Camping in Oahu has its challenges. Unlike other islands in Hawaii, many of the Oahu camps have problems of decline and / or solidity. However, you can find a few beautiful, clean, quiet, safe and scenic places to live on Oahu. The Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden in Kaneohe is one of these.
The Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden lives up to its name, which translated into English means “to make a place of peace and tranquility.” This is a very peaceful environment. And the rules are very strict when it comes to rum; for example, even at noon, radios and CD players should be kept low enough so as not to disturb camping neighbors.
The gardens meander through 400 acres and are again abandoned by green, castle-like peaks of the majestic Ko’olau Mountains. Plants from tropical regions around the world are grouped here geographically, and particular emphasis is placed on the conservation of plants native to Hawaii. The Hawaiian garden here, like many of the others, has some very nice tent sites, with clean indoor bathrooms and showers.
You can live here for free from 9 a.m. Friday to 4 p.m. Sunday, except for Christmas and New Year. There is no camping on the other days of the week, but this is a great place to stay for the weekend. While it doesn’t have 24 hour security, everyone I spoke to said it was very quiet.
The garden gate closes at 4 p.m. and those living here will be given car passes so they can use the door later which is open from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. In view of all this, and that it is a mile walk from the door to the first campsite, this removes it from the list for “holiday spots”. Since it doesn’t have access to the beach, it’s not a place where large extended families get together even with good music and Hawaiian food. People come to the gardens to enjoy the flora and fauna and the tranquility.
While there is no beach here, there is a trail that will take you to a wonderful place to watch the sun rise over the ocean.
Tent sites are on the lawns and include fire pits and picnic tables. You have to bring your own wood and grill.
The staff members we spoke to at the Garden Visitor Center were warm, generous with their time and very knowledgeable. The center features an art gallery with cultural exhibits and a botanical library. You will also find a network of slopes and a lake (fishing and clearing; no swimming).
The Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens are close to many wonderful tourist attractions, water games and other destinations including the Byoda Temple hidden in the Valley of the Temples and with a larger Buddha statue of life, meditation garden and pond. with 10,000 koi; Kaneohe Bay with its white sand basins that look like tiny islets in blue waters at low tide; the cities of Kaneohe and Kailua with many shopping and dining opportunities; the village and the very Hawaiian town of Waimanalo where horses always roam free and the beach is one of the best on the island; and Kailua Bay, the quintessential west-facing water playground that offers a long strip of white sand and protected waters popular with first-time boogie boards, kayak paddlers and windsurfers.
A variety of programs are offered to gardens throughout the week such as orchid growth, climate making, and botanical design to name a few. Some of these have fees, while others are free. For a current program, use the contact information above and request one.
Hawaiian ecology is emphasized in these programs. Daily use and camping programs can include ethnic, craft, botanical, horticultural and environmental activities. Free guided walks in nature, which deal with topics such as local birds, cloud watching and medicinal plants, are offered at 10 a.m. on Saturdays and 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Fishing in this free and quiet campsite in a garden? It is in a rainforest. So remember to bring a waterproof tent and tools. It will always be warm though, so something light, like the poncho you put in your pocket or a light jacket will work best. You might even want some mosquito repellents, even if I wasn’t disturbed by them. You will find picnic tables here and campgrounds. If you want to use a tarpaulin, bring poles so they don’t allow you to tie anything to the trees. A small field stove or hibachi could also be useful.
You can get a detailed map with the walking routes in the Visitor Center or in the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens. However the site map does not include a legend, so if you use it only know that the walking paths are shown by dashes, and the H-3 Highway is shown by bold printed dashes. Distances are not shown on the map, but the Visitor Center can answer your questions.