It is common practice for a Hawaiian to announce a ceremony with the blowing of a conch shell. It makes an eerie, yet welcoming sound.

Kauai, lush with foliage, resplendent with waterfalls, and isolated by tumultuous surf, is the oldest island in the Hawaiian chain. It remained undisturbed by the tribal wars that plagued Maui, Oahu, and the Big Island of Hawaii for centuries. The protocols of the 2,000-year-old Polynesian Kapu system were practiced on Kauai in relative harmony. It is said that a mantle of mana, or spiritual power, rests over the island and that it still holds sacred secrets of the ancient culture.

Lush tropical plants line the paths through the Lydgate Chocolate Farm.

Nestled on the North Shore of Kauai is the Limahuli Garden, the site of a Hawaiian settlement dating back 1,500 years. It is a puʻuhonua (place of refuge) that offered Hawaiians sanctuary in times of trouble. It rests on the footprints of the ancients with rock terraces used to grow taro for poi, the staple of the Hawaiian diet. Only indigenous plants are represented there. Almost all the plants blooming in profusion in Hawai’i are introduced. Home to dozens of endangered plants and birds found nowhere else on earth, Limahuli Garden and Preserve highlights native and culturally significant species in an authentic Hawaiian landscape. You can make reservations for a guided tour or meander on your own. I wish I were there when warriors would climb to the top of Makena Mountain overlooking the garden and send lighted shafts sailing out over the sea in religious ceremonies.

Rock terraces watered by a free flowing stream served as beds for Taro. This is a very special garden resting on the footprints of the ancients. It is preserved and should be entered with respect to the traditions of the people of old Hawai’i.

In the lush mountains above the beach town of Kapa’a, on the Coconut Coast, you will find the 46-acre Lydgate Chocolate Farm. It is backed by untrammeled wilderness and owned by a fifth-generation Kapa’a family. The enchanting drive to the farm takes you through a lush valley shaded by towering trees. An informative three-hour tour is mandatory for chocoholics. It begins with a stroll through a magnificent tropical garden with a guide pointing out the many uses of the plants by the early Polynesians. Stops at covered tasting stations with samples of fruits from the garden and chocolates from around the globe are a special treat. Who knew that the refinement and processing of cacao, the source of chocolate, is as intense and painstaking as that of any good wine? I promise you will leave with a more discerning palette and a better understanding of what goes into your favorite sweet treat.

Our guide, Jake, demonstrated the many uses of the Ti plant by the early Hawaiians. In ancient times, the Ti served as a material for clothing, rain gear sandals, roof thatching, dinner plates, ceremonial activities, fishing lures and making okolehao, an alcoholic brew from the ti root.

Smith Boat Tours has taken tourists up the Waalua River to the Fern Grotto where wedding ceremonies have been performed since 1946. Their shade-covered launch looked inviting. While I awaited my departure time, I strolled the nearby Smith Paradise Garden. Acres of well-manicured grounds with shady nooks and a lake framed in trees flush with bright blossoms provided a welcome rest stop. Numerous birds and ducks that enjoy the peaceful garden were my only company. It is the site of many a luau and can be hired for special events like weddings and anniversaries.

On the glide up the Wailua River, framed in Hau trees peppered with yellow blooms, the guide shared the history of the river. The short walk to the grotto is lined with deep red spikes of torch ginger. It is a touristy attraction, but the warm voice of a Hawaiian woman singing Hanalei Moon and the Hawaiian wedding song sparked tears.

There are many varieties of Hibiscus in Hawai’i. They are all introduced. Still, these flowers are loved by the Hawaiian people who have chosen the happy yellow bloom to be their state flower.

On the sunny side of the Island of Poipu, you will find the most extraordinary gardens. Most travelers go to Spouting Horn Blow hole at the end of Lawa’i Road, but just across the street is the less-known National Botanical Garden, also known as the Allerton/McBride Garden, which became open to the public in the 1990s.

Robert Allerton and his partner John Gregg, an architect, purchased the Lawa’i Valley in 1938 for $50,000. Robert inherited millions that he and John spent gathering tropical trees and plants from around the globe that flourished in the nurturing climate of Kauai. They gathered statuary from Florence and Rome to decorate the garden rooms John designed. Graceful paths meandering through the garden take you through orchards of fruit trees, cascading water features, and towering trees along the banks of the Lawai’i stream. The docent-led tour through what must be one of the most magnificent gardens in the world, was a highlight of my visit to Kauai. Steven Spielberg must have agreed because he rented the park for three months to film Jurassic Park.

An aside is that Robert and John were partners in life, and gay marriage was not an option. The answer? Robert adopted John making him his heir. John outlived Robert and when he died, he bequeathed the Allerton Garden to the state for all of us to enjoy.

The Keahua Arboretum is home to rainbow eucalyptus trees, so named because their bark is a swirl of colors

A lesser-known garden is the Keahua Arboretum, where rainbow-colored Eucalyptus trees may be found. The narrow road through the mountains and lush foliage over a wooden bridge to get to the garden provide a taste of less-traveled old Hawai’i. Trails lead from the park for the more adventurous. It is often rainy at this site, so be prepared with hiking boots and a slicker. The Arboretum is planted with native and introduced plants by the University of Hawaii and used as an outdoor classroom for students and visitors. Cool off in the cold mountain spring water and enjoy lunch at one of the numerous picnic sites scattered throughout the park.

Just one of the many water elements in the garden rooms designed by John Briggs. Creative designs flow from one level of the garden rooms to the next with a magical effect.

I have listed special gardens, but all of Kauai is a part of God’s garden. On a drive through the mountains, you will see Lili koi vines blanketing the trees with a profusion of pink blossoms hanging down like Christmas bells. Vivid red blooms of the O’hia pepper tree brighten the scene. The perfume of plumeria wafts on a gentle sea breeze. You will likely run into an afternoon shower that keeps the flowers smiling like the yellow hibiscus (the state flower) that welcomes visitors to the blessed shores of water-rich Kauai.

Shady nooks, fern grottos and water elements line the meandering paths throughout the Allerton Garden.