My mother is on island, escaping the cold and grey of Portland for a week. An excuse to visit the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden… Again.
I have visited the gardens several times across our years on the island. The garden is a beautifully maintained array of tropical plants collected from across the globe. Set in the lush jungle of the Hamakua coast above the pretty Onomea Bay the gardens are always a treat to visit.
I admit plants are pretty, but the dizzying array of botanical specimens leaves me just a bit overwhelmed. Yes, it is yet another pretty orchid. I love to study the local plants and animals, but this collection from all over the world lacks much organization, having little focus. No matter, my main interest in visiting is to have fun with a camera and take advantage of the many photographic opportunities of these beautiful gardens.
Of course, being a tropical rain-forest it rained for our visit. I have never actually managed to visit the gardens when it was not raining. Still, the soft light of heavy overcast and the drops of water on leaves and flowers are just another photographic opportunity.
As my mother and Deb wandered around talking plants, I wandered nearby with a tripod and an umbrella borrowed from the entry station. I did come up with a few pretty photos. Not a bad day for a stroll on the garden.
Some tourist traps are worth wandering into.
Akatsuka Orchid Gardens is a business that caters to serious gardeners and casual tourists. An oddly diverse clientele, but a seemingly successful business model. Located on Highway 11 halfway between Hilo and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The tour buses shuttling visitors between the cruise ships and the volcano often stop here, as do many tourists traveling the usual island loop.
It is worth the stop. Upon entering you are greeted by a profusion of spectacular blooms. Even with no intent to buy you can enjoy the many spectacular blooms. Orchids are utterly amazing in the variety of flower shapes in an array of intense colors.
There is no charge to enter the main showroom to view the many orchids for sale. Many spectacular blooms are simply on display. For a fee they offer a growing operation tour, probably a must for an orchidphile, but the cost was a little steep, $35 per person.
All of the plants for sale are pre-inspected and come with export paperwork. Better yet, you can have your order shipped home to avoid the trouble of passing through the various agricultural inspections. The staff has the shipping procedure down to an art, packaging the delicate plants just so and holding the order so it will arrive after you are home from your vacation.
As long as the gardens are not swarming with tourists, just look for the tour buses, I would recommend stopping. If my home on the dry side were a little more orchid friendly I would probably have dropped a few dollars, it was tempting.
A fern draped opening into the earth, that beckons us to explore what was once the domain of Pele. A place of fire and molten rock, now a cool, dripping passage beneath the earth. The island of Hawai’i is riddled with hundreds of miles of lava tubes, most are inaccessible, but some are easy to get to. Kaumana Cave is one of the easy ones.
A steep staircase leads into a collapse pit. Here the cave roof collapsed and allows entry into the lava tube. From here you can enter different sections of the cave, going mauka (uphill) or makai (downhill) paths. I would suggest turning to the right from the staircase and taking the downhill section if a short exploration is desired, but both are good.
Going makai, a short path leads to the entrance. There are a few boulders to step carefully through, after which sections of smooth and mostly level surfaces allow a bit easier access. About 50 yards into the downhill section you will reach a choke point, a little scrambling and a bit of duck-walk is necessary to get through. After the narrow, the cave opens back up again. After another hundred yards there are a series of ledges, old crusts left by cooling lava when it half filled the cave. To continue from here requires crawling through another very low passage. Perhaps a good place to turn around if you are only interested in a short exploration.