Oahu Botanical Gardens
While exploring the island of Oahu, Scott and I decided to check out some of the many Botanical Gardens that are open to the public. Being that we are videographers/photographers you would think it would be a photographer’s ideal place to get some absolutely gorgeous photos..and man was it just that. One of the things we love about the Hawaiian Islands is the diverse plant and flower life that grows on each island. We chose to explore the Waimea Valley Botanical Garden first because we planned on spending a day on the north end of the island, right where Waimea Valley is located. Later in the week, we checked out the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden on a day we spent closer to Honolulu. Although we didn’t see ALL the botanical gardens on the island, both gardens we visited were unique in their own way.
We wanted to make a blog post talking about each garden and the comparison between the two. We didn’t do too much research before hand, all we knew was that there was a fee and some walking once inside the gardens. Hopefully this post is helpful to you when deciding which one to go to or what to expect from each one, but bottomline, these places are simply BREATHTAKING. I think the photos that Scott took during each trip shows off such a beautiful glimpse of what awaits you in person. Hope you enjoy 🙂
Waimea Valley Botanical Garden
What to expect
Like all attractions in Oahu, depending on what day & time you arrive will determine just how busy it is. Since Botanical Gardens are for all ages, chances are it will probably be consistently busy when you arrive. With some minor research online, we discovered the garden would be open from 9am-5pm (depending on the season) and that there is a small cover charge to enter. The Waimea Garden itself is in a huge location in Waimea Valley to the Northeastern side of the island, and there are many different areas to park once you enter the valley. On a busy day, you might have to park further away from the entrance, so depending on when you go, you might expect a short walk from the car.
Once your car is parked and you arrive, you will notice a gift shop and cafe that is located right outside the garden, if you wanna grab a bite to eat before or after, it’s super convenient to stop there. After you buy your tickets, you will be handed a map and the opportunity to walk throughout the grounds. The paths are set up to lead you to the end of the valley where you will find a beautiful waterfall (some children & adults swim there so bring your bathing suit if that is something you would want to do!)
The entire time you are in the valley you will be engulfed in tropical wildlife. Its such an amazing experience going to a botanical garden like this one. The grounds are SO big you can literally spend hours walking around looking at every nook and cranny of this place. Ponds, river streams, hanging tree branches, lush plants, and the most colorful flowers you have ever seen, all wait to be greeted by you. The one mile hike to the waterfall does take some time when you are examining and gazing at all the flowers and plants in the process. Scott and I covered pretty much all the grounds and it took 1.5 – 2 hours to make it to the waterfall. The waterfall seems to be a big attraction to parents and kids so expect lots of people 🙂
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
What to expect
To be honest, this place caught our eye on Instagram and was what inspired us to go check out the botanical gardens on Oahu in the first place. The Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden has become quite the hot spot of “instagramers” so much so that since it’s popularity has risen, there is a designated no photo zone with a security guard along one of the roads because so many people come to that spot to take the same picture that they saw on Instagram. We were a little disappointed to discover we would not be getting a photo here, but at the end of the day it’s just a photo and the idea that they had to actually hire a security guard to stop people from taking a photo in the middle of the road kind of put us off. However, we were still excited because we had the whole garden ahead of us to explore.
This botanical garden was very different than Waimea Valley. It was in a smaller setting going along the mountains in the distance, not nearly as crowded and seemed way more laid back. Admission to this botanical garden was free and had similar hours (9am-4pm) everyday. The vegetation here had some similar plants and flowers but it seemed more scarce and spread out. One thing that was really neat about this garden was the giant pond that had lots of ducks and fish swimming in it. We spent most of our time jumping in and out of the car going from place to place checking out the scenery and gardens at each point. Unlike Waimea there was some driving involved just like checking out viewpoints in National Park & Forests.
We visited and explored the whole garden in under 2 hours total, we believe this tour was quicker because we were traveling by car and it seemed to go by faster. We really enjoyed being more secluded in this garden and had no problems what so ever with our experience here, although it was definitely different than our first botanical garden.
Comparing the two
So which one did we like better? Both of them had unique qualities that it’s hard to say “go to this one, not that one” we believe checking out as much as you can see is best for YOU to decide which fits your style more. Being in a location like, Ho’omaluhia, with it’s jaw dropping backdrops really puts in perspective where you are and how gorgeous your surrounds are. Standing in a large commercialized garden with lots of people might make you feel anxious but there is no worry about finding some alone time to really take in the gorgeous flowers at Waimea. Both destinations are great places to spend the morning or afternoon while visiting Oahu, if you are into photography then we would both say this is a must do activity for you. We will say if you’re in for more of a day long “activity” Waimea is a full commitment of walking around and sightseeing the many different areas inside. Ho’omaluliah is a destination that you could check out on the way to another, it can be a quick one hour activity if that is what your looking for, being that you are jumping in and out of your car the whole time it is very doable to make a shorter visit here.
We hope you enjoyed this blog post & the photos that go along with it 🙂 Don’t forget to follow our blog and socials to stay updated with our adventures! Thanks for checking with us!