The Rambling Writer Visits Kauai, Part 4: Exotic Botanical Gardens

More hopscotching around the globe, as Thor and I tour the Allerton Botanical Gardens on lush Kauai, Hawaii

The autumn rains have finally arrived here in Bellingham, WA, giving us some relief from the drought and the waves of choking wildfire smoke. Good weather for writing on my novel-in-progress, and for recalling another episode of Thor’s June retirement trip to a new island for us — Kauai! A friend had urged us to visit one of the island’s four beautiful gardens that are part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden nonprofit dedicated to preserving tropic plants. Since the torrential rainstorm before our visit had wiped out roads on the scenic north side, we chose the Allerton Gardens on the south side of the island, for an introduction to its gorgeous exotic plants.

Also known as Lawai-kai, the garden was created by Robert Allerton and his adopted son John Gregg Allerton, who arrived on the island in 1938 and bought 80 acres from Queen Emma’s plantation. The lush gardens line the banks of the Lawai Stream, which flows to the lovely Lawai Cove, accessible only by boat or obscure trails we warned were guarded by razor grass and  inhospitably thorny foliage.

The Allertons created a garden with outdoor spaces incorporating the very few actual native Hawaiian plants; “canoe plants” brought by the Polynesian settlers between 400 and 500 AD; and other non-native exotics brought by the later waves of colonists. The large bamboo, as our guide explained, has created mini-forests in different parts of the island and is definitely an introduced species.

The Allertons incorporated water features and statuary among the plantings, eventually leaving the gardens in trust to the nonprofit, with the stipulation that none of the arrangements would be altered. So we encountered an eclectic mix of Greek/Roman-imitation statues among the tropic foliage.

The “Greek connection” reminded Thor and me of our recent visit to Delphi and the omphalos stone, considered the center of the ancient Greek world. Here in Kauai, atop Mount Wai’ale’ale, was considered the ancient Hawaiian center of the world, and interestingly, when Thor examined the globe, the two sites are just about opposite each other in the northern hemisphere. Mount Wai’ale’ale bears the distinction of being the wettest spot on earth, with an annual rainfall of 432 inches!

Kauai is blessed with many streams running down from the heights and nourishing the lush foliage, like the Lawai Stream of these gardens.

Using the many streams and seeps, water features abound here, from naturalistic with local pumice stones…

…to stylized:

We also admired strange fruits:

We thought these trees with their dramatic, spreading roots were banyan trees like those we’ve seen in Central America, but we learned that they’re giant Australian fig trees:

More lovely blooms:

And yet another site from the filming of the “Jurassic Park” movies. On the other side of the stream, behind me, is a narrow track featured in the opening scenes of the first film when Jeeps drive in:



You will find The Rambling Writer’s blog posts here every Saturday. Sara’s latest novel from Book View Cafe is available in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection.  It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?”  The novel has received the Chanticleer Global Thriller Grand Prize and the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction. Sara has recently returned from a research trip in Greece and is back at work on the sequel, The Ariadne Disconnect. Sign up for her quarterly email newsletter at





The Rambling Writer Visits Kauai, Part 4: Exotic Botanical Gardens — 4 Comments

  1. An interesting stipulation in the Allerton Trust is that none of the statues be cleaned; they are supposed to weather naturally in place. The only exception seems to be the butt of a bronze female statue which is helpfully polished by visitors.