
Although there are some native plants, most of the trees and other plants originated in Asia, Oceania, Australia, Africa, and the American tropics. Fortunately, they are well cared for so that they don’t escape to become invasives out in the surrounding area. The path is only 1.25 miles, but there is so much to see that it takes two or so hours, especially if you stop to take pictures.
We saw many palms and other tropical trees, orchids, heliconia, calathea, gingers, and more. There were also streams with waterfalls and a wonderful view of the bay. There are twin rocks that protect the bay. Legend has it that the villagers, under imminent threat of invasion by canoe, asked for a young man and a young woman to sacrifice themselves to the sea to protect the village. Morning light found the young couple gone and in their place two large boulders, almost touching, that protected the village from being reached by water.
By the time we finished walking back upslope to the Visitor’s Center, we were hot, hungry, and thirsty. We found a fruit stand/lunch stand nearby, which made nice sandwiches and fantastic juices and smoothies. Just what we needed after spending the morning in a tropical rain forest!