Beehive Ginger

Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Gardens

If you are on the Big Island it is worth the time to get to the Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden north of Hilo.  The address is 27-717 Mamalahoa Highway, Papaikou, Hawaii (four miles off Route 19). This is the best tropical rain forest garden I have ever seen. Be prepared to stay for several hours.

The day I went it was sunny with immense down pours. Bring an umbrella and a rain poncho just in case a rain cloud opens up right over you. But don’t complain. Without copious amounts of water this slice of paradise could not exist. First, stop off at the visitors center for a basic lay of the land which descends into a waterfall valley down to the rocky beach. The forest is chock-a-block full of exotic plants with 1,800 species. There are orchids of every possible color, shape and size. There is a section for just bromeliads. And the forest is filled with red and yellow hanging Helicone Rostradas which look like ropes of dozens of lobster claws. There are Anthurium of colors from white to coral to deep burgundy. (These look like flat waxy calla lilies).

The gingers cover the dense jungle floors including Pink Torch Ginger which looks like a neon magnolia flower and false Beehive Gingers which look like small hard pineapples but are squishy and hold mostly water. Look for the Golden Shrimp plants, pink camelias, orange hibiscus and amazing Jurassic Park size ferns. Passionflower vines wrap up swaying palms, Persian Shield with almost iridescent purple/silvery leaves fill in the shadows and enormous Prayer Plants (maranta leuconeura…yes, I had to look that up) reach up to the sun. In addition to plants, vines, orchids and bromeliads there are flowering trees such as the Argentine Cockspur Coral and Mountain Apple.

Wear sturdy shoes with good gripping soles as you will be walking down boardwalks which will become instantly slippery with rain and along paths 3-4“ deep in water. In fact, you might want to keep some extra dry shoes and a beach towel for when you get back to your car. The paths will slowly lower you to the ocean with magnificent lookouts of waves crashing on the rocks. There are a few places to stop with benches and views. But when the rains come down hid under a Banana or Bird of Paradise tree, these are best because the large leaves are water repellent sturdy awnings.

HINT: Bring water, snacks and your camera. There are no snack huts like at a zoo and the hike back up can take some time. If you are hiking challenged ask for a tour via golf cart. You may want to book this option ahead of time (808) 964-5233. Admission is $25 and worth every penny.

Also, there is a lovely flat strolling garden/arboretum right in downtown Hilo which is a free public. Check out the Japanese Garden named Liliukalani Gardens. It is right across the street from the ocean it has several arched red lacquered bridges, small lagoons and flowering trees. There is parking right along the side and closes at 7:30 pm. The address is: 189 Lihiwai Street #152 Hilo.

Sally Franz and her third husband live on the Olympic Peninsula. She has two daughters, a stepson, and three grandchildren. Sally is the author of several humor books including Scrambled Leggs: A Snarky Tale of Hospital Hooey and The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Menopause

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