Description (K. T Cannon-Eger)
“We are avid fans of Lili`uokalani Gardens in Hilo, which began with a donation from Queen Lili`uokalani around 1907 of land around the five-acre pond known as Waihonu.
Seventeen acres of Makaoku including Waihonu, a traditional fish pond, were set aside by the Territorial Legislature and Governor Pinkham for a public park in the spring of 1917. From the beginning, the gardens were named in the Queen’s honor as Lili’uokalani Gardens in Act 53, April 1917. Support came from the Hilo community, Hilo Fujin Shinkokai (a Japanese women’s society dedicated to beautification) and Mr. and Mrs. Charles C. Kennedy. Construction started in November 1917.
The park also was known as Nihon-koen (Japan public park) in the old days. It is a strolling garden with an ocean view, tea house, and stone lanterns donated by 14 prefectures from which Japanese workers immigrated to Hawaii.
Inundated by tsunami in 1918 and 1923, and devastated by tsunami in 1946 and 1960, the gardens were rebuilt with state, county and community support. The gardens are ADA accessible, free, and open to the public every day of the year.
Lili`uokalani Gardens were expanded by 3 acres with the addition of Bicentennial Park in 1976. Lili`uokalani Gardens also includes Mokuola (Coconut Island) since 1933, Isles and Rakuen. The gardens are on state land managed by the Department of Land and Natural Resources and were given by several gubernatorial executive orders to the care of the County of Hawai`i for maintenance. Total size is 24.67 acres.
Throughout its 100 year history, noted landscapers from Japan have helped local garden contractors and community businesses to improve the gardens. They include: Y.K. Yamamoto (1917-1920?), Kiyoshi Takana Nakamura (1930s), Nagao Sakurai (1949 restoration), Kinsaku Nakane (1968 restoration), Kazuo Nakamura (1964 and 1976), and Takuhiro Yamada (mid-2000s). [partial list]
Friends of Lili’uokalani Gardens formed in 2012 to help with maintenance, raise funds for capital improvements, and celebrate the centennial years during 2017-2019
CLOSED occasionally for special park maintenance. Check with the County of Hawaii Department of Parks and Recreation to be sure.
Also see: Friends of Lili`uokalani Gardens: http://www.us-japanesegardens.com
Updated 12/24/19, K.T. Cannon-Eger