Lyon Arboretum – Oahu

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Lyon Arboretum is a public botanical garden that is part of the University of Hawai’i and located in the Manoa Valley. Found just a few miles from Waikiki, Lyon Arboretum is the perfect place to hike and see the tropical plants of Hawaii spread out of almost 200 acres of landscaped grounds.

Visitors who love strolling through lush tropical landscapes will enjoy a trip to Lyon Arboretum at the University of Hawaii in Manoa Valley. The arboretum is just outside of the tourist city of Waikiki and is a favorite place for hiking and walking that is designed for public viewing. Lyon Arboretum and botanical gardens are 200 acres of meticulously landscaped grounds that is perfect for a relaxing afternoon getaway from the city.

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Lyon Arboretum History

The Lyon Arboretum is a public botanical garden that puts an emphasis on trees. The Arboretum is part of the University of Hawaii research unit and offers public programs as well as scientific research programs. The grounds span almost 200 acres on the island of O’ahu in the Manoa valley. The elevation at the Arboretum goes from 450 to 1850 feet and is in a topical rainforest zone that averages 13 feet of rain annually.

There are several man-made features found in the Arboretum including stone platforms and plants that indicate a tie to Polynesian importance before the 1900s. In 1918, the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association purchased 124 acres of Fred Harrison’s property to use as a test site for evaluating useful trees for reforestation efforts throughout the Hawaiian Islands. This test site eventually became the foundation of the Manoa Arboretum which was created from 1920 to 1945 and led by Dr. Lyon.

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents accepted the land from the HSPA in 1953 when the research for reforestation was completed. The deed stipulated that the property be used only as a arboretum and botanical garden. The Manoa Arboretum was renamed to the Lyon Arboretum in 1957, one week after Dr. Lyon’s death. A commemorative plaque along the train entrance trail commemorates Dr. Lyon’s vast and generous donations both in life and after to the Arboretum.

In 1972 the Lyon Arboretum Association was formed to help facilitate the fundraising efforts needed to open the Arboretum to the public for the first time ever. Educational programs and workshops were established, internships were developed, and docents were added to provide guided tours of the former research center. Plant sales were also offered, and a book and gift shop were eventually added.

Through 1990 many individual gardens were established including the Economic Section, Ethnobotany Garden, Hawaiian Garden, Herb Garden, and Palm Garden. Researchers from all over the planet continue to come to the Lyon Arboretum to study the new varieties of flora that have been developed by the horticulturalists employed by the Arboretum.

The Lyon Arboretum hosts more than 50,000 visitors annually and is open Monday through Saturday. Admission includes access to the gardens and trails, community classes, and more.

Lyon Arboretum Attractions

There are several gardens and buildings that are located within the Lyon Arboretum. The gardens showcase more than 6,000 tropical plant taxa. The 194-acre garden has an online map as well as printed maps available in the visitor center to help navigate through the different areas of the grounds.

Visitor’s Center- All visitors will begin their trip to the Lyon Arboretum at the Visitor’s Center. This is where maps, restrooms, and the gift shop are located. Docents are also available to answer questions as well as give tours.

Themed Gardens- There are several themed gardens at the Lyon Arboretum including:

  • The Stemmermann Memorial Garden and Mapes Memorial Garden
  • The Young Memorial Garden and Betty Ho Memorial Garden
  • The Native Hawaiian Garden and Beatrice H. Krauss Ethnobotanical Garden
  • The Rain Shelter, Walking Buddha Statue, and Bromeliad Garden
  • Inspiration Point
  • The Upper Grounds which is divided into the Hawaiian Section and Economic Section

Aihualama Falls- The waterfalls at Lyon Arboretum can be reached by following the Main Trail to the back of the valley. The area is relatively dry unless there has been a recent rainfall and visitors shouldn’t expect much water flow though it is a beautiful and rugged hike.

Lyon Arboretum Things to Know:

Before heading down the trails of the Arboretum, visitors should check out the safety and policies page online and read the regulations posted in the Visitor’s Center and on trails. Make sure to bring with you:

  • Shoes suitable for hiking
  • Water bottle
  • Bug repellant
  • Raincoat
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Camera
  • Snacks (carry out what you carry in)

Drones and pets are not allowed in the Arboretum unless the pet is a registered service dog and wears their vest. Swimming is also not allowed in the arboretum.

Lyon Arboretum Special Events

There are many lectures, programs, workshops, and special events throughout the week at the Lyon Arboretum. Make sure to check out the events page on the Lyon Arboretum website for an accurate listing of events and registration information. The Arboretum also hosts plant sales throughout the year and offers the property for private rentals such as weddings, video or photoshoots, and fundraisers.