Popular botanical garden may soon require fees and reservations

HONOLULU (KHON2) — A botanical garden on the Windward side popularized by social media may soon implement a reservation system to manage the influx of visitors.

Hoomaluhia Botanical Gardens is nestled beneath the majestic Koolau Mountain range in Kaneohe. Its popularity has grown exponentially since the pandemic according to Daniel Babbitt, the program specialist there.

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“We’ve increased by three-fold, from under 200,000 to 600,000 in just the last few years,” Babbitt explained.

He said they see an average of 2,000 to 3,000 people visit every day, rain or shine, and it’s taking a toll.

“It’s a strain on how we can do programming and parking and just the infrastructure on the garden.”

One of the reasons Babbitt said visitorship skyrocketed is because of photos posted on social media of the area at the entrance to the gardens.

“We’ve had to make some rule changes in the gardens,” Babbitt said. “When we were quiet it was not as much of an issue, but now there’s no stopping on the roads. People were stopping and parking on the roads and so we no longer allow that. There are signs up saying, ‘No photography on the road’ because it’s a safety issue, people are blocking and we don’t want them hit by another car.”

Styjn Thamman, a visitor from the Netherlands said he and his friends decided to come by the gardens because they saw photos on Instagram.

Florida resident Kevin Hughes also said they chose to come to Hoomaluhia instead of the other botanical gardens because of pictures they saw online.

Admission is free and no reservations are required to visit, but that may change soon.

“We’re also looking at the possibility of reservation systems for the garden too, just so we can have a safe number of people coming here and everybody can enjoy a place of peace and tranquility which is what Hoomaluhia means,” Babbitt said.

If they do implement a reservation system, he said they may also charge a small fee to visitors but it would still be free for local residents.

According to Babbitt, they’re also dealing with a broken bridge delaying the reinstatement of its popular weekend catch and release fishing program that’s been on hold since the pandemic.

“During the time that we had it suspended our bridge to get over to the fishing area, the moorings washed out and it’s now condemned.”

Boy Scouts of America Certified Angling instructor Stan Wright is hoping they’ll expedite the repair.

According to Wright, Hoomaluhia is the best place to teach kids to fish.

“This has got it all,” Wright said. “This is a safe place, it’s free and the fish are so cooperative.”

“There’s so many people that want to go fishing they just don’t have the programs to do it,” Wright explained.

He looks at fishing as a great way to teach kids about conservation and safety.

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“The smiles with these kids when they catch their first fish you just can’t beat it it’s wonderful,” said Wright.

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