My family came back from a vacation in Hawaii, and one of the highlights of our trip was making a stop at the World Botanical Gardens & Waterfalls on the Big Island. Leaving the Kona side of the island, we traveled north along highway 19, but we didn’t go along the north shore, we cut east across the island and came out near Honoka’a. Then we traveled south toward Hilo, and just 16 miles northwest of Hilo are the World Botanical Gardens & Waterfalls.
We almost missed the turn off, so be sure to look for the sign bearing a picture of King Kamehameha, which alerts you to scenic points along the way. When you enter the parking area you will see an outside office, and here you can pay your entrance fee, which was $13.00 for adults (there were four in our party). Other rates: Teens 13-17 are $6.00, Children 5-12 are $3.00, and kids under the age of 5 are free.
The parking area is 100 feet above Umauma River, and we were able to grab some breathtaking photos of both the Kamaee Falls and the Triple Tier 300 foot Umauma Falls. Umauma falls is a very unique waterfall in that it has one fall coming down from the river, which cascades into a pool of water. This pool leads to a twin water fall, again falling into a second pool, which leads to a third fall and a long large pool of water. You can almost see yourself taking a swim there, although you can’t of course (there are railings to protect you from the drop off).
The World Botanical Gardens spans 300 acres, and when you get back to the parking lot you have the option to go right or left. The tour starts on the right side of the office, but if you need a potty break before starting your nature walk there were three porta potties to the left. These have soap and a pump style sink to wash up!
You can take a guided tour, which will set back an adult $33 plus tax, but we didn’t feel the need to do so and had a very enjoyable time. The paved pathway leads you through a huge variety of flowers and trees, each one is marked by a sign giving the common and botanical name for the species. It would be impossible to name them all, because there are over 2000 to see! Some of my favorite flowers were the Gardenias, Jasmine, Hibiscus, and a wide variety of Orchids. The trees that I enjoyed were the Royal Palms, Fan Palms, and the Bamboo trees. These trees were nestled together so closely that when the wind blew through them I could hear the rattle of bamboo, almost like wind chimes. The most unique tree I viewed was the Autograph Tree, where prior visitors had left their autographs, and this didn’t seem to bother the leaves or the tree at all.
After our walk through what seemed like a lush rain forest, we found a lunch pavilion with several picnic tables. Some were under a canopy, and some were strategically placed under shady trees. It was a hot day in the area, and we needed some protection from the hot Hawaiian sun. My daughter spotted a Gecko laying on a leaf and it was drinking water from the leaf with his tongue. We took some cute pictures of this Gecko, one when he was looking curiously straight at us.
If you visit the World Botanical Gardens & Waterfalls with children, be sure to visit the popular “Children’s Maze”, we didn’t take the time to see this completely, but it would be fun for kids to wander through. The trails and areas in the gardens that are available to see are:
– Aloe Vera Patch
– Banana Patch
– Children’s Maze
– Coconut Grove
– Native Hawaiian Garden
– Orchid Wall
– Papaya Patch
– Phylogenetic Garden
– Rain Forest Walk
– Royal Palm Avenue
– Sugarloaf Pineapple Patch
– Umauma Waterfalls
– Kamaee Waterfalls