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“All that and chocolate too!”

Princeville Botanical Gardens - Tours
Ranked #1 of 28 things to do in Princeville
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: Princeville Botanical Gardens is a family owned and operated garden paradise located in the Princeville area on the magnificent north shore of Kauai. The Robertson Family, with the help of their close gardening friend, Michael, have transformed their 8-acre retirement home into a breathtaking garden with dramatic landscaping in two steep valleys. The Robertsons grow a small cacao (chocolate) grove and part of every tour is a chocolate tasting and lesson on how chocolate is made. Longer tours include samples of delicious tropical fruits. The fun, educational tours of the garden include ethnobotanical and medicinal uses of plants, stories and information about native Hawaiian and "canoe" plants, and much more about a diverse collection of species from around the world. RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED. Visitors can experience the garden on pre-scheduled tours on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Tours are not recommended for children under 6 years. We strongly recommend good walking shoes. Please be sure to call us before visiting. Thank you!
Reviewed April 8, 2013

I visited this property several years ago and Bill and Lucy, the owners, told me of their dream to create a botanical garden. I looked at the land and I thought, "ok, this will be interesting." The land was just the neglected, junglely land you see around the islands: impossible to access and rife with mosquitoes. Coming back to take the tour, I was astonished. The access to the land, the huge variety of terrain and plants, the beauty and scents and colors. I had a million questions that I didn't know I would even think of before I was on the tour: well answered by the guide (a very high energy gal with a PhD in ethno-botany). My favorites are the huge variety of palms that I have never seen before and the cacao grove (accompanied by an excellent and informative chocolate tasting that included an amazing chocolate produced on site from their own beans.) Also experienced: I tasted fruits that I never knew existed. I highly recommend the tour: a real bargain at the price. (I ended up making an unsolicited donation to the gardens.)

Thank Michael B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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372 - 376 of 476 reviews

Reviewed April 6, 2013

a must see on the north shore. Personal and friendly tour of a wonderful garden that was built with care over many years. take advice and spray the bug repellent they offer for free. this was the best time we had and we did 7 gigs in 6 days. I will visit Mike every visit from now on!!!!!!!

1  Thank paul b
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 6, 2013

You will love this place. So beautiful, you will see plants you've never seen before and you will learn all about them. Also learn about chocolate and get to taste it! So much love and time put into this tour. Don't miss it.

1  Thank 803LeslieH803
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 5, 2013

This is a family owned property that is simply beautiful. They worked hard to put in all these gardens and plants for years and have made such a must see paradise. We had a wonderful guide named Steven that kept was amused and interested and treated us to a bunch of yummy samples of fruits along the way, one that I had never had was called Rambutan. IT looks strange but taste yummy. They also grow Cacao and make chocolate there sooooooo we had some wonderful chocolate samplings of different degrees of chocolate and from other parts of the world. I would definitely check this place out. Wear your walking shoes and if it is raining they even supply umbrellas.....

2  Thank chips57
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 1, 2013

I really wished I read the reviews warning us not to go. Not only was this place WAY overpriced, what a misleading name! We would have paid to NOT have wasted our afternoon here. There are ACTUAL world class botanical gardens for a fraction of the price and are hundreds of times larger. (go to San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, Huntington Library & Botanical Garden in San Marino, CA, or Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami, FL)

The owners hacked down the native jungle to plant some non-native fruit trees, and realized that maintaining this hobby of theirs was just so pricey, the only way to pay for it was to get unsuspecting tourists to pay! They make it seem exclusive by only offering tours 3x a week and only by reservation.

The chocolate "tour" was looking at 6 cacao trees and the tour guide showing us pictures of the owner's chocolate making experiment. You can also have your own upscale chocolate tasting of foreign chocolates from Europe and South America by visiting your friendly local Whole Foods

Be prepared to be eaten alive by mosquitoes, and then they will offer you some noni lotion to help with the itchiness. And of course you can purchase the overpriced lotion that can be purchased at Harvest Market for less!

It has been a month since our tour, and my husband is still fuming! I implore you, SKIP IT! If you want the awful details, read onehappyfa's review. I can't believe we spent nearly $70 to walk around someone's manicured backyard to get bitten by mosquitoes. We would have paid $70 to have not gone and spent a beautiful afternoon in Kauai in actual nature! We know 5 other families visiting Kauai this year, and we personally have warned all of them to NOT go!!

7  Thank moonbunnytoo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Jason R, Manager at Princeville Botanical Gardens - Tours, responded to this reviewResponded April 10, 2013

Thank you for taking the time to review our gardens, and we're very sorry you had such a poor experience. Our family would like to do our best to make amends for your experience. To that end, please call our reservation line at your convenience, or send us an email with your phone number, and Bill, the owner of the property, will personally speak with you to see if there is anything we can do to help.

While we understand that our price point may seem high to some visitors, we did not set our prices arbitrarily. A little research on comparable activities on Kauai will reveal our prices to be quite competitive given our format (chocolate tasting, fruit samples, and botanical diversity). All of our fees go directly back into the very high maintenance costs of the land, and we see zero profits from the tour business. In fact, the tours only partially cover all our expenses, including organic fertilizers and amendments, a grounds crew of half a dozen, and of course, our guides. Other garden tours on the island are largely conducted by volunteers who work for tips.

For the most part this review is composed of personal opinions. However, there are some statements of fact that are actually incorrect, which we would like to address here. First of all, the "native jungle" we removed from the land was most definitely not native, which should have been explained during the tour. The majority of plants removed from the land were 20th century introductions to the Hawaiian islands, and are generally accepted as invasive species. Visit any of the National Tropical Botanical Gardens locations on Kauai, and their guides and experts will confirm that 99% of the Hawaiian islands are not covered with native ecosystems. While it is true that we have planted many non-native fruits and exotic plants, we have also planted dozens upon dozens of both common and rare native species. We could write more here about why a completely native garden in our particular location would be extremely difficult, costly, and perhaps even irresponsible, but that's really a discussion to be had on our tours.

Secondly, the suggestion that we have created a feeling of exclusivity by restricting the number of tours we allow is incorrect. Princeville Botanical Gardens' operations is limited by a Special Use Permit granted by the County of Kauai. Not only are we limited in the number of days per week we can give tours, we are also limited in the number of people we can accept on a tour, the number of tours on those given days, which days of the week we can choose, and the start and end times of tour business. We are trying to amend this permit this year to expand our schedule, but this process is slow and complicated, and so we can make no guarantees that we'll be able to expand our tour offerings anytime soon.

Finally, this review lists some amazing world-class botanical gardens as alternative options to Princeville Botanical Gardens. Our family has been to all of these gardens, and we definitely encourage plant enthusiasts to check them out next time they are in Florida, San Francisco, or Southern California (they left out Lotus Land, which is also a must-see in So-Cal, and requires reservations just like Princeville Botanical Gardens). Unfortunately, you'll note these suggestions are not on Hawaii, and so are unrealistic alternatives for visitors to the islands. Instead, allow us to suggest all three of the National Tropical Botanical Gardens locations on Kauai if you're looking for a less expensive and "larger" garden experience: Allerton, McBride (both of these are in Poipu), and Limahuli (North Shore). These are world-famous gardens that also host scientists actively working on native plant restoration and research. Additionally, there is the privately operated Na'Aina Kai Botanical Gardens in Kilauea, which is an amazing project, but has similar prices as Princeville Botanical Gardens. None of these gardens offer chocolate or fruit tastings to the best of our knowledge. Make sure you bring your insect repellent to these gardens as well, because believe it or not, mosquitos are ubiquitous near fresh water on Kauai.

On a personal note, we'd also like to mention that two of the three "real" botanical gardens listed by this review began the same way as Princeville Botanical Gardens: private projects started not for income, but for love of plants and plant diversity. In fact, our family are supporting members of the Huntington Library and Gardens, and visit whenever we're in the LA area. We're honored that we already have visitors doing the same with our garden. The San Francisco Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park, while created for public benefit, was not possible until a generous endowment by a private party. Projects such as ours, or Na'Aina Kai in Kilauea, are unique opportunities to watch a botanical garden develop from the ground up, growing and evolving every year. Many of our visitors particularly love this element of our garden, and make a point of returning every time they're on the island.

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