Managed by the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the Harold L. Lyon Arboretum was founded in 1918 by the Hawaii Sugar Planters Association, and is home to more than 15,000 accessions, including an impressive collection of native Hawaiian plants. In 1953, the land was acquired by the University in order to propagate ginger, heliconia, bromeliads, and aroids, before being established as a research unit.
The artificial lowland tropical rainforest is home to a dozen separate gardens, and is an active research facility and an academic resource offering a variety of programs to both local and international communities, including “an innovative and ground-breaking tissue culture program for propagation of endangered native Hawaiian plants,” according to Lyon Arboretum’s website.
Surrounded by cliffs on three sides, the 194-acre Lyon Arboretum receives approximately 34,000 visitors per year, and is home to more than 5,000 species of tropical and subtropical plants, as well as 12 beautiful gardens and seven miles of hiking trails.
The Lyon Arboretum Trail will take you on a journey through native Hawaiian flora to a beautiful waterfall. Before you reach the falls on the main trail, you will come across an old, rundown, concrete building that was once used as a seismograph station, and is rumored to be haunted.
To get to the Lyon Arboretum, drive past the Manoa Falls parking lot towards the trailhead. When you are given the option between going straight and veering left at a fork, head left. The road will eventually lead you to the Lyon Arboretum entrance sign. Once you’ve reached the parking lot, head to the visitors center to check in and make an optional donation (the suggestion is $5 per person) before exploring the beautiful grounds.
The Lyon Arboretum is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; the botanical garden is closed Sundays, as well as federal and state holidays.