The Mānoa valley above Honolulu is a lush, beautiful area. The valley is famous for its rainfall and rainbows. (Be sure to listen to Mānoa in the Rain by Hapa!) Taro was grown in the valley and eventually it became the first site of coffee and sugar plantations on Oahu. Today it is home to the University of Hawaii Mānoa and lovely residential neighborhoods.
The Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association founded an arboretum in 1918 near the top of Mānoa and eventually gifted the site to the university. It was named in honor of Harold L. Lyon, plant pathologist for the HSPA.
Lyon Arboretum has twelve garden zones including herbs and spices, native Hawaiian, and trees and plants that are important to the Hawaiian economy. Trails go through the zones of this Oahu garden and plants are marked with botanical information.
Orchids growing on a tree
‘Ōhi’a lehua, a native of Hawaii. The flowers are used in hula. The arboretum is collecting healthy seeds of this beloved tree to help with the diseased trees on the Big Island.
Mountain apple. This tree comes in magenta and white and produces a fruit you can eat.
Close up of mountain apple blossoms.
The views of the Ko’olau mountain range are spectacular up here. The trees are beautiful. An invasive but notable species is the albizia tree that was introduced from Indonesia in 1917 and has a distinctive broad top.
Lyon Arboretum is open Monday to Saturday with a requested donation of $5 per person. You can walk through with a self-guided tour or take a tour with a docent at 10 am daily. Make a reservation ahead of time at (808) 988-0461. The charge is $10 per person. Be sure to wear appropriate shoes, use bug repellant (I recommend Sawyer’s Picaridin, Repel Lemon Eucalyptus, or Repel Scented Family), and use sunscreen. You may want a windbreaker-type jacket for the changeable temperatures in these higher elevations of Mānoa valley. There are restrooms, water fountains, and a gift shop.
Lyon Arboretum area map
Grabbing a bite
Treetops Restaurant is an old-time restaurant on Manoa Road. Hawaiian and Asian favorites are served buffet style in a high-up dining room that puts you right in the rainforest canopy. It’s mostly a lunch restaurant. Make sure you call the morning you are going! (808) 988-6839 They often close for private functions.
Down the hill in between East Manoa Road and Woodlawn Drive is the Manoa Marketplace. There are lots of small restaurants in the area such as Dainichi sushi bar, Island Burgers, Paesano Ristorante, Asia Manoa Chinese, Fendu Boulangerie, and Serg’s Mexican. Use your favorite restaurant app to search for Manoa. http://manoamarketplacehawaii.com/
From Waikiki, take Ala Wai Boulevard to McCully Street. Follow the signs to H1 going west (Ewa). Take the next exit to Punahou Street going north. (Or take a left off McCully after crossing the H1 onto Dole Street. Turn right on Punahou.) Punahou becomes Manoa Road. Continue up the hill. At the very end of the road, you will enter the parking lot for Lyon Arboretum.
Resource links for Lyon Arboretum Oahu garden
- Friends of Lyon Arboretum
- Lyon Arboretum University of Hawaii Manoa
- Trail to ‘Aihualama Falls from Exploration Hawaii
- Oahu’s best botanical gardens from Hawaii Magazine
- Manoa Falls from Best of Oahu
- Malama Manoa walking tours