No doubt, Waikiki is a lively place. From sun up to sundown, this 1.5-square-mile resort area on Oahu offers the full menu of visitor activities, including swimming, surfing, canoe paddling, hiking, jogging, shopping, dining, dancing, and even people watching. But if you want to get really wild in Waikiki, there’s only one place to go: the Honolulu Zoo.
Welcome to The Zoo
Billed as the largest zoo within a radius of 2,300 miles and the only zoo in the United States that originated from a king’s grant, the Honolulu Zoo welcomes more than 750,000 visitors every year.
In 1876, King David Kalakaua, Hawaii’s “Merrie Monarch,” who granted the lands to be used for 300-acre Kapiolani Park. Beginning in 1914, the administrator of the Parks and Recreation Department began collecting animals for the exhibit at the park. The first animals included a monkey, a honey bear, and some lion cubs. An African elephant named Daisy arrived two years later and delighted visitors, including young children who got to ride Daisy around the park.
Today, the Honolulu Zoo has grown to include a number of exhibits, including the African Savanna, Tropical Forest, Pacific Islands, and Children’s Zoo. The zoo’s inhabitants include gazelles, monkeys, rhinos, cheetahs, porcupines, elephants, giraffes, lions, zebras, hippos, warthogs, exotic birds, vultures, turtles, lizards, snakes, tree frogs and much more.
The zoo offers a number of after-hours family programs. “Snooze in the Zoo” allows guests to stay overnight at the zoo and enjoy storytelling, campfire songs, and walking tours. Visitors may set up tents on the back lawn or sleep out under the stars. The “Twilight Tour,” meanwhile, provides a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of the animals after the sun goes down.
The zoo’s mission statement is to “foster an appreciation of our living world, with an emphasis on tropical ecosystems, by serving as a center for environmental education, biological study, and recreation and conservation activities.
The Honolulu Zoo is located near Kapiolani Park at the corner of Kapahulu and Kalakaua Avenues. Hours are 9 a.m.-4:30 daily. The zoo is closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.