Honolulu Zoo

The Honolulu Hawaii Zoo is the largest of its kind within a radius of 2,200 miles and is the only zoo in history originating from a king's bestowing royal land to his people. There are numerous hotels near Honolulu Zoo, making it an often-crowded spot during peak tourist seasons. Today the zoo is fully modern in design and houses animals in natural habitats including African Savannah, Tropical Forest, Pacific Islands, and the beloved Children's Zoo. The Honolulu Zoo hours of operation are from 9 am to 4:30 pm daily, except for the Christmas holidays and New Year's Day. There are affordable family passes available as well as Moonlight Passes, which offer a look at some of the zoo's nocturnal animals after hours.

The history of the zoo begins with King Kalakaua. King Kalakaua was a Hawaiian monarch between 1874 and 1891. He owned a parcel of land called Leahi Land that he offered to the public in 1876 on a 30-year lease. The 300-acre parkland was assumed by the Kapiolani Park Association, comprising more than two hundred members who then assumed administrative rights to the land. The sweeping acreage was part marsh, part island, and part lagoons and was where the king's exotic bird collection resided. The area was opened in 1877 and named Queen Kapiolani Park after the king's wife.

Royal grants were the main support of the Honolulu Zoo through 1894. Trees, palms, peacocks, and plants originating from Golden Gate Park in San Francisco were welcome additions. Because of growing popularity, local transportation lines extended out to the Waikiki area, which today is the intersection of Kapahula and Kalakua avenues. The zoo became a permanent island establishment in 1896, and the city of Honolulu assumed full responsibility for the zoo in Oahu in 1914.

During the two years between 1914 and 1916, the zoo's administrator collected a number of animals. Visiting the zoo had become one of the most popular things to do in Oahu, and a larger collection was anticipated. Lion cubs, a monkey, and a honey bear came to live at the zoo, and Daisy the African elephant was brought to the Honolulu Zoo aboard a steamship traveling from Australia up to Canada. Daisy became the most popular of all attractions at the zoo and is still fondly remembered by many Oahu residents who visited the zoo as children.

The Great Depression brought a major decline in visitors to the Honolulu Hawaii Zoo. In 1947, an additional donation of chimps, more elephants and a camel initiated a revival for the zoo. From 1949 on, there was a large number of new animals added to the zoo's collection, including another elephant, ostriches, a giraffe, sea lions, spider monkeys, and many more. The zoo became increasingly renowned and more hotels near Honolulu sprung up, alongside numerous city attractions as Honolulu gained major notoriety as a sun destination. The Honolulu Hawaii Zoo now sits among a large number of excellent city highlights including the nearby Waikiki Aquarium, Diamond Head, the International Marketplace, and a number of Honolulu botanical gardens. There are many hotels near Honolulu Zoo taking advantage of the prime tourist location.

There are a number of special events happening at the Honolulu Zoo throughout the year, such as jazz concerts, dinner parties, and wine exhibits—all for fundraising for the zoo. When visiting, allow at least half a day to explore all the exhibits. Head out early to avoid the largest afternoon crowds and the high-noon heat. For some real fun, take advantage of the special family programs offered. The Zoo by Twilight tour offers a behind-the-scenes look at the nocturnal animals. Tours, pizza, a campfire, and breakfast are included in Snooze at the Zoo for kids, and Star Gazing at the Zoo offers a look at the star-filled sky above Honolulu with a local astronomer. Visitors not staying at hotels near Honolulu Zoo can easily get to the facility on the Honolulu trolley or by rental cars via Kapahulu Ave.

Image: Hawaii Tourism Authority - Tor Johnson
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