Oahu for Plant Biologists

In addition to well-known opportunities for swimming, surfing, hiking, fine dining, and examining local culture, the Hawaiian Islands offer a range of destinations for the plant-minded. Oahu, the site of Plant Biology 2017, has a wealth of natural parks, botanic gardens, and other fascinating opportunities to see native and cultivated plants by visiting one of the many botanic gardens and parks:

  • Honolulu and the surrounding areas have an abundance of historic botanical gardens, some quite close to the Convention Center:
    • In Honolulu, Lili`uokalani Botanical Garden is about 15–20 minutes by car from the Convention Center, features native Hawaiian plants and was a favorite picnic area for Queen Lili`uokalani.
    • About 5 minutes from Lili`uokalani and 15–20 minutes by car from the Convention Center, the Foster Botanical Garden is the oldest of Honolulu’s botanic gardens and features a cycad collection and trees planted in the 1850’s.
    • The Army Corps of Engineers designed Ho`omaluhia Botanical Garden for flood control, but this “peaceful refuge” has 400 acres of beautiful scenery and a 32-acre lake. It’s a 30-minute drive from the Convention Center.
    • In east Honolulu, about 30 minutes from the Convention Center, the Koko Crater Botanical Garden features rare dryland plants and xeriscaping. If you’re feeling parched, the nearby Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is popular for snorkeling.
    • A little farther afield, about 40 minutes from the Convention Center, the Wahiawa Botanical Garden, was established as an experimental botanic garden in the 1930’s by sugar planters and features upland plants in a rainforest environment.
  • Oahu has an abundance of beautiful parks with amazing plants:
    • Moanalua Gardens features a huge monkeypod tree that was used in ads by Hitachi. If you stay around after the meeting, this garden has a massive hula festival July 15th and 16th. This garden is only a 20–25 minute drive from the Convention Center.
    • Take a hike in the jungle in Honolulu’s Watershed Forest Reserve and don’t miss the easy hike to nearby Manoa falls. Bring your swimsuit and wear hiking shoes.
    • Near the Watershed Forest Reserve, the University of Hawaii operates the Lyon Arboretum, which features a large collection of native plants and palms in a tropical rainforest setting (13-foot average annual rainfall!), so bring your raincoat.
    • In the 2,000-acre park in the Waimea Valley on the north shore of Oahu about an hour from the Convention Center, you can see endangered native plants such as popolo, (Solanum sandwicense), and Hawaiian hibiscus and observe traditional terraced agriculture for the growth of taro. Bring your swimsuit, you can hike to a 45-foot waterfall and take a swim.
  • Agriculture, fueled by abundant sun and rain, and nourished by the volcanic soil, forms an important part of the economy of Oahu:
    • Although sugar cultivation has been consigned to history in Oahu, Plantation Village, in the Waipahu Cultural Garden Park, re-creates a sugar plantation from when sugar was king (1850–1950). There’s a botanic garden too, and it’s about a 30-minute drive from the Convention Center.
    • The Dole Pineapple Plantation has train and garden tours, plus you can purchase a pack of pineapples to take home! It’s about a 35-minute drive from the Convention Center and on the way to several other attractions in north Oahu.
    • You can take a break from coffee breaks and visit a coffee and chocolate plantation , on the site of a former sugar plantation, about 35–40 minutes from the Convention Center.
    • Hawaii is known for its macadamia nuts and you can also visit Tropical Farms Macadamia Farm , about 45–50 minutes from the Convention Center.
    • Hawaiian grass feeds Hawaiian cows and, near Tropical Farms, Kualoa Ranch offers numerous tourist activities, food tours, and ziplining, including sites where the Jurassic Park movies were filmed.
    • At Kahuku Farms,  about 1.5 hours from the Conference Center, you can take a tractor-drawn wagon tour of their farm and sample the various fruits and vegetables they grow, including pineapples, papayas, and bananas (in the Smoothie Tour).

Check the hours, fees, and details for these sites before visiting, and make sure to be prepared for rain, sun, and potential swimming.

See you in paradise!

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