Best Things to do on Maui: Kahanu Garden

Fresh-Picked Taro Root

On the rugged Hāna coast, in Honomā`ele, Kahanu Garden grows in the one of the largest, untamed native hala (Pandanus) forests in the Islands along the far eastern shores of Maui. Kahanu Garden is National Historic Landmark and the home to Pi`ilanihale (also known as Hale O Pi' Ilani Heiau), a massive lava-rock structure that is believed to be the largest ancient place of worship (heiau) in Polynesia. Pi`ilanihale is the largest heiau on Maui and is one of the most important archeological sites in Hawai’i, under the oversight of archaeologists from the Bishop Museum and the State of Hawai‘i.

The horticultural focus at Kahanu Garden is on plant collections from the Pacific Islands and other Polynesian cultures, including Micronesia, and Melanesia. The site hosts ethnobotanical collections including the world's largest collection of breadfruit cultivars. In addition to many diverse tropical flowering trees, one of the first collections established at Kahanu Garden was the Vanilla orchid. The Garden also features plants traditionally used by the Hawaiians including taro, sweet potato, coconut, sugarcane, banana, ‘awa and ‘uala, ipomoea batatas or sweet potato. These plants serve as food and some are used in traditional Hawaiian medicine. More than half of Kahanu Garden is covered by the largest remaining forest of native hala, or Screw Pine. Hala has many uses, for housing, mats and baskets, and even sails for canoes.

The “Canoe Garden” collections include representatives of other traditionally important plants that were brought to Hawai‘i by Polynesian settlers in canoes as long as 1,800 years ago. Kahanu Garden seeks to preserve not only these plants, but also the cultural history associated with them.