Animals Up Close in Hawaii at the Honolulu Zoo

You can meet a giraffe in Hawaii. They’re not native to the islands but the Honolulu Zoo provides an intimate introduction to it and other animals.

The zoo is at the Diamond Head end of Waikiki Beach — walking distance from most Honolulu hotels and easily accessible by bus or trolley. It is open from 9:00 – 4:30 daily. While food is available, coolers and picnics are allowed. The admission is $12 for adults over the age of 13 ($6 for locals with Hawaii ID), children from 3-12 are $3 and younger than three are free. My daughter and her child visited the zoo recently. The adult price was more than she pays on the mainland but the admission was less for a child. This makes the zoo a great bargain for families with several children and a very reasonable persion for others.

“What we both enjoyed about the zoo is that you felt very close to the animals because of the way their environments were set up,” says my daughter. She takes keiki to the zoo on the mainland frequently. Often, I lived in places without a good local zoo — the opportunity to experience animals in this setting would have been even more unique. They still enjoyed their visit to the zoo during a brief Hawaii vacation. “We went in the afternoon and there weren’t many people there, which I thought was great not only because we had missed the hottest part of the day but also because we weren’t fighting to see the animals and we didn’t feel rushed to move on.” You won’t often feel rushed in Hawaii — at the zoo or other places. The pace is slower here and that allows for a greater experience.

The Honolulu Zoo welcomes around 600,000 people per year. It is the only zoo in the United States that originates from a King’s grant of royal lands to the people — King David Kalakua made lands available in 1874. The park was permanently established in 1896 and the County of Honolulu assumed administration of the city parks in 1914. The zoo’s current environmental enrichment program involves all staff members in a zoo-wide program of “effective environmental enrichment” which improves or enhances the zoo environment of animals. The animals are encouraged to investigate and interact with their surroundings — the very approach that enticed my daughter and granddaughter.

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