Waimea Valley is a botanical garden, historic and cultural site with a 45 foot waterfall located on the North Shore of O’ahu, Hawai’i. It is a 1,875 acre ahupua‘a, a division of land stretching from the mountains to the sea. Waimea Valley has gone through many changes throughout its history and today many of the historic and cultural sites are surrounding by a world class botanical garden stretching over 300 acres.
In the early 1970s, Waimea Valley was owned by Charlie Pietsch II, who had a vision to create a botanical garden in the Valley. He hired Keith Woolliams as the Director of the botanical garden from the 1970s until 1998. Keith a graduate of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, came to Waimea Valley from the National Tropical Botanical Garden on Kaua’i, and he had previously been the Director of the Lae Botanical Garden in Papua New Guinea. He was responsible for bringing in many of the rare and interesting plants from around the world. Keith’s tireless approach to obtaining plants from the four corners of the earth was a blessing because by the early 1990s it became much harder to move plant material across international borders. Today it is almost impossible. Keith also focused Waimea’s efforts to preserve the rarest plants of Hawai’i’s dryland forests, and he pioneered the conservation of named heirloom food crops. Many in today’s conservation community are grateful for his influence.
Today, the botanical garden and the conservation program continue to thrive. There are 41 themed gardens with the Kamananui Stream running through the Valley flowing out into the ocean at Waimea Bay. Waimea Bay is the home of the famous Eddie Aikau big surf contest invitational.
One of the goals of Waimea Valley is to give Hawai'i residents, local & international researchers and professionals, cultural practitioners, all visitors and volunteers an opportunity to encounter rare plants such as these growing at Waimea, keeping those plants in remote areas undisturbed. In the upper regions of Waimea Valley, 45 acres of native plant restoration forest has been fenced to keep ungulate pests from up-rooting plants and causing soil erosion. Monitoring, nurturing, and propagating the rare and endangered species plants at Waimea Valley for conservation and education purposes for the community to enjoy now and in the future is one of our major programs; plus training and educating the youth in conservation is crucial for future leaders in the making toward land stewardship.
Hi'ipaka's main source of income is through the entrance fee at the gate from visitors who come to see the botanical garden, cultural sites, and the 45-foot waterfall. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn more about Waimea Valley’s botanical gardens. Botanical tours are available every Thursday at noon with our botanical specialists.
Today, Waimea Valley is the home of more than 5,000 documented kinds of tropical and subtropical plants including native and endangered Hawaiian plants.
Waimea’s Botanical Collections Specialist of 29 years, David Orr, explains the connection between native plants and culture. “Native and Polynesian-introduced plants are the foundation of Hawaiian culture. Waimea has a rich collection of heirloom varieties of kalo, sweet potato, and banana. We have one of the state’s most extensive collection of loulu palms, the only palms in Hawai‘i before Hawaiians brought coconuts. Our diverse collection of plants is a display of over 1000 genera in over 200 plant families from all over the world in 52 separately themed gardens. One is solely devoted to the Hawaiian hibiscus, and it includes both endangered subspecies of our state flower.”
The exceptional botanical collections at Waimea Valley feature dozens of distinct gardens representing flora from different parts of the world, such as island groups of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Examples are the Ogasawara Islands, Fiji, Guam, and the Mascarene Islands. Stroll through the Hawaiian collection and enjoy an assortment of plants found only in Hawai'i, many of which are rare.