Activities

One of a Kind: Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens

October 7, 2015, 7:03 PM HST
* Updated October 7, 7:16 PM
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Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens may be one of the Big Island’s most unexpected surprises. Not only is it one of the most unique in the entire country, as the only zoo to be located in a tropical rainforest, but the zoo features a diverse number of animal and plant species, a combined assortment of over 100.

Although you won’t see elephants, giraffes, and zebras at this unique gem, you can expect to feast your eyes on tropical animals, including various primate species, including Spider Monkeys, Colobus, and Capuchins, and bold birds like Macaws, Cockatoos, and Ring-Neck Parakeets.

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Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Upon entering the front gate, you’re greeted by a rather friendly Macaw, named Max, and a Butterfly house home to various species, including the famous Monarch Butterfly.

In addition, various animals including Spike and Penny, the anteaters, are a nice surprise. The zoo is home to a few different turtle species, sloths, various lizards, and a recently-added boa constrictor.

The zoo is operated by the County of Hawai’i and receives funding partially through private donations. Some of the donors can be spotted on plaques throughout the park on benches and in various garden areas.

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Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

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Themed benches are a recent addition to the facility and they are almost too adorable to even sit on. The benches tie in different animals and are scattered about the park near their “look-a-likes.” One of the benches, currently near the front entrance, is in memorial of the late White Bengal Tiger, Namaste.

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Namaste was one of the zoo’s biggest attractions. For over a decade, people from all over the island, country, and world would travel to the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens to see the majestic tiger. Namaste spent 15 years at the zoo before passing away in January 2014 after suffering from hip dysplasia. Despite Namaste’s lack of physical presence at the zoo, his memory has not been lost, as apparent from the moment you walk in to the zoo.

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Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pavilions throughout the park make it the perfect place to bring a picnic lunch with various options rain or shine. Some of the larger pavilions can even be rented out for school trips, parties, and other gatherings. A recently-added covered playground and sitting area can be found near the Axis Deer enclosure. The playground was completed in late 2014.

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Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

 

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For one hour on Saturdays, zoo visitors get an even closer look at some of the zoo’s animals at the weekly petting zoo. The Petting Zoo is located near the zoo’s playground at Ka Hale Holoholona, “The Barn.” Hours of operation for the petting zoo are from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. It has a tendency to be busy, so if this is a must on your list, be sure to head to the zoo early.

This treasure has absolutely no admission fee, but since the park is partially run on donations, a donation bucket is set up at the front entrance for those who’d like to chip in to aid in the zoo’s upkeep.

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Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

A gift shop with cool refreshments, snacks, and various zoo memorabilia is also located at the zoo’s entrance. Buggies shaped like animals are available for rent through the gift shop for $2.

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Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Parking at the facility is free, and while finding a place to park on a weekday morning is no issue, the place can fill up when special events are taking place or on busy weekends. If the lot fills up, there is overflow space just outside the parking lot’s main entrance, but be prepared to walk a bit.

With many animals and plants to view and the flexibility of a zoo visit, stopping by Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens can be turned into a half-day event or even a quick 30-minute stop. The facility is stroller and wheelchair friendly and the amount of walking can be spaced out by resting at various sitting areas.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the exception of Christmas and New Year’s Day.

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Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Getting to Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens:

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens is located off Highway 11, just outside of Hilo, about 6 miles from Hilo International Airport. From the airport, turn left onto Kanoelehua Avenue and follow the roadway for just over three-and-a-half miles before turning right onto Mamaki Street. Follow the roadway until you see the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Garden sign, turn right, and follow the roadway into the parking lot.

To learn more about the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens, visit the zoo’s website.

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Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. Photo credit: Jamilia Epping.

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