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Friday, May 1, 2009

Hawaii: Side trips in paradise

Foster Botanical Garden: Home to Hawaii's largest collection of tropical plants, it took root in 1853 when a German botanist planted some trees, including the island's first banyans. The 14-acre garden's orchids are famous; its oddities include a palm that bears 50-pound coconuts. It's an oasis in the city, with sun-dappled paths and shaded glens. Alas, the birds can't quite drown out the freeway roar. The huge Bo tree was a gift to Mary Foster, an ardent Buddhist who willed the garden to the city. Open daily, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. $5, including an optional tour at 1 p.m. daily except Sundays. 50 N. Vineyard Blvd., Honolulu;(808) 522-7065,

Liliuokalani Botanical Garden: Once part of Foster Garden, but now separated by the H-1 freeway, this 7-acre garden is a work in progress. Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii's last reigning monarch, liked to picnic here -- and so do locals. You can too. There's a footbridge across a rushing stream fed by a waterfall, and a shaded lawn with tables. Try to ignore the ugly apartment building abutting the gardens. Free, but very limited, parking. Open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. 123 N. Kuakini St., Honolulu; (808) 522-7060,

Lyon Arboretum: Visitors to this 200-acre rain forest deep in the Manoa Valley are warned right off, "You're going back to nature now, and therein lies the adventure." (Translation: Beware of wasps, falling branches) My first thought: Thank heavens Hawaii has no snakes. A research unit of the University of Hawaii, the Lyon's mission is to preserve endangered native flora. There's a children's garden and a world-class palm collection. Scenic walking trails can be wet and slippery. $5 donation. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays until 3 p.m. Guided tours by reservation. 3860 Manoa Road, Honolulu; (808)

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