Winter in Hawaii • Visiting Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens • February 24, 2018
We’re very much in a state of cluelessness as far as understanding how seasons work in Hawaii. I had heard that there were 2 seasons: summer, which tends to be hot and humid, and winter, which is referred to as the rainy season. Up until February, it didn’t feel that different from any other Midwest summer to me. Sure there were rainy days, but there were also plenty of sunny ones. It definitely isn’t as humid as I remember it being when I first arrived, but we were also living on a different part of the island at that point. But once February hit, it seems as though we’re getting rain at least every other day. The past couple weekends have had continuous rain and flash flooding. This week has been especially windy, something that’s very noticeable when living with the windows open 24/7. It’s been mostly cloudy every day as well, with limited mountain views. It’s gotten to the point where Charlie and I both perk up when the sun peaks through the clouds and instantly put down whatever we’re doing for a quick walk. Make fun of us all you want, we’ve clearly adjusted to Hawaii’s weather enough to know that this is winter, and winter means wearing sweaters and drinking hot cocoa.
There was rain in the forecast for both days this past weekend, but when Saturday turned out to be warm with no rain, I was anxious to get out and do something. We drove over to Kane’ohe to visit the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens. When we first moved to Oahu, we had walked through many condos in Kane’ohe while looking for our potential home, and going back reminded me of some of my first impressions. Green, overcast, humid, with the tall, rugged cliffs of the Ko’olau mountains in the background that I simply can’t take my eyes off of. The botanical gardens perfectly displayed each of these traits in a beautiful, lush setting. When I say overcast, I mean it in the best way: there’s something so fascinating and mysterious about those grey clouds moving over the mountains, exposing ridges here and there, with the sun peaking through and highlighting different parts. I know the focus is meant to be on the gardens, but the mountains are so rudely distracting and demand to be noticed.
That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy the gardens though. Entrance to the park is free, which just about guarantees we’ll be back for more. We started our visit at the small visitor’s center, reading about different plants, produce, what’s native to Hawaii, and more. We picked up a map, then walked through a couple art galleries. Both featured paintings from local artists, mostly capturing familiar views from around our island. We were then ready to check out the trails!
Unfortunately, it had been raining quite a bit as I had mentioned, so all of the dirt trails had turned into giant mud puddles. We walked as far as we could on the main gravel trail, then gave up and made our way back to the concrete. We simply weren’t wearing the appropriate footwear and didn’t want to end up as muddy as those we saw on the trails. Another reason to return! It should be noted that this area gets more rain, as it’s on the Windward side and right up next to the mountains, which seem to attract wet weather.
All that isn’t to say we didn’t enjoy our short walk. We’re very fascinated by the flora on the island, and are always interested in learning what is native to Hawaii and what was brought from the mainland, or other countries. We learned that the only native palm tree on Hawaii is the lolou palm, we saw plenty of colorful blooms, and spotted different fruit or nut producing trees, including our first cacao trees. We then decided to drive through the remainder of the park. The drive is broken up with different stopping points focusing on specific locations that the flora came from, including Hawaiian, Polynesian, African, Indian, and more. We did feel that the park was overall lacking in hiking capabilities, unless you’re into road walking. Naturally, we wondered where all the blocked-off, “No Trespassing” roads went. Were there secret trails into the mountains? Other activities the park offers include fishing and camping, and some of the stops seemed to be mainly for campsites and not so much touring.
The highlight for me was spotting small waterfalls falling high from the Ko’olau cliffs. Well, they looked small from where we were standing, but in reality they are anything but. I’ve heard that the best views possible are when you’re driving on H-3 (an interstate) during a rainstorm, where it’s raining enough but not heavily clouded. There you have the potential of seeing many waterfalls in one place streaming down the mountains, but there is no place to safely stop to see them so they must be admired while going 60 mph. Perhaps maybe one day we’ll find ourselves in the right place at the right time, but I can be content with what we saw today. It was still impressive and a worthy alternative to the interstate waterfalls.
In all, it was an enjoyable outing and we will certainly be back for more. If you’re wanting to visit, I would say to definitely not let the clouds scare you off — it’s just as gorgeous, if not more so, on a dreary day.