plumeria paradise on oahu's north shore

Michelle Liu
April 25, 2024

Exploring the great outdoors can boost your mood, lower stress, and help you connect with the natural world. That’s why renowned photographer Clark Little feels at home in nature, whether he’s in the ocean or on land. He may be known for his incredible shore break shots, but for the last few years, he’s taken on a new outdoor adventure with his dad, Jim, and son, Dane.

Clark, Jim, and Dane Little. Photo courtesy

The three generations of Littles run Little Plumeria Farms in Haleiwa. Jim started the farm as a hobby in 1973. Over the last five decades, the 20-acre farm has grown into a plumeria paradise, with hundreds of hybrid plumeria flowers bursting with vibrant colors, all overlooking the North Shore coastline.

An experience for the senses
My coworker and I visited Little Plumeria Farms in late March. While the trees weren’t in full bloom yet, we could see pockets of plumeria flowers lining the drive down the dirt road.

Clark and Dane walking alongside Vera Cruz Rose plumeria trees.

“These are called Vera Cruz Rose and they smell exactly like roses,” said Clark, sniffing it before handing us the pale yellow, pink-outlined plumeria so we could also take a whiff. “When they’re pumping in May, it’s almost like someone threw plumeria flowers along the entrance. It’s a beautiful fragrance and visual.”

Vera Cruz Rose in bloom.

Little Plumeria Farms is home to 5,000 trees, each flowering with a wide variety of plumeria blooms. The flowers have different colors, textures, shapes, and aromas ranging from cinnamon to peach and even Pez candy. But what makes this farm unique is the 100 “JL” specialties.

“JL – Jim Little! My dad hybridize-crossed his own varieties and he wanted to give it his JL stamp of approval,” explained Clark. “So those flowers you can only find here on this farm.”

JL Hawaiian Coral (left) and JL Metallica. Photos courtesy

There’s JL Hawaiian Coral, a sweet-smelling flower with a yellow center and overlapping pink petals. JL Pupukea Crepe is named for its ripple, crepe paper texture. Clark’s favorite is the JL Metallica, which is silvery-purple with a bright orange-yellow center.

“It’s so unique in the plumeria world. Not many have that level of color,” said Clark.

It’s all in the family
Clark’s son, Dane, is developing new varieties of plumeria flowers. The years-long process begins with picking a seed from one of their rarest plumeria trees and planting it. From there, it can take between two to five years before it starts to flower.

JL Supernova with an explosion of color bursting from its center. Photo courtesy

“We’re hoping to get something similar to its mother,” Dane explained. “It’s like having kids; you never know how they’ll come out, but you’re more likely to get something rarer if you plant seeds from a rare variety.”

Growing plumeria flowers takes patience, nurturing, and love. Sometimes, it’s hard to resist peeking at what it will look like.

“Dane gets so excited that he’ll peel it before the bud opens,” Clark said with a laugh. “But it’s worth the wait. When you see that unique flower and it’s one of a kind, it’s a chicken skin moment.”

Once the plumeria blooms, it’s time to name the flower. That process can also take a while, as the Littles take a lot into consideration.

JL Madame Pele, named after the goddess of fire and volcanoes. Photo courtesy

“We have to make sure the tree is strong and healthy. The beautiful color must be unique and the plumeria needs to have a nice fragrance,” Clark explained.

“Then our family comes together with names for the variety that we created. We’ll see which one sounds the best. My grandpa has the final say — he’s the boss man,” Dane added.

Stop and smell the plumerias
Little Plumeria Farms opened to the public for the first time in 2023 to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Clark and Dane often lead the tours, excited to share their passion for plumeria flowers.

Dane and Clark outside the farm's gift shop.

“Plumerias aren’t native to Hawaii, but there’s a lot of tradition. You go to graduations and weddings, and even the King Kamehameha statue is draped in plumeria flowers,” said Clark. “So it’s fun to share our knowledge with other people.”

They show visitors how they grow and care for the flowers and teach them how to plant seeds. Guests can also pick their own flowers from the trees. 

Gardenia plumeria flower. Photo courtesy

The splendor of the farm recently made a splash on the national scene, with USA Today naming it as the “Best New Attraction in the U.S.” of 2024.

“We’re just a little farm on Oahu and getting that national recognition is so special to us,” said Clark. “We’re very grateful that people love what we’re doing as much as we love it.

“It’s fun to see people get excited about plumeria. To see the smiles on their faces and their true love for plumeria is what makes our job fun. And at the end of the day, that’s what makes it special.”

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