Rainforest Zoo – One of Hilo’s Unique
You don’t have to be
a kid to love the zoo. And Hilo is home to a
unique zoo, the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo.
What makes it unique?
Rainforest Zoo is the only tropical
rainforest zoo in the United States. Under a
canopy of tropical vegetation it is home to 159
mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds. The zoo
is a public facility under the administration of
the County of Hawai`i’s Department of Parks
and Recreation. We get a lot of help from
our volunteer friends, The Friends of the Zoo.
Admission is free.
Where is the zoo and
when can I visit?
The zoo is located off
the Volcano-bound side of Highway 11, about four
miles from downtown Hilo. Follow the signs
saying Pana’ewa Zoo.
The zoo is open every
day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Christmas
and New Year’s Day.
One of the zoo’s star
Namaste, a white Bengal
tiger, holds court in his own one-acre enclosure
which features a swamp where he loves to swim,
scratching posts and a tetherball. He currently
weighs in at over 500 pounds.
When is a good time to
visit the zoo?
Anytime, but if you
visit at 3:30 p. m. you can watch Namaste
feeding on his dinner. Male tigers are solitary
animals; so don’t worry about his lack of
another tiger to keep him company. He enjoys
seeing the hundreds of visitors who flock to the
zoo every day.
What’s new at the
A new attraction is the
Primadome, a domed structure that is the
daytime playground for four Black-handed Spider
Monkeys. The Primadome is complete with a tree
and swinging vines. (They are really used fire
hoses and the monkeys love them).
When is a good time to
check out the Primadome?
The monkeys happily
enter the dome at 9:30 and return to their night
house at 3:15, much to the delight of visitors.
Other primates include a Colobus named
"Curly" and four Squirrel monkeys.
Pana’ewa is home to
more than 80 animal species
The other rare
creatures include Sloths, a pygmy hippo,
whistling tree ducks, toucans, lemurs and a pair
of giant anteaters, Spike and his girlfriend
In addition to exotic
animals the Zoo has native Hawaiian creatures.
Hawaiian Gallinules, Hawaiian Hawk and Nene (Hawai`i’s
state bird) are on exhibit.
Petting Zoo for the wee
A Petting Zoo is open
on Saturdays from 1:30 to 2:30 pm. In addition
to farm animals, an iguana, a Hawaiian Hawk, a
Nene, Mongoose and Jill the Black Swan are part
of the Petting Zoo.
A word about
rainforests and their creatures
Rainforests are the
oldest ecosystem on earth and each animal or
plant has developed unique methods of survival.
Tiny Dart Frogs are able to survive as
their bright colors warn other animals that they
are poisonous. (Yes, we do have Dart
Frogs on exhibit). Although Sloths are slow
moving mammals in the forest canopy they are
camouflaged with algae to blend in with the
Rainforest Zoo is also a botanical garden
For visitors interested
in flora, the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo offers
an extensive collection of 100 varieties of
palms, as well as tropical rhododendrons,
orchids and bamboo.. Various plant clubs have
lovingly planted and tended the flora on the zoo
grounds, contributing immeasurably to the
As you enter the zoo
gates you can see the gorgeous pond. Frogs like
to perch on the giant Amazon water lily that
looms mysteriously on the pond’s surface.
The zoo is very user
We know that because
the guest book at the zoo gates is full of
positive feedback from visitors, who hale from
near and far.
Bring a picnic lunch or
stroll with the peacocks in the zoo’s paths.
If it rains, no
worries. You can borrow one of the zoo’s many
umbrellas. After all,
it is a Rainforest.
Latest fun thing to do
at the zoo - mark your calendar
Christmas at the Zoo
is a Family Fun Day on Saturday December 18
9:30 a.m.- 4:00 p.m. Come watch the animals
receive special treats and presents throughout
the day. The spider monkeys will receive their
presents at 9:30 but the fun will last all day.
Productions will present "The King of the
Oxen" at 10:30 and 2:30 with a visit from
Santa and caroling after each performance.
Terry the Tiger, games and Christmas crafts.