Hailey Minton

Writer. Photographer. Explorer.

December 13, 2017 · 3 min read

Energize yourself at the Ho’omaluhia Gardens

Soak in the wildlife and foliage with the backdrop of the Ko olau mountains

Visit the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens amid a neighborhood in Kaneohe. Brightly colored and fragrant plants line the pathway leading down to the lake where ducks, geese, and hundreds of fish live. From the shoreline, visitors see stirring views of the Ko olau mountains. It’s the perfect place to picnic or camp over the weekend.

The most noteworthy feature of the gardens is the lake that is actually a man-made storm water basin. There must be hundreds of brown and bright orange fish living in the lake. They swarmed the waters edge each time I got close to it. Posted signs say visitors are not allowed to fish. 


The reason behind the lake

 In 1965 and 1968, water and mud from a storm filled the streets and homes in Keapuka and killed two people. Consequently, they built a water retention basin to prevent future catastrophe. According to an informational plaque at the edge of the lake, the water levels are regulated by an intake tower. “Water normally flows freely into the intake tower, and out through a conduit under the base of the dam into Kamo ‘oali ‘i stream. Floodwaters use the same exit except for the “once in a hundred years” storm that would fill the reservoir and overflow through the spillway.”

The flora and foliage in the garden

Another highlight are the exotic plants and flowers that line the path to the lake. It creates a fairytale-like setting for visitors to meander through. The informational signs posted also helped us understand what we were looking at and smelling. Candice said the pink flower reminded her of flamingos. I had never seen anything like the dangling red pa launa flowers before. Furthermore, seeing  the brown pods of cacao plants along the trail surprised me. According to their sign, they are native to South America near the Amazon and Orinoco rivers.

The scent of a plant near the beginning of the path immediately reminded me of a sweet drink a Taiwanese friend  introduced me to last year. Pandan Wangi leaves are used to flavor rice, curries, sweets, and beverages and they are related to the native Hawaiian screwpine or hala tree according to the sign.


The center offers free plant identification services. Bring your fresh plant specimens to Hale Imiloa, Room 112-A and leave your name and telephone number on the yellow pad at the facility.

Candice sits under the tree where we ate our lunch.

The Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens is another perfect place to have a picnic. There are several tables throughout the garden, and Candice and I found one of the best spots. We sat under a huge tree that overlooked the lake.  There was a covered picnic area further up the hill behind us that would have been helpful if it started raining.

It is a short walk to the lake. Quite a few ducks and several geese make their home here. They seem very used to people being around.


Permits are required to camp at designated campsites in the gardens. Campers must buy a permit two weeks in advanced to stay at the Kahua Kuou campground. To purchase camping permits and reserve a campsite, click here. The gates are open from 9am to 4pm and general admission to the park is free.