In 1972 Makato Nitahara turned a 20-acre papaya patch just outside Hilo into a tropical garden. Today Nani Mau (“forever beautiful”) holds more than 2,000 varieties of plants, from fragile hibiscus, whose blooms last only a day, to durable red anthuriums imported from South America. It also has rare palms, a fruit orchard, Japanese gardens (with a bell tower built without nails), an orchid walkway, and a ginger garden. In 2012 Los Angeles tour operator Helen Koo bought the then-neglected property, restoring the gardens with the help of four full-time gardeners. She also opened a garden restaurant that’s popular with tour companies; the buffet lunch, served daily from 10:30am to 2pm, is $18 and includes garden admission.