Lyon Arboretum, see all the beautiful Native Hawaiian plants in a tropical rainforest setting in Manoa Valley

The Lyon Arboretum, located at the top of Manoa’s watershed, is a 200 acre botanical garden managed by the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. It is open to the public Monday through Saturday and admission is free however it is suggested that you give a donation so that they can continue their good work. The Arboretum is considered the only University botanical garden (with water features) located in a tropical rainforest in the United States. It is also the only easily accessible tropical rainforest on the island of O'ahu.

It became a part of the University of Hawaii in 1953. Prior to that, the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association used the area to test various tree species for reforestation and collected living plants of economic value. There are many varieties of palms (over 650), ginger, heliconia and hibiscus. There is an entire section on herbs and spices as well as native and Polynesian plants.

Our Monday Hiking Ohana led by Debbie

Dr. Harold Lyon was a plant pathologist from Minnesota who was employed by the HSPA to restore the land that was torn apart by free-ranging cattle. He planted some 2,000 tree species on the land which became to be known as Manoa Arboretum. It was Dr. Lyon who pursuaded the HSPA to give the arboretum to the University of Hawai'i with the provision that the facility must be used as an arboretum in perpetuity. The University renamed the place in 1957 to honor the man who nurtured the 200 acres of land for 40 years. We are fortunate that he had the vision to create such a beautiful place to leave to future generations. Thank you Dr. Lyon and thank you to all the workers and volunteers who make the Lyon Arboretum so special. They continue to move forward in their mission of conservation by keeping a seed bank for storage and a plant micropropagation lab to rescue endangered Hawaiian plants.

Debbie explains a spice

The Lyon Arboretum is located at 3860 Manoa Road. It is actually easy to get there, make sure you go all the way up towards the now closed Paradise Park and keep on driving past it. There is ample parking up there and it is a wonderful place to spend a few hours walking along the marked trails. Sit and ponder at Inspiration Point! There are self-guided tours, guided tours Monday through Friday and periodic plant sales. Please be sure to use insect repellent and sunblock, wear a hat on sunny days and bring water.




Bay leaf or Laurel

Nutmeg tree


Blue marble


All spice

Vanilla bean

Staghorn fern

Beehive ginger



Miss Hawaii Ti leaf

Lemon grass and kaffir

Siam Rose


Mountain apple






White Hibiscus

Honolulu Festival

Lyon Arboretum

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