Story by Lehia Apana | Photography by Mike Neubauer
“Wanna go for a swing?” asks my guide, Joe Ward, flashing a half grin and raising his eyebrows.
We’re at the start of the Maunalei Arboretum Trail, and I gaze skyward and see an aerial root stretching from a branch, swaying back and forth as if daring me to grab hold.
Moments later, I’m flying through the canopy, doing my best Tarzan impression, complete with yodeling howl (okay, it was a tiny yelp). I land on solid ground and feel a burst of adrenaline flow through me. Good thing, too. I’ll need that extra vigor for the day’s hike: an 8.75-mile expedition that will take us through the arboretum and continue on to the Mahana Ridge Trail before depositing us at D.T. Fleming Beach.
The trail is well marked, and unobtrusive placards identify several plants along the way, but to ensure I don’t miss a thing, I’ve enlisted the brainpower of self-described “native-plant fanatic” Joe Ward. He and his partner, Bobby Burritt, run Convergent Conservation, LLC, and provide resource management throughout the resort, including Hawea Point, the home of more than 200 nesting pairs of ‘ua‘u kani (wedge-tailed shearwaters).
Maunalei Arboretum was established in the 1920s, the vision of then-Honolua Ranch manager and renowned botanist David T. Fleming, who traveled the world seeking new plant and tree species. I follow closely behind Ward as he rattles off the names of introduced plants like coffee, Surinam cherry, and shoebutton ardisia trees, also known as inkberry ardisia.
“You really need to see this,” he says, doubling his pace.
He leads me to a towering kauri tree, its smooth bark and round trunk soaring towards the sky. A native of New Zealand, the oldest kauri tree is an estimated 2,000 years old, and many grow upwards of 165 feet. Impressive as this tree is, we’re standing next to a relative child, which Ward guesses is around 80 years old and more than 100 feet tall.