I’m fond of exploring parks and libraries in the cities I visit, for different reasons. Libraries are fun because I love and collect books, and because the quality of a city’s libraries tells me a lot about that city’s priorities. Parks are places of escape, especially appealing in largest busiest cities because I quickly tire of wall-to-wall concrete. An oasis of green is an amazing balm for the soul.
While visiting Oahu recently we stopped by the Wahiawa Botanical Garden situated in a small town on the outskirts of Honolulu (and a convenient stop on the way to the Dole Plantation or the North Shore). It’s one of five small parks under the supervision of the Honolulu Botanical Gardens and is beautifully situated. Located about 1000′ above sea level, between two mountain ranges (the Wai’anae and Ko’olau), the park only covers 27 acres, a large part of which is in a tree-lined ravine and requires some stair climbing. There’s also a flat garden area on the rim of the ravine near the entrance, popular with mothers pushing their children’s strollers and young lovers who find the private corners of the park. The park is wonderfully shaded and offers a cool retreat from the hot Hawaiian sun. It’s peaceful and quiet and the kind of place that makes you forget you’re near a crowded city of nearly a million residents.
Wahiawa Botanical Garden is well maintained, with a small visitor and community center (for example, where lectures are given). The garden has diverse vegetation and its plants are interesting Landscaping is beautiful and the entire place has a very tropical feel. Plants are often native Hawaiian species, with many epiphytes, Heliconias, gingers, and tree ferns. The park receives about 65 inches of rain a year, so the vegetation is lush and green. I’d read that mosquitoes could be a problem, but we weren’t bothered by any even with all the rain the park had received in the prior days.
When we visited the ravine was partially closed because of damage from Tropical Storm Ana. However, those parts we could descend to and explore had massive trees many of which date back to the 1930s when sugar plantation growers used this place as an experimental arboretum. The sugar growers are gone, but their planted legacy endures at Wahiawa.
So when visit Oahu, consider a stop at Wahiawa Gardens or any of the other Honolulu parks. Beautiful, tropical, exotic and quiet places of retreat…. perfect for this traveler.
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