Situated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and made up entirely of beautiful islands, Hawaii possesses an awe-inspiring natural beauty, and the city of Honolulu is no doubt a piece of heaven on earth. So, the last place you might expect to visit is a well-worn attraction like a zoo. However, Honolulu Zoo is a wonderful spot to not only see wildlife but to experience a lot of incredible species indigenous to Hawaii in a very cool, tropical setting. If you want to add an extra layer of excitement to your vacation in paradise, then read on for a guide to Honolulu Zoo.
Honolulu offers plenty of things to do for everyone - check out our recommendations on best things to do when you’re visiting this destination.
Things to do / Highlights
Once you enter the gates of this fantastic 43-acre (17.4-hectare) zoo, it is helpful to know that Honolulu Zoo is divided into three main habitats. The African Savannah affords you glimpses of rhinos, giraffes, hippos, and zebras. Head over to the Tropical Forest and you can admire elephants, orangutans, and Komodo dragons. The Pacific Islands’ section lets you view an array of colorful birds and Galapagos tortoises. Here are just a few key things to see and do:
The African Savannah
A jewel of the zoo is the African Savanna section. This 10-acre (4.04-hectare) exhibit is comprised of over 40 African creatures, from playful antelope to majestic giraffes. When exploring this area, don’t miss Honolulu Zoo’s rare Hawaiian nene goose, one of the few indigenous animals left in the state! To make sure you know where to find it, go to the official website for a map.
Ever wonder what the zoo is like after hours? Twilight Tours is a unique experience that offers a behind-the-scenes look at the animals’ nighttime activities on a two-hour walking excursion. Find out about dates, times, and prices here.
Keiki Zoo (Children's Zoo)
It can be difficult to hold children’s attention on the animals when the exhibit is a bit of a distance away, so Keiki Zoo allows kids to get an intimate view of the animals. Your little one can pet a goat, crawl through tunnels to view fun guinea pigs, and marvel at vibrantly-colored koi. Kids under 2 years of age get in free, but be aware that Keiki Zoo closes at 4 pm.
What to eat
Enjoy a picnic
Possessing a wonderful lush green landscape with great sites for dining al fresco, many visitors choose to enjoy a picnic during their time here. Visitors are welcome to bring in outside food, drink, and even coolers or insulated bags to keep their picnic items and snacks fresh.
If you opt for the zoo’s cuisine you’ll find plenty of hearty fare and tasty snacks. Typical zoo cuisine such as chicken tenders, pizza, ice cream, and cotton candy is available but guests can also enjoy foods native to Hawaiian tastes like a No Meat Monday Vegetable Tempura Ponzu with sweet caramel soy sauce, Coconut Chicken with Asian slaw and spicy and sweet sauce, or delicious spam musubis. The rainbow-hued shaved ice is also a big hit, particularly with the kids. You can also purchase an all-day refillable souvenir drink bottle that the kids will love.
Things to buy
If you want a lovely reminder of your visit don’t forget to check out the well-stocked Honolulu Zoo Gift Shop just outside the zoo’s entrance. People of all ages get excited about the range of souvenirs, tokens, and gifts available.
Children are sure to find their new best friend with a collection of plush critters that range from fanciful penguins to cuddly lions to colorful peacocks. The little ones will be thrilled to go to bed if they have one of these soft creatures to snuggle.
If you have a budding excavator in your traveling party they’ll go wild for the zoo’s fossil kit. Equipped with many shapes and sizes of fossils, this item will encourage mini archeological expeditions for your eager explorer.
The t-shirt is the classic souvenir and there are so many to choose from at this gift shop. Filled with shelves and racks of t-shirts replete with quirky animal images. Make a statement wearing a t-shirt with such fun designs like a row of penguins recreating the iconic Abbey Road crossing by The Beatles.
From whale-shaped salt and pepper shakers to refrigerator magnets with the Honolulu Zoo logo, knickknacks are always a great memento of a splendid zoo trip. A bonus is that they always fit easily into your luggage.
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To avoid crowds your best bet is to visit during the week rather than the weekend. If you arrive early you’ll enjoy cooler temperatures and the animals are more active during this time. You can probably see all the zoo has to offer in about two hours. The zoo is open year-round except on Christmas Day. For quick cash, ATMs are situated throughout the grounds as well as at the entrance. Credit cards are also accepted.
The parking entrance to Honolulu Zoo is on Kapahulu Ave and charges 1.50 USD per hour. The zoo does offer metered parking for 1 USD per hour but because of the proximity to the surf, you will be competing with beachgoers especially on the weekend. For free parking, try The Waikiki Shell parking lot across the street on Monsarrat Ave.
The Honolulu Zoo is accessible to people with mobility issues and wheelchair-bound. Visitors with disabilities are welcomed along with their fully-trained service animals. Sturdy strollers and expert wheelchairs are available for rent at the gift shop near the zoo entrance and are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
How to get there
Many convenient and comfortable hotels line Kalakaua and Kapahulu Avenue so heading for the Honolulu Zoo on foot is a great option. There’s also the benefit of exercise and taking in the breathtaking coastal surroundings.
Rent a car
If you’re going to get behind the wheel in a rental car, Honolulu Zoo is tucked away between the slopes of Diamond Head and Waikiki at the corner of Kapahulu Avenue and Kalakaua Boulevard.
There is a variety of taxi company’s available to get you around Honolulu but the price is costly. This mode of transportation should only be used as a last resort.
App-savvy travelers can take advantage of online transportation services like Uber and Lyft to book a hassle-free ride. Since many of the drivers are friendly locals, you can receive inside information on the best places to eat and shop.
The bus is one of the best ways to get around Honolulu. It’s cheap and the following transit lines have routes that pass near Honolulu Zoo: Bus 8, 19, 20, 42, and E.
How to get tickets
Tickets for the Honolulu Zoo can be purchased at the zoo’s entrance. If you arrive early you should be able to avoid the crowds. For more information go to the official website.
Honolulu Zoo information
Address: 151 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
Opening hours: 9am - 4:30pm (daily)
Cost: 11 - 19 USD
Official website: Honolulu Zoo
Department of tourism: Honolulu
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