Sometimes its hard for people to picture Honolulu as a metropolitan city. Our white sandy beaches and mountain ridges are welcomed distractions from urban life, but make no mistake, Honolulu is a densely populated city. With constant development in and around downtown Honolulu, it can be a challenge nowadays to find a quiet place to enjoy a walk that isn’t in the forest at the back of a valley or on top of a mountain. But, lucky for us, there are still a few spots around town – like the Foster Botanical Gardens – to enjoy some peace and quiet.

Sandwiched between Vineyard Blvd and the H1 freeway, the Foster Botanical Gardens are a hidden oasis of nature right on the outskirts of downtown Honolulu. Shrouded by tall trees, the grounds are relaxing and quiet, well protected from the sounds of the highway (although the occasional car horn can be heard).

A visual guide to all the random things falling off the trees

There is a small cost to enter the gardens: $5 for general admission and $3 for kama’aina. Opposite the admissions counter is an informational area with guides on local bird species and the above display of various fruits, conifers, and other items that you might come across on the ground. Once you’ve picked up the information you’d like you proceed immediately into the gardens. The recommended route takes you clockwise from the entrance, first through a clearing with a small white gazebo (first picture up above).

We were allowed to take our bubble teas from Teapresso into the gardens

After making your way past the gazebo there are many more open areas to wander about in. Each tree is marked with a plaque to indicate its species. The gardens were very breezy today. The breeze combined with the abundance of shade made for a very comfortable walk around even in the middle of the afternoon.

Pacific Golden Plover are just one of the many bird species you can find in the gardens

Walking around is a serene experience. During our visit today there were very few visitors. The most noise to be heard was the gentle rustling of the leaves or the occasional falling branch due to the high winds.

An “exceptional” tree

Among the many trees and plants in the gardens, you will also happen upon several that are marked as “exceptional”. These trees are notable for their size and age. You will most likely be able to readily identify these trees before you are within reading distance of the plaques that note their distinction.

You will also run into some outdoor art pieces as you walk the gardens
Probably the most photographed outdoor art piece is this small Buddha, just outside the conservatory

Eventually your clockwise exploration of the gardens will lead you to the conservatory. Overlooking the path approaching the building is this Buddha statue. There are many benches throughout the entire garden and we saw several folks who had come to enjoy a book in the shade of the quietly rustling trees.

Several species of butterfly call the Foster Botanical Gardens home

Just outside the conservatory is a flowerbed that seems to be a magnet for butterflies. A large informational poster indicates that there are many different species of butterfly that live in the gardens, although on this afternoon we only saw Monarch butterflies. They flutter about with each other among the red and orange flowers.

The conservatory is small, but holds a few plant varieties with colorful flowers. While inside we came across a group following a person who I assume was a guide, as he was explaining the origins and unique qualities of each plant.

With time for pictures and the occasional stop at a bench or two, it only takes about an hour to walk all of Foster Botanical Gardens. You can of course extend your time here with a more leisurely pace, or simply a good book to read in the shade. While these gardens aren’t as expansive or grand as others, they are very easy to access and provide a welcomed sanctuary to escape from the busyness of the surrounding city. If you’re ever looking for a leisurely afternoon, or even if you just have an hour to kill in town, think about stopping by.

A small propeller plane flew over us as we were leaving the gardens