Located in Volcano, Hawaii on the Island of Hawai’i, Akatsuka Orchid Gardens is a greenhouse garden facility specializing in orchid cultivation, displaying more than 500 blooms, including the award-winning $20,000 “Volcano Queen” orchid. The Island of Hawai’i, colloquially referred to as the Big Island, became known as a prominent orchid growing sanctuary throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when Chinese immigrant laborers working for area sugar plantations began transplanting native Asian orchids onto the island.
Orchid cultivation quickly grew as a popular hobby for wealthy merchants and descendants of the islands’ royalty, and as a result, several orchid growing societies were formed on the islands during the 1930s. In 1957, the World Orchid Conference, the largest orchid-centric botanical event in the world, was presented in Honolulu by the American Orchid Society, cementing the United States territory’s international presence as a major hub for orchid cultivation. Later that year, the University of Hawaii embarked on a research initiative focusing on the production of Dendrobium orchids, which is credited as a major influence in the development of the “Hawaiian Lei” orchid as a popular cultural symbol of Hawaii. Though only three species of orchids are native to Hawaii’s Big Island, the prevalence of transplanted wild-growing species such as the Phaius tankerville and the Arundina graminifolia has earned the island the modern nickname “Orchid Isle.”
Akatsuka Orchid Gardens was founded in 1974 by Moriyasu Akatsuka. Prior to his move to Hawaii, Akatsuka worked as a horticulturalist for a family orchid nursery in Japan, primarily growing Cattleya orchids, a variety commonly used for corsages and other decorative attire. Since its opening, Akatsuka’s facility has become one of the largest and most prominent orchid farms in the state. Throughout the facility’s history, Akatsuka has bred over 2,000 unique hybrid Cattleya plants.
Today, the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens facility encompasses more than seven acres, featuring 13 greenhouses showcasing more than 200,000 individual orchid plants. More than 500 blooming varieties are on display, including Akatsuka’s original “mother plants” that comprised the facility’s origin. Though the Gardens’ focus is its Cattleya orchids, other varieties grown include Dendrobium, Odontoglossum, Phalaenopsis, Oncidium, and Miltonia plants. Several tropical plants, including varieties of Bromeliads and Anthurium plants, are also highlighted. Visitors may purchase orchids and tropical plants directly from the facility or through the Gardens’ website, which offers shipping throughout Hawaii and the continental United States.
A 13,000-square-foot Orchid Showroom showcases more than 1,000 blooms, over 70% of which were grown on site. Inside the showroom, an 8,000-square-foot area has been designed as an Orchid Maze, which contains a self-guided path highlighting several orchid displays, including a wall of Akatsuka’s original hybrids and a custom-designed sign with 700 orchids spelling out “Aloha.” Exhibits throughout the maze offer information on orchid growth stages and cultivation, and educational video stations provide opportunities for interactive learning. A miniature zen garden area offers seating, and an orchid backdrop area is provided for photo opportunities.
From May through August, the Gardens’ signature $20,000 Orchid is on display in the showroom. Transplanted from Thailand in 1984, the Paphiopedilum hirsutissimum plant is a natural cultivar with no hybridization utilized. Valued at over $20,000, the orchid is one of the finest living specimens in the world today. It is the only plant of its species recognized as having perfect symmetry by the American Orchid Society, certified with a First Class Certificate and a 91 out of 100 score ranking in 1991.
Though the showroom is free and open daily for visitors, a small admission fee is required for entry to the Orchid Maze. 45-minute guided tours of the facility are also available, allowing visitors to tour the Gardens’ 13 greenhouses and growing facilities. The history of the Gardens is narrated by orchid experts, who also detail the orchid cultivation and reservoir collection processes used by the facility. All tour guests participate in a transplanting activity and have the chance to take home a small orchid plant. A complimentary sample of the Gardens’ homemade Poha berry ice cream, available for purchase in the gift shop, is also offered. Advance reservations for group tours are recommended, and cancellations must be made at least 24 hours in advance.
The facility is located along the Big Island’s Highway 11, between mile markers 22 and 23. All facilities, including the greenhouses and gift shop, are wheelchair accessible. As part of the Volcano Village artist community area of the Big Island, the Gardens are located 10 minutes from the entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which is home to two active volcanoes, Maunaloa, which last erupted in 1984, and Kilauea, considered one of the most active volcanoes on earth today.
11-3051 Volcano Rd, Volcano, HI 96785, Phone: 808-967-8234