5 Best Places to Stop and Smell the Flowers
- McBryde Garden Located in the south-shore Lawai Valley, McBryde has the world’s largest collection of Hawaiian fl ora, including the wiliwili, with branches that resemble sea coral, and the peculiar looking alula, found only on Kauai.
- Allerton Garden Also in Lawai, this garden — once owned by a Hawaiian queen — is laid out in a series of “rooms,” such as the aptly named Palmetum, enclosed by native and exotic palms.
- Limahuli Garden and Preserve FAt the base of Mount Makana, Limahuli has agricultural terraces roughly 700 to 1,000 years old that ancient Hawaiians carved to grow taro.
- Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens On the north shore its 13 distinct gardens weave around bog, forest, meadow and beach. You might see breaching humpback whales offshore.
- Iliau Nature Loop in Waimea Canyon Imagine the Grand Canyon carpeted in green. Look for yellow-blooming iliau; it flowers once, then dies.
Practical knowledge of Kauai’s botany comes in handy: Ti is said to reduce fevers, while ginger reputedly fights nausea; the kukui nut is an effective laxative; and the liquid from a beach-naupaka leaf also makes a good lens defogger, says David Lorence, director of science at Kauai’s National Tropical Botanical Garden.
Soap fit for a king, Mâlie Kauai’s luxe cream bar is made from the oils of palm kerns, coconuts, macadamia and kukui nuts. (Kukuis are crafted into leis and were once worn by Hawaiian royalty.) Mâlie Kauai combines indigenous ingredients with Hawaiian “Hydrosols” (liquids distilled from flowers that contain healing benefits and aromatherapy fragrances). Choose from the fragrances of coconut-vanilla, gardenia, pikake (jasmine), plumeria or coconut-pineapple. Four ounces for $12. maliekauai.com
Banana poka is an invasive weed that threatens Kauai’s native forests, but these pliable vines festooned with pink blossoms can be woven into lovely baskets. On May 27, the Kokee Natural History Museum hosts the Banana Poka RoundUp. West Kauai is cowboy country, and in that spirit, the festival includes bluegrass and Hawaiian music, a human crowing contest (in honor of the island’s wild chickens), basket-weaving workshops and displays of Kauai’s impressive ß ora. Workshop fee is $15. If you can’t make the poka roundup, the museum also leads Wonder Walks. kokee.org
Wettest Place on Earth?
Kauai’s Mount Waialeale is often referred to as the wettest place on earth, but this extinct volcano in the center of the island takes a back seat to the town of Cherrapunji in Meghalaya, India. Still, it does get an average of 440 inches of yearly rainfall. The summit itself 5,148 feet is mostly barren; plant life thrives, however, in the crater. Folks have reached the summit, but that’s rare given the bramble of foliage and lack of discernible trails. But you can get a good look at Waialeale from the Kuilau Ridge Trail. The fi rst mile offers an easy incline through forested hills before reaching a grove of picnic tables with views of the second-wettest spot on earth.
Hawaii has one of the highest concentrations of endemic plants anywhere 90 percent of the approximately 1,200 native plants grow nowhere else on the planet, and Kauai is the island chain’s floral showcase.