Big Island – The “Orchid Isle” – Showcases Its Best

By Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi
Volcano Queen Cattleya.

Volcano Queen Cattleya.

It’s easy to see how Hawaii Island got its nickname “Orchid Island” when you visit Akatsuka Orchid Gardens: Some 200,000 orchid plants in various stages of growth thrive in 13 greenhouses at the seven-acre attraction, which was founded in 1974. It specializes in cattleyas, the large, showy variety that florists like to use for corsages. Over the years, Moriyasu Akatsuka, the company’s owner and president, has bred more than 2,000 original cattleya hybrids.

Akatsuka Orchid Garden, Volcano, HI.  Photo:  Lindley Ashline.

Akatsuka Orchid Garden, Volcano, HI. Photo: Lindley Ashline.

On the guided Orchid Greenhouse Tour, you’ll learn how the family-owed-and-operated nursery started, how orchids are cultivated and how rainwater collected in a 92-foot-wide reservoir is used to water the plants. You’ll also participate in a transplanting activity; if you’re bound for the Mainland or another Hawaiian island, you can take your little orchid plant with you.

Reserve time to browse in the showroom, where 1,000 vivid orchids are displayed. Seventy percent of the plants there have been grown on site. The rest come from local growers who provide Akatsuka Orchid Gardens with species other than cattleya, including the ubiquitous vanda often used for leis.

Akatsuka Orchid Garden, Volcano, HI.  Photo:  Lindley Ashline.

Akatsuka Orchid Garden, Volcano, HI. Photo: Lindley Ashline.

Eight thousand square feet of the showroom has been transformed into a maze featuring a wall filled with Akatsuka hybrids, a sign that spells “Aloha” with 700 orchids and a photo area with a beautiful orchid backdrop.

If you visit between May and August, you’ll likely see the company’s pride and joy, a rare Paphiopedilum hirsutissimum, in bloom in the gift shop. Akatsuka purchased the orchid in Thailand in 1984. Perfectly symmetrical with horizontal side petals, it reputedly is worth $20,000 today.

Akatsuka Orchid Garden, Volcano, HI.  Photo:  Lindley Ashline.

Akatsuka Orchid Garden, Volcano, HI. Photo: Lindley Ashline.

Akatsuka Orchid Gardens is on Highway 11 between Mile Markers 22 and 23 in Volcano, Hawaii island (about 5 miles north of the entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park). There is no charge to browse in the showroom, which is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The maze is also open during those hours.

Tours are Wednesdays and Fridays at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Reservations are required at least two days in advance. Call (808) 967-8234 or check out www.akatsukaorchid.com for tour and maze prices and other information.

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