About Our Gardens

Platycerium angolense
elephant ear fern
Photo by Alexandra Miller

UPDATE AS OF JANUARY 25, 2018: In July of 2015, Joe and Ronnie Harris sold Kona Kai Resort to an investment group which took over ownership and daily operation of Kona Kai Resort. The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai, operated by the independent 501c3 AEFFK, Inc. with Joe and Veronica Harris as President and Executive Director, which had operated on the grounds of Kona Kai Resort, withdrew from the resort operation. In 2018 it changed its' name to Plants Matter and thus continues to operate as a virtual garden, independent of Kona Kai Resort. At this time we have no real estate or physical gardens. We oversaw our TYUP™ botanist guided tour on the grounds of Kona Kai Resort until February 1, 2016 when the program was discontinued temporarily. Currently the physical status of The Garden is undetermined. Please direct any questions to Garden Executive Director, Joe Harris at: joe@kkbg.org.
What is presented below is historical in nature, covering the period from 2009 through 2016 when the botanic gardens operated on the grounds of Kona Kai in Key Largo, Florida.
Currently the AEFFK has no affiliation with any other entity and no association with Kona Kai in Key Largo. What follows on this page is here for historical reference; information referencing our TYUP and/or Kona Kai is not currently applicable.

Welcome to The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort, an ethnobotanic teaching garden and one of only two frost-free botanic gardens in the southeastern USA. Our Botanic Gardens are a unique addition to your Florida Keys vacation experience.

Our Garden Mission
Education; Restoration; Transformation.
As an ethnobotanic garden, The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort endeavors to enhance your understanding of the significant role plants play in our everyday lives, through kkbg.org and our TYUP garden tours (Transform Your Understanding of Plants). Plants are ubiquitous - they provide us with the raw materials we need to live and thrive. Plants power our cars, factories and computers ... are part of many of the things we build and much of what we eat, including, indirectly, the meat, dairy and fish we consume. Plants thrive on the threatening waste we create in the process of powering our lives (CO2) and plants provide the life-giving oxygen we all breathe. In this century we need to learn to transform the way we live by learning from plants, by mimicking what plants do and in so doing preserve our environments and ecosystems.

Visit our Gardens or better yet, vacation here
Uniquely, The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort is, perhaps, the only botanic garden with a hotel incorporated into the gardens. Visitors are able to stay, enjoying our gardens day and night. If plants have not yet captured your attention, a vacation here just might tweak your perspective. While maintaining documented collections of living plants for the purposes of display, education, conservation and scientific research, our Gardens' emphasis is on ethnobotany: the study of the relationships between people and plants.

Independent of the Resort, The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. A Satellite Partner of The Fairchild Challenge K-12 education program, we are striving to serve the community, as well as the world at large, by promoting concepts that support biodiversity and an expanded human ecological view.

"Nearly every organism on this planet depends on plants for their survival," says ecologist Brad Cardinale. The idea for The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort was born with this vision in mind and it is with this awareness that we invite you to grow your appreciation and understanding of the greenery all around you.

Please Join Us
Please join us for a most memorable tropical vacation for an opportunity to take part in many unique activities, including experiencing our tropical ethnobotanic gardens 24/7! If you can't do that, join us for a 90 minute guided 
TYUP tour of the Gardens.

The general public 
The public is invited to reserve a guided TYUP tour of the Gardens. Weather permitting, tours are offered daily Tuesday through Saturday. Additional tours can be added upon request. Generally, tours are limited to a maximum of six adults (16+ years old) and last about an hour and a half. We require an advance reservation, as the grounds are otherwise reserved for registered guests. A minimum donation of $25 per person, of which $20 is tax-deductible, is required to join one of our guided TYUP tours. The Gardens is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, so higher amounts are welcomed as your additional tax-deductible donation will help our Gardens continue to grow.

Registered Guests 
Registered guests of the Resort get to live with and in the Gardens, day and night, during their entire stay.  For the botanic garden enthusiast or tropical vacationer, this is a one-of-a-kind experience. Registered guests are encouraged to reserve space on one of our scheduled guided tours; while our introductory tour is complimentary, donations to help support our Gardens' educational mission are much appreciated. Registered guests are also invited to enjoy complimentary self-guided tours, at any time during their stay, using our smartphone enabled signage.

Custom Tours
 Custom tours of the Gardens and our 'backyard,' Everglades National Park, are available, as are topic-specific symposia in our new conference center. At this time, custom tours and symposia do not have scheduled times or subjects, thus advance request is required. Please e-mail gardens@konakairesort.com to request further information.

Our Collections
With over 250 documented tropical species, The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort, overlooking Everglades National Park, is unique to South Florida. Most botanic gardens are tens or hundreds of acres and oftentimes they prove to be quite overwhelming. That is one of the unique things about The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort . . . while our Gardens are packed with many genera and species, they are quite compact and thus a great introduction to understanding the tropical plant universe. Our plant collections, documented in BG-Base, a well-known botanic database, are guided by our Collections Policy. For pre- or post-visits, our smartphone site serves as an adjunct to our unique TYUP tour.

Our Supporters
The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort was founded and is currently supported by Kona Kai Resort owners Joe and Ronnie Harris. To continue to expand our work, your generous donations are encouraged. We invite you to inquire about actively supporting our Gardens at this e-mail: joe@kkbg.org, where you will reach Garden Executive Director Joe Harris. Please also use this e-mail if you are interested in volunteer opportunities to help our Gardens grow.