Lyon Arboretum, a nearly 200-acre tropical rainforest less than five miles from Waikiki, is an eco-destination that can be reached without a run up the Amazon. A lush, urban jungle in a world of rapidly shrinking rainforests, the arboretum is located at the top of Manoa Valley in south Honolulu and is operated by the University of Hawaii.
Recently, the arboretum instituted one-hour guided tours making it possible for visitors to learn about the amazing number of cultural and tropical plants that grow in the forest. Trained guides share information about Hawaii’s natural history, rich cultural heritage, and the Arboretum’s essential work in rare plant conservation.
There is a $5 fee for the tour, which is offered Monday through Saturday at 10 a.m. Admission to the arboretum is free. For tour reservations, call 808-988-0461.
Getting there is easy aboard a city bus. Take TheBus from Waikiki to Ala Moana Center, then transfer to the #5 bus to Manoa Valley, walk up Manoa Road to the arboretum. Or board the #4 bus and ride to the University of Hawaii at Manoa and on to Punahou School where you can transfer to #5 and Manoa Valley.
Lyon Arboretum, established in 1918 at the end of World War I, grew out of a plan to demonstrate the value of watershed restoration. At the time, the property was almost devoid of vegetation, trashed by free-ranging cattle. The Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association acquired 124 acres of land and put Dr. Harold L. Lyon, a young botanist from Minnesota, in charge. Over time, Dr. Lyon planted some 2,000 tree species.
In 1953, the University took over and shifted the emphasis from forestry to horticulture. During the last 30 years nearly 2,000 ornamental and other plants have been introduced to the grounds. The collection includes native Hawaiian species, tropical palms, aroids, ti, taro, heliconia and ginger. The arboretum also is a center for the rescue and propagation of rare and endangered native Hawaiian plants. Arboretum hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
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