Starting from a land grant in 1876, the Honolulu Zoo was gradually stocked with animals in the early 20th century by the Administrator of Kapiolani Park. Growing from a tiny collection of a monkey, a honey bear, and a few lions, it now offers views of hundreds of animals both familiar and exotic.
There are over 43-acres in Waikiki of animals in one of the most unusual zoo settings anywhere in the world. Over 750,000 visitors per year come to this site near Diamond Head to enjoy the painstakingly gathered species in a lush and tropical environment.
Enter and pass by the Flamingo Pond. Travel farther down the path to see the state bird, a goose called the Nene. To the left is the children’s petting zoo where young ones will be fascinated by the llamas.
Wild lions roam freely in a 10-acre area called the African Savannah in a setting similar to San Diego’s Wild Animal Park. But, in this case, the grounds are lush and filled with contrast that isn’t provided by San Diego’s dusty pits. Sharing the space with them are several other native species of the Dark Continent, including Capuchin monkeys.
There are species that are natives of other continents as well. Apart from the Nene, the zoo houses a Hawaiian pig and mouflon sheep. There are an anteater and a sloth. The zoo offers views of the exotic Coatimundis from South America. And don’t miss seeing the outstanding Sumatran Tiger.
Many of the species are better seen in the evening. For this, the zoo provides a special program called the Zoo by Twilight Tour. There is also a family sleepover option as part of the Snooze in the Zoo event held on Friday’s and Saturdays once per month.
Panaewa Rainforest Zoo
If you find yourself in Hilo and want to have a truly unique zoo experience, visit the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo. Situated in a genuine 12-acre rainforest, it offers a variety of species.
There are Spider Monkeys, a Pygmy Hippo, a Water Buffalo and more. Birds have a comfortable home in this lush tropical paradise. There are Vultures, Parrots and the official state bird, the rare Nene Goose.
Small by some standards, housing only about 150 animals total, the zoo is full of fascinating little enclaves. There is a section housing the Colobus Monkey, another with a Giant Anteater. Just down the path is an Aldabra Tortoise. Be sure not to miss the extraordinary peacocks not far from the extensive butterfly enclosure.
Of course, any visit is best capped by seeing the rare White Bengal Tiger named Namaste. This native of India was actually donated by an owner in Las Vegas and his name means ‘Aloha’.
That’s just what you’ll be saying when you visit one of Hawaii’s outstanding zoos.
Photo Credit: Terri Stewart Flickr via Wunderstock (license)
Photo Credit: Makuahine Pa’i Ki’i Flickr via Wunderstock (license)