Travel destinations, techniques and reviews targeted towards the baby boomer.

Kauai-An Old Friend with New Treasures

Lisa Niday - Friday, November 09, 2012

When you travel sometimes you really want to explore new things and other times you want to "put on the comfortable slippers and stay at home". For us traveling to Kauai is like putting on the comfortable slippers. We have been here numerous times and yet it never seems to grow old as a place we like to enjoy and relax.

However it's nice when the old friend can deliver a new treasure. This trip we went to the Allerton Garden, part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, what a new treasure. These gardens offer several tours and I can see myself coming back to experience a different one (hence the new friend). At the southern end of Kauai, near Poipu you can go to the McBryde Garden, a self-guided tour for $15. Our concierge described it as a beautiful flower garden, it will have to wait for a return visit. We chose the Allerton Garden tour, a 2.5 hour tour for $35. You ride about 20 minutes to and from the garden on a nice minibus and then you will spend the balance of the tour walking on a guided tour of about a mile. They also offer two additional tours, on select days and times, one a waterfall and another a sunset tour in which you go to the beach house. For more information go here.

photo Allerton Garden, a room 

Classic style in the garden, a statue and a water feature flanked by matching plants on either side, these typically make up the "rooms" here at the Allerton.

Allerton Garden

The Allerton Garden extends along the banks of the Lāwa‘i Stream where the valley narrows before opening into the Pacific Ocean. This lower portion where the beach house is located today served as a residence for both Robert and John Allerton. It had to be rebuilt after Hurricane Iniki destroyed this area with her powerful surge in 1992. This was the second time it was rebuilt. Virtually anything under 6 inches in diameter was lost so the large trees were left bare. Many thought the area would not recover, but after only two years the Gardens were returned to their previous glory.


Lāwa‘i Valley was granted to James Young Kanehoa in 1848. He was the son of John Young, an advisor to Hawaii’s King Kamehameha I. Kanehoa willed a third of the land to his niece Queen Emma when he died and she received the rest of it in 1885 from Kanehoa’s widow. She first visited Lāwa‘i on a tour of the kingdom with her husband Liholiho, King Kamehameha IV. After the death of her husband and young son the Queen retreated to Lāwa‘i.

Initially the McBryde family leased the land from Queen Emma, but eventually purchased it in 1886. The upper portion had sugar cane fields and the lower portion had taro and rice fields. One remaining steam room from the sugar cane era remains in the Allerton Garden today. They have removed the steam engine and the area where the coal to fire the engine was stored and transformed it into a pond (see photo). Queen Emma did bring many flowers here including deep purple bougainvillea and plumeria trees.

photo of Mermaid "Room"

One end of the Mermaid room, one of the few "rooms" not balanced by matching plants on each side. The mermaids were brought in during World War II. The garden had much work completed after the attack at Pearl Harbor because traffic was not allowed to go back and forth between the mainland unless you were military.

In 1938, McBryde sold the property to Robert Allerton for $50,000. Allerton had made his fortune in livestock, real estate and banking in Chicago. Allerton met John Gregg, a young architectural student at the University of Illinois, who he eventually adopted. In 1938, they moved into their new home which was designed by John. Robert Allerton and John Gregg immediately began designing and laying out the gardens, continuing to include exotic plants. Many of the "rooms" include some type of statue and a water feature amongst the plants. Rooms named the Thanksgiving room, where you would enjoy the feast robed in exotic costumes is but one of these. It's statues were the inviting pineapples purchased from Sears & Roebuck. John Wayne, a guest of Allerton's, was said to have loved to dress in robes. Adjoining the thanksgiving room was the desert room. You will see several other garden rooms, such as the Golden Bamboo room and the Mermaid Room. Many of the other statues were from Europe or were commissioned in Europe.

photo of Golden Bamboo Room
The Golden Bamboo room featured clumping bamboo and was especially unique for Robert Allerton who lost over 80% of his hearing with scarlet fever.  He could literally hear the sound of the bamboo when the wind rustles through it.

Many notables have stayed at the beach house including John Wayne and Jacqueline Kennedy (in the month after Kennedy's assassination). The land was said to restore Queen Emma during her sorrow, hopefully it offered the same solace to Jacque.

Allerton left the National Tropical Botanical Garden money to purchase the adjoining land for what is now the McBryde Garden, although he didn't live long enough to make the first board meeting. He died at his beach home at the age of 91. His son lived here until his passing at age 84 and at that time the estate was left in the trust.


Allerton was said to love the movies and Hollywood and several were fortunate enough to have been shot here at the Allerton. Gilligan's Island, Donovan's Reef, Pirates of the Caribbean IV and Jurassic Park had scenes here.  The Moreton Bay Figs now known as the Jurassic Park trees were the scene of the velociraptor egg discovery in Jurassic Park. These imported trees are quite destructive but the roots are really impressive (see the photo below, others located here).

photo of Moreton Bay Fig Trees also known as Jurassic Park trees 

Hopefully my standing beside the Jurassic Tree roots helps illustrate their mammoth size. Featured in Jurassic Park it is clear why they got the part.

Old Friends

Some of the "old friends" we have enjoyed were a quick trip to the Spouting Horn or others refer to it as the "blowhole" here in Poipu. A lava cave fills up with water and spouts. Many in the area, have indicated it isn't spouting as high as it did one time and I can even say it was higher the last time we were here.

photo of Spouting Horn 

Spouting Horn at Poipu Beach

Another old friend, a Hawaiian Monk Seal, shared a part of the beach with us. These seals which only number about 70 are on the endangered list and about 30 reside around the Kauai area. These seals come up on the beach to take rest.

We were also fortunate to see 5 large turtles almost at the shore. Nothing can help children understand Hawaii like seeing the seal and turtles up close.

photo of Hawaiian Monk Seal 

Hawaiian monk seal on the beach in Poipu.

photo of turtles in swimming in the ocean 

One of the five turtles we saw while we were snorkeling. These were really close to the shore.

Whether your next trip is taking you to an "old friend" or maybe you are exploring, check out Kauai to become one of your friends, you won't be disappointed. For other articles on Kauai check out these posts.

Post has no comments.
Post a Comment

Captcha Image

Travel Posts by Topic