At the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo on Big Island, the animals truly live in a jungle paradise. There's about 150 creatures at the 12-acre zoo and they're a combination of animals native to Hawaii as well as introduced animals that would naturally fare well in the islands. Panaewa Zoo's claim to fame is that it's the only natural tropical rainforest zoo in the United States.
Namaste, the white tiger — Photo courtesy of Panaewa Rainforest Zoo
Children will gain extra excitement on Saturdays when feedings take place around 1:30 p.m. The white Bengal tiger is fed daily around 3:30 p.m., and is an extra exciting thing to experience. What's interesting about the Panaewa Zoo is that admission is free, although donations are accepted and go to the Friends of Panaewa Zoo to support the animals.
Christmas at the zoo — Photo courtesy of Panaewa Rainforest Zoo
About 75 species of animals live at this country zoo, including hippos from Northern Africa, the rare tiger, monkeys, water buffalo, an array of primates, and many endangered animals. Panaewa Zoo is a perfect and easy trip for families, or even just animal loving adults. It won't take too long to visit, but will open a window into another world.
To get to Panaewa Rainforest Zoo from Hilo, take Highway 11 south towards Volcano Village. Just about two and a half miles past Prince Kuhio Shopping Plaza, look for the zoo sign on a rock wall. Turn right onto Mamaki Street.