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Limahuli Garden and Preserve: America’s Best Natural Botanical Garden

Posted on July 28, 2015

Story by Leah Lamb

One of Kauai’s most dramatic and scenic botanical gardens is Limahuli Garden and Preserve on the island’s north shore.

Located in 1,000-acre Limahuli Valley, home to countless biological and cultural treasures, the 700-year-old site is akin to a step back in time. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself unable to focus on its plant life alone as you take in the majestic backdrop of Mount Makana and the garden’s namesake valley!

The terraced land of Limahuli Garden on Kauai; Photo Credit: Leah Lamb

The garden’s two-hour guided tour is highly recommended and a fun way to learn about the valley’s cultural history through its plants, the geological history of Hawaii, and the local legends and taboos of the Polynesian culture. Whether you choose to wander the garden on your own or take a guided tour, its trails will lead you through the valley’s role as part of a larger ahupuaa —an early Hawaiian system of mountain-to-sea natural resource management, which made it possible for indigenous communities to be self sustaining.

About 90 percent of the 1,400 plant species native to the Hawaiian Islands are found nowhere else in the world. In addition, Kauai is home to the highest number of endemic plant species in the Hawaiian Islands, over 140 of which are listed as federally endangered. Many of these plants, along with several others extinct in the wild, are featured at Limahuli Garden and Preserve.

Visitors on a guided tour overlook the coast; Photo Credit: Leah Lamb

The American Horticultural Society named Limahuli Garden and Preserve the best natural botanical garden in the United States on the basis of its sound environmental practices utilizing water, soil and rare plant conservation in garden design. The garden is managed by the nonprofit National Tropical Botanical Garden, which operates two additional Hawaii gardens on Kauai — Allerton and McBryde Gardens — and Kahanu Garden on Maui.

Located near the entrance of Haena State Park, Limahuli Garden and Preserve is a great stop after snorkeling at Tunnels Beach, or before watching the sunset at Kee Beach. Other botanical gardens to visit on the garden island of Kauai include:

In Princeville: Princeville Botanical Gardens (the tour includes a chocolate tasting)
In Poipu: McBryde Garden and Allerton Garden.

About Leah Lamb: Leah Lamb is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter with a focus on using story for social change. Find out more on her website and follow her on Twitter @LeahLamb.

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