Morning light casts a warm glow onto a lush backyard in Makaha, where coconut trees sway gently in the balmy air. The shimmering cerulean water along Oahu’s leeward coast is just steps away, oftentimes revealing sea life such as turtles, whales and monk seals.

“Everybody that comes, they’re really amazed,” says homeowner Manuel Madeira. “The first thing most people say is that they feel like they’re in a resort because of the landscaping, the backdrop of the ocean and Mount Lahilahi.”

Not too long ago, however, the backyard was covered only in dirt, sand and a few patches of grass. After calling different landscapers, Manuel and his wife Victoria chose Gary Shinn of Hokuahi Lawns. “From the beginning, the communication was always there,” says Manuel. 

Victoria, who was born and raised on the leeward side, and Manuel, who has lived there for years, wanted their landscape to represent the Hawaii spirit.

hokuahi
Homeowners Manuel and Victoria Madeira often have family and friends over. So Gary Shinn of Hokuahi Lawns brought in sitting rocks made of real stone to provide additional seating. Plus, the rock walls surrounding the palm trees provide even more places to sit and relax.

With the exception of the existing coconut palms, the area was cleared out. Ferns, palms, bromeliads, bird of paradise and other native and tropical plants were planted. The couple also wanted edible plants and herbs for cooking, so a small garden with chili peppers, lemongrass and oregano was planted at the front of the house.

Because of the oceanside location, using saltwater-tolerant plants was necessary, like the naupaka plant lining the fence along the beach. The plant also acts as a wall, providing privacy from the occasional beachgoer.

The once plain outside shower that uniquely provides hot and cold water was beautified with artificial rock coverings that blend in with the rest of the landscape. Macarthur palm trees planted on both sides provide a natural concealed enclosure for showering after playing at the beach.

shower
The existing outside shower, which provides hot and cold water,
was attached to a plain concrete pillar. Hokuahi Lawns covered that
pillar with artificial rock, elevating its style to blend in with the rest
of the yard. Macarthur palms were planted on both sides of the
shower to provide privacy. 

The couple often entertain their children and grandchildren, roasting marshmallows in the backyard; they also invite friends for cooking and dining alfresco. So Shinn created natural seating throughout the yard. “We made some big rock areas where people can go out and sit by the tiki torches,” says Shinn. “And sitting areas were created completely around the palm trees.”

A lighting system was installed to shine light up at the palm trees and into planters to enhance the landscaping in the evening. 

plants
Hokuahi Lawns also worked along the perimeter of the home, where the landscaper included a spot for herbs and edible plants. “We wanted to have some different plants that we could use for cooking,” says homeowner Manuel Madeira. Now, Manuel and his wife Victoria have chili peppers, oregano, lemongrass and more.

“We usually have another couple over and listen to some Hawaiian music,” says Manuel. “We have some cocktails, bring the grill out, do some outdoor cooking and have dinner out here watching the sunset. It’s nice. It’s comfortable. It’s relaxing.” 

Additional Information 

About the feature image: Gary Shinn of Hokuahi Lawns transformed this oceanside backyard into a magical tropical oasis. 
Photo: Aaron Yoshino

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