I can count on one hand the moments I’ve had while traveling when I was left completely awestruck. Being sniffed by a polar bear in Canada. Seeing a pack of wolves howl in Alaska. Those kinds of moments.
I’m lucky enough to have had another one recently at Lyon Arboretum in Hawaii.
As if spending an hour wandering a tropical rainforest with my oldest son weren’t cool enough. Not quite. It wasn’t until we reached Inspiration Point – a suggested photo op marked on our Trail Guide – that I got that feeling. The realization that I was seeing one of nature’s hidden treasures.
The view of Manoa Valley rainforest from the lookout took my breath away.
It is moments like this that continue to inspire my love of nature, travel and the combination of the two. I’m so happy to have finally shared one of these magical moments with one of my kiddos. There simply isn’t anything better.
WHY IT’S GREAT FOR NATURE LOVERS
It’s a rainforest! The only accessible tropical rainforest on Oahu, in fact. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never visited a rainforest before, and certainly the big explorer hadn’t either. Which means that just being in this place felt very different – hiking under the complete coverage of trees, the sounds of unfamiliar squawking birds, brilliant flowers in all shapes, colors and sizes, and more.
And then there’s the fact that we had the place practically to ourselves (we passed one couple during our entire 1 ½-hour visit).
WHAT WE LIKED
We headed out along what we thought was the Main Trail with the goal of taking the 1 ½-mile roundtrip hike to Aihualama Falls. Luckily, we got lost instead.
Immediately after starting out on the trail, we were transported into a completely different world. Trees so tall you had to seriously strain to see the tops. Lushness the likes of which I’ve never seen.
And the sounds! Oh my! Wild cockatoos squawking to their heart’s content.
We wandered aimlessly for quite some time just enjoying the sights. There were new (to us) flowers to see, smell and touch like these:
Gigantic leaves nearly as large as the big explorer himself!
Birds we’d not seen before, like this Shama Thrush from South Asia:
After taking in the view at Inspiration Point, we eventually found our way back to the Main Trail and began meandering slowly toward the waterfall.
But there were so many distractions along the way, like this Fuzzy Orange Hanging Heliconia:
The big explorer and I were so taken by this strange-looking flower that we stopped alongside it to enjoy a snack and a much-needed rest.
Only then did I realize that I hadn’t needed the scavenger hunt I’d brought along just in case. My 5 year old was taking his cues from me, enjoying the amazing, unique sights as much as I did.
- Open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; closed on Sundays and public holidays
- Suggested donation of $5 per visitor
- Parking is free
- Small Visitor Center has a fantastic collection of books on native Hawaiian birds, plants & flowers plus postcards, T-shirts & snacks
- There is one set of restrooms near the Visitor Center
- No restaurants or picnic areas on the premises
- Most trails are made of cobble stones, gravel, flagstone or grass; others are less well-maintained
- Some trails have signage; most are unmarked
MY TIPS FOR A GREAT VISIT
- Even if you have an infant or new walker, leave the stroller behind. The trails are not stroller friendly. Use a baby carrier with smaller kiddos and set realistic hiking goals if you’ve got a toddler.
- Skip the Lower Lawns to give yourself more time to wander under the tropical rainforest canopy along one of the trails.
- Focus on the journey, not the destination. You can reach the far end of the Arboretum (and a waterfall) in about 30 minutes. Take time to wander off the Main Trail and discover all the rainforest has to offer.
- Do not miss Inspiration Point! This is single handedly the most picturesque spot in the entire place. It’s off the Main Trail but well worth the pay off.
Lyon Arboretum is located at:
3860 Manoa Road
Honolulu, HI 96822
Directions to Lyon Arboretum
This post is part of the “Monday Dreaming” series hosted by Mara at Mother of All Trips. Stop by to see what other wonderful places people are dreaming about.