Located on Oahu, across the street from Waikiki Beach, the Honolulu Zoo is not only the biggest zoo within a 2,300-mile radius, it is also the only zoo in the United States that was established by a king. In 1876, King David Kalakaua offered 300 acres of his land to the public on a 30-year lease. The site was mostly marshland and covered with lagoons and fishponds, which the king used to house his personal collection of exotic birds. The Kapiolani Park Association, a collection of 200 nature enthusiasts, initially administered the park, and in 1876 opened it up to the public as Queen Kapiolani Park (named after the king’s wife).
Over the next few decades, the park was adorned with imported plants and animals, and roads and trolley lines were built to accommodate visitors. In 1914, the park’s administration was officially taken up by the City and County of Honolulu. In 1916, the city purchased Daisy, an elephant brought over by a steamship from Africa.
Due to its vigilant administrators, the Honolulu Zoo managed to survive the budget cuts during the Great Depression that shut down many recreational venues administered by the government. The zoo continued to grow and prosper, and today it houses over 1,230 animals and serves as an animal habitat for an African Savannah and a host of birds and reptiles native to the Pacific islands.
More than 600,000 visitors come to this well-maintained park every year and it is one of the popular Oahu Tours. The zoo’s Twilight Tour allows visitors to closely observe the animals after dark. And the Snooze in the Zoo adventure, which takes guests on a camping trip in a wild jungle, is particularly popular among children. This activity includes a buffet dinner, a guided walking tour and a late-night S’mores session in front of an open fire. The Honolulu Zoo is open daily (with the exception of Christmas Day).