With a history dating back to 1876, the Honolulu Zoo is the largest zoo within a radius of 2,300 miles and unique in that it is the only zoo in the United States originating from a King's grant of royal lands to the people in the area later named Kapiolani Park in honor of the King's wife.
Originally home to King David Kalakaua's collection of exotic birds, the zoo began to resemble what we now know in the period from 1914 to 1916 when the administrator of Parks and Recreation, Ben Hollinger, began collecting animals for exhibit at Kapiolani Park. The first animals included a monkey, a honey bear, lion cubs and in 1916 Daisy, an African elephant which delighted Honolulu children until her tragic death in 1933.
After suffering through difficult times during the Great Depression, the zoo once again began to grow in the late 1940's and its future was assured when the city approved a Master Plan establishing the boundaries of today's zoo and appointing its first full time director.
Today's zoo continues to be operated under the authority of the City and County of Honolulu which is responsible for hiring and funding the Zoo's staff.
Honolulu Zoo Society
Founded in 1969, the Honolulu Zoo Society is a non-profit (501(c)3) organization whose purpose is to support the Honolulu Zoo and its mission, to educate the public about the importance of wildlife and conservation issues and to provide for the needed capital improvements to the Zoo through membership fees, animal adoption fees, contributions and bequests, and through fund raising events.
The Honolulu Zoo Society offers a number of programs including birthday parties, dinner safaris, twilight tours, star gazing, "Snooze in the Zoo" sleepovers, vacation adventures and numerous outreach programs involving local schools.
Ever Changing and Modernizing
The Honolulu Zoo is ever changing and modernizing. Beginning in the 1990's, numerous exhibits were redesigned to feature more natural settings for the animals on display. That work continues today.
New animals are born within the zoo every month and new animals are brought in to replace those who have passed away.
A new $3.7 million Honolulu Zoo Animal Health Center was opened in 2005. This professional medical facility was the first purpose built hospital for the Honolulu zoo. The main building encompasses about 7,000 square feet of floor space and a separate 700 square foot quarantine building.
A new $5.1 million Keiki Zoo (Children's zoo) opened in 2006.
A new Sumatran Tiger enclosure opened in 2007.
In February of 2009 the zoo dedicated a new learning center, providing a new building and equipment for numerous zoo functions. The $1.5 million classroom building will be used for education programs, evening lectures and volunteer services.
Construction on a new 27,000-square-foot elephant habitat is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2010.
The Honolulu Zoo features over 1200 animals including 28 species of endangered animals. It also features many species which are often not seen in mainland zoos including a family of Komodo dragons, Hawaiian hoary bats and Sumatran tigers.
The zoo contains an extensive collection of tropical birds from the America's, Asia and Australia including the rare Hawaiian State Bird, the nene.
Its African Savanna offers an extensive collection of animals in natural settings including hippos, meerkats, rhinos, giraffes, ostrich, zebras, wild dogs and more.
The zoo's reptile collection features an extensive collection including Aldabra and Galapagos tortoises, American alligators and African gharials and numerous species of lizards.
The zoo's primate collection contains numerous species of chimpanzees, monkeys, siamangs, lemurs and orangutan.
Contained within the zoo is the popular 1.6 acre Keiki Zoo or Children's Zoo where youngsters can get up close and interact with animals such as chickens, cows, donkeys, goats, guinea pigs, hedgehogs, llamas, mantellas, pot-bellied pigs, red-footed tortoise, sheep and turkeys.
If You Go
The Honolulu Zoo is located on a 42-acre site between the slopes of Diamond Head and Waikiki in Kapiolani Park with its entrance at the corner of Kapahulu Ave. and Kalakaua Blvd. While parking is available for $1 per hour in a lot on Kapahulu Avenue, the zoo is within walking distance of all Waikiki hotels and resorts and by TheBus from other areas of the island.
The zoo is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The zoo is closed on Christmas Day.
The best time to visit the zoo is in the mornings or late afternoon when the animals are likely to be more active. Many animals will seek shade in heat of the day.
General Admission to the Honolulu Zoo is $14 for those 13 years and older, and $6 for children 3-12 years. Children under 2 years and under are free when accompanied by an adult. Hawaii residents pay only $8 with proper kama'aina I.D. Annual memberships are available.
View our gallery of 84 photos taken at the Honolulu Zoo.