advertisement

Beyond Hanalei and the last wooden bridge, there’s a mighty cleft in the coastal range where ancestral Hawaiians lived in what can only be called paradise. Carved by a waterfall stream known as Limahuli, the lush valley sits at the foot of steepled cliffs that Hollywood portrayed as Bali Hai in South Pacific. This small, almost secret garden, part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, is ecotourism at its best. Here botanists hope to save endangered native plants, some of which grow in the 1,000-acre Limahuli Preserve behind the garden, an area that is off-limits to visitors. The self-guided tour encourages visitors to walk slowly up and down the .75-mile loop trail (resting places provided) to view indigenous and “canoe” plants, which are identified in Hawaiian and English, as well as plantation-era imported flowers and fruits. From taro to sugarcane, the plants brought over in Polynesians’ voyaging canoes (hence their nickname) tell the story of the people who cultivated them for food, medicine, clothing, shelter, and decoration. The tour booklet also shares some of the fascinating legends inspired by the area’s dramatically perched rocks and Makana mountain, where men once hurled firebrands (‘oahi) that floated far out to sea. You’ll learn even more on the daily 2 1/2-hour guided tour, if you reserve well in advance; a weekly family tour, for parties with at least one child age 12 or younger, treats the garden as an outdoor classroom and lasts 1 1/2 to 2 hours.