Kauai is called, appropriately, the Garden Isle. Nearly half the island is a protected conservation area, and much of the rest is rural. The acreage of these five gardens and preserves is about equal to New York's Central Park and San Francisco's Golden Gate Park combined. To the untrained eye they offer botanical surprises, splashes of color amid a hundred shades of green. They not only show off the island's amazing diversity of flora, but they also act as laboratories for tropical plants, propagating native species and preserving extinct-in-the-wild plants. One, McBryde Garden, has one of the largest collections of Hawaiian plants in the world, giving a glimpse of what the Hawaiian Islands may have looked like a thousand years ago.
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Allerton, 4425 Lawai Beach Road, Koloa, HI 96756; (808) 742-2623, www.ntbg.org. Landscaped estate with sculptures, pools, fountains. Guided 2 1/2-hour tours at 9 and 10 a.m. and 1 and 2 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; $30 adults, $10 children 6-14. Reservations mandatory.
McBryde, 4425 Lawai Beach Road, Koloa, HI 96756; (808) 742-2623, www.ntbg.org. Well-manicured, park-like garden and preserve that sprawls over 250 acres in the Lawai Valley. Open daily. Self-guided tours are every hour on the half-hour, 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m; $15 adults, $5 children 6-14.
Na Aina Kai, 4101 Wailapa Road, Kilauea, HI 96754; (808) 828-0525, www.naainakai.com. Twelve gardens, large collection of bronze statuary at this north shore estate. Guided tours are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; $25-$70. No children younger than 13. Reservations necessary.
Limahuli, P.O. Box 808, Hanalei, HI 96714; (808) 826-1053, www.ntbg.org. Stunning vistas at this rain forest near the Na Pali Coast. Guided two-hour tours, $15 per person (reservations needed); self-guided tours $10 for adults, free for children 12 and younger. Open 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays and Sundays.
Smith's Tropical Paradise, Wailua River Marina State Park, Wailua, HI 96746; (808) 821-6895, www.smithskauai.com. Lagoons and wide pathways at this '50s-style, wheelchair-accessible garden in Kauai. Open 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. Adults, $5.25; children 3-12, $2.50.