The Honolulu Zoo is one of the must see Waikiki activities. The Honolulu Zoo is located on Queen Kapiolani Park between the slopes of Diamond Head and Waikiki. The zoo has the distinction of being the only zoo in the United States to be established by a King’s grant of royal lands to the people. This king was King David Kalakaua, Monarch of Hawaii from 1874 to 1891. The original marshy parcel of land was where the king maintained his collection of exotic birds. In 1877, the area was named after the King’s wife and was opened as Queen Kapiolani Park. The park was permanently established in 1896 and in the early 1900’s the first animals were collected for display. They included a monkey, a honey bear and some lion cubs. In 1916, a friendly African elephant arrived. Her name was Daisy and many recall riding on her back around the park. During the Depression, although the zoo nearly closed, additional animals still came to the zoo including a giraffe, an ostrich, emus, a camel, 3 sea lions, spider monkeys and a tortoise. In 1947, with the donation of even more animals, the master plan for the zoo was set and designed for the 42-acre plot at the north end of Kapiolani Park. This remains the setting for today’s Honolulu Zoo.
On these 42 acres of the 300-acre Kapiolani Park, the Honolulu Zoo is currently home to over 1200 animals, with 995 different animals hailing from the tropics. As the “wildest place in Waikiki,” the Honolulu Zoo features Komodo Dragons, orangutans, elephants, primates, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and a variety of African animals. Zoo hours are 9:00AM to 4:30PM daily except for Christmas Day.
The Honolulu Zoo has several programs to tempt its visitors besides coming to the zoo during regular operating hours. Twilight tours of the zoo are held every Saturday night from 5:30PM to 7:30PM. These tours are led by a guide and are appropriate for adults or families with children ages 5 and up. On Saturdays and Sundays, the “Art on the Zoo Fence” tradition continues. For over 50 years, this program has been one of Hawaii’s lasting treasures and one of most unique activities in Waikiki, enriching the public’s zoo experience by providing the opportunity to freely view and enjoy artwork and to meet Hawaii’s artists in person. Art of the Zoo Fence is an incredibly pleasing way to get acquainted with not only the varying styles of original art in oils, acrylics, watercolors and photography, but also talk to the artists about their work. Artists participating in this venture belong to a non-profit group that contributes annually to various organizations that promote arts education for children.
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