Visiting Kawamoto Orchid Nursery

Kawamoto Orchid Nursery, Honolulu, Hawaii – December 2017

By Christine Iwahashi – April 29, 2018

Hanging on the side of fog shrouded Pālolo Valley just east of downtown Honolulu, Kawamoto Orchid Nursery is an adventure waiting to happen.  The trip is short but the road is narrow as it winds up towards Ka’au Crater. The driveway is a leap of faith as it appears for just a moment that we are driving into space.

After parking in one of three spaces wedged between building and hillside, our first encounter is with Poke (as in raw fish salad) the Sulcata tortoise.  He lives on a small lawn at the same level as the parking lot and just above the nursery greenhouses.  Also on this level is a showroom and packing shed as most of their sales are on the internet.  All the greenhouses are below this level.

I doubt you can see the entire place in just one afternoon even though its only 3 ½ acres.  Greenhouse after greenhouse in a three-dimensional checkerboard crowd the face of the hillside – I suspect Mrs. Winchester had a hand in this design.  I head for an opening at the far end of a greenhouse, thinking I can walk into the next.  But instead, I am met with a 5 foot drop off so I backtrack to the opening I came in and head downhill to the next greenhouse.  Row after row of benches full of plants, more plants hanging from the rafters and more that seem to have gotten lost under the benches, all divided by narrow walkways.  I spend a lot of time retreating and trying a different row when I discover the path ahead under 3 inches of mud. 

It rains or mists constantly – this is not a dry trip but I hope to come away clean enough to get back into the car.  I wonder, for a fraction of a moment, why the people who live and work here aren’t all green.  Most of the greenhouses, at least in my mind, are a hodge-podge of different kinds of orchids and tropical plants (and, once in a while, some vegetables) but, when I have asked where a particular plant is, I was given very specific directions to the proper greenhouse and row.  My problem is in finding the greenhouse but after a couple tries (with more questions about directions in between) I eventually land in the right spot and find my plant.  No one EVER offers to take you, but part of the fun is in the searching – there is a pot of gold at the end of this treasure hunt!

For more, go to Kawamoto Orchids