In the heart of Kaneohe, nestled at the foot of the steep windward flanks of the Ko'olau Mountains, lies the unique and expansive Ho'omaluhia Botanical Gardens. Ho'omaluhia is the largest botanical garden on the island of O'ahu, with over 400 acres of lush tropical scenery and plants from a wide variety of exotic locations grouped geographically throughout the park. The best part about Ho'omaluhia is that admission is free!
Once inside the park, stop by the visitor center where there is plenty of parking and some small educational exhibits. A short walk down the path from the visitor center is the lake, where bamboo fishing rods can be borrowed on a first-come, first-served basis on weekends from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Be sure to bring bread as bait for a catch-and-release style program that is great for the whole family. Along this path are also many different exotic plants, from cacao to banana, with interesting facts printed on signs for a self-guided tour of tropical flora.
Camping is also allowed on weekends from 9:00 a.m. Friday to 4:00 p.m. Monday in designated sites around the picturesque park. Reservations can be made online no more than two weeks in advance. A flat-rate fee of $32 will cover all three nights for up to 10 people. Campsites are grouped into three larger camping areas, each of which requires a short walk from their respective parking lots. Campsites all have a fire ring and picnic tables. Camping areas have potable water, outdoor showers, bathrooms, and charcoal disposal pits for convenience. With its interesting location at the base of the windward side of the Ko'olau mountains comes the increased likelihood that you will be rained on, if only briefly, at some point during your stay. Bring rain gear and bug spray as mosquitoes love the damp conditions.
The first camping area, Kahua Kuou, is situated two minutes down the road from the visitor center and has eight camp sites under a canopy of trees native to India and Sri Lanka. Each site is within sight of each other, with campsites #8 and #4 being closest to the bathrooms. The second camping area, Kahua Lehua, is a few more minutes down the road and has six campsites situated in a field of native Hawaiian plants with #11 and #12 being closest to the parking lot. This second camping area has similar accommodations, but less shade, so plan accordingly. The final camping area, Kahua Nui-Makai, is farthest down the road, with 15 campsites, a picnic pavilion, and group camping area. All camping reservations require a printed permit and access to and from the park are limited once they lock the gates after normal business hours.
Make sure you plan ample time to explore all the park has to offer, as there are plenty of walking trails and other sites to see!