Big Island – Day 4 – Part 1
We started the day by heading back onto the Onomea Scenic Drive to go to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden and then grabbed lunch at What’s Shakin’ a food stand located at the north end of the Onomea Scenic Drive. We drove through the Onomea Scenic Drive the previous day, but didn’t make any stops. So we headed back the next day and drove up the Onomea Scenic Drive the same way (from the south heading north).
I’d read that quite a few people skipped the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden and walked down a trail near the Tropical Botanical Garden. We originally stopped at the beginning of the trail for some pictures before driving up a little bit to the Tropical Botanical Garden.
Tropical Botanical Garden
You can’t miss the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden as you’re driving on the Onomea Scenic Drive. There is a parking lot across the street from the main entrance to the garden. Pull up into the parking lot, and go into the little gift store to get your tickets.
Admission for a day is $15 for adults, children ages 6 – 16 are $5. Children under 6 are free.
I’ve read quite a few people saying it’s a little expensive for a garden and yes it is a little expensive, but it really is a beautiful garden and if that’s your thing it’s worth it. An alternative would be taking the trail near the garden, you might miss all of the flowers etc, but it will take you to the ocean. Be careful though, there is a guard/security person near the end to make sure you don’t accidentally walk into the Tropical Botanical Garden and according to some reviews they were asked to turn around and didn’t make it to the Onomea Bay.
The Tropical Botanical Garden provides a simple map with numbered garden trails to take (but I can’t find any maps of the garden online). I’m not very familiar with plants and flowers but there are over 2,000 species of plants, flowers, etc. in the garden. Many I have never seen before, and many I probably didn’t even see in the garden. Their website has a great database to help identify these plants but after going through it I found that many of the plants looked very similar.
The garden starts with a raised boardwalk that leads you down to the rest of the garden. It can be quite steep as you head down, and note that you’re going to have to head back up this boardwalk on your way out. My cousin who brought her kids did not enjoy this part of the walk with her stroller.
We spent a lot of time just strolling the garden and taking pictures. My Dad and I each had our cameras in hand taking pictures as my Mom and Sister were pointing at things they wanted pictures of haha.
I love the lush greenery everywhere in the garden with the sound of water flowing in the background.
I saw that there was a waterfall on the map and got really excited. The view we got of the waterfall wasn’t much. It was surrounded by greenery and we didn’t have direct view of it. According to the Tropical Botanical Garden website, this waterfall is a three-tier waterfall but our view only showed a single tier. It wasn’t much but it was a nice refreshing stop.
Near the waterfall is a this Tiki of Ku carved by a local artist. The wood used for this Tiki is a rare tree that was grown in this very garden and now stands facing the waterfall. Ku is a Hawaiian God, one of the many stories of Hawaiian Gods I heard about throughout my trip.
The Founders Birdhouse is located near their Orchid Garden and has several different types of birds. This was a fun little aspect of the garden for kids trying to talk to the parrots. They even speak in different languages saying Hello.
I was fascinated by some of their unique plants, like the left image above. It looks like a bush of orchids wrapped around a tree trunk (it looks even more beautiful in person). I love greenery, but it was refreshing to see some color.
I love taking pictures of fresh flowers and I’m going to guess that August/September is not exactly the best time of the year for flowers but I was surprised that there was quite a bit to see and flowers still blooming. It’s always a little sad to see flowers that just aren’t fresh anymore.
Of course the greenery is just as amazing. It rains a lot in Hilo, and it sure is beautifully green after the rain. There was quite a bit of shade throughout the garden from the big trees, palms, bamboos, etc. Which keeps the garden relatively cool, but don’t forget your bug spray.
There are plenty of different types of trails throughout the garden, but don’t worry it is all paved. Even with streams and waterfalls, you can’t walk into the stream. Oh! And there were these geckos found in the garden. I thought it was kind of cool seeing them throughout the garden.
At the end (or would I call that the half way point, since we have to turn around) is the Onomea Bay. It’s no beach at the end, instead just an open area overlooking the bay. It’s a perfect spot for pictures with the bay in the background framed with palm trees.
Like Jeju, South Korea random rocks in the water have a story. The Legend of the Twin Rocks is a story about two lovers who were willing to sacrifice themselves to protect their village from being attacked. They stayed out the night they were expected to be attacked, but were not found the next day. Instead, these two rocks (attached to each other) appeared at the entrance of the bay making it difficult for canoes to enter the bay keeping their village safe.
The Tropical Botanical Garden is considered to be one of the best in Hawaii and I can definitely see why. There is a little bit of everything, but you won’t feel too overwhelmed or confused. It’s not just plants and flowers etc, but a little piece of Hawaii. The founders of the garden preserved much of the original land (and cleaned it up for us), and in the process even found a little grave site and kept it the way it was. The garden is a little gem, and sure didn’t disappoint.
Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
27-717 Old Mamalahoa Hwy
Papaikou, HI 96781
After walking through the Tropical Botanical Garden we were hungry, and stopped at What’s Shakin’. It is located at the end of the Scenic Drive just before turing left as you leave the Scenic Drive. It’s kind of hard to miss as you’ll see a sign on the side of the road and probably a few cars just outside a cute little house.
Order in the window on the patio and pick up your food and drink in the next window when it’s ready.
As usual, we ordered three things to share between the four of us plus a Fresh Chilled Coconut. We got a fish wrap, taro burger, and a salmon burger; each served with a salad and fresh fruit.
The food wasn’t bad but not the best I’ve had. What I did really enjoy was the being there. We didn’t get any smoothies, but I bet those are good. They use fresh fruit grown in their own farm.
You can either sit on the patio or under a canopy thing next to the house. The tables on the patio were small, so we got seated at one of the bigger picnic tables under the canopy. From there you can see rows of Dragon Fruit trees! As we were eating, we watched a gecko enjoy the shade under the canopy with us on another picnic bench. I actually think this guy looks really pretty.
Too bad this place is currently for sale. 20 acres of land, What’s Shakin’, and a house for $4.9 Million. I hope the future owner keeps What’s Shakin’…
27-999 Old Mamalahoa Hwy
Pepeekeo, HI 96783
What’s Shakin’ Facebook Page