Hawaii is boundless in natural beauty – but it is also a flourishing environment for many exotic animals, making the islands the perfect location for primates, zebras, farm animals, tropical marine life, and even tigers to thrive – in the wild, and in captivity. From aquariums and animal sanctuaries to zoos, ranches and farms, you are bound to find the perfect activity for the animal lover in your family.
1) Waikiki Aquarium, Oahu
Founded in 1904, the Waikiki Aquarium is the second oldest public aquarium in the United States. It was built next to a living coral reef on the Waikiki shoreline, and is home to more than 3,500 organisms of 490 species of marine plants and animals.
2) Pacific Primate Sanctuary
This sanctuary houses approximately 70 spider monkeys, tamarins, marmosets and capuchin monkeys. These primates have all been abandoned, distressed, injured, or are in recovery. My information is mixed on visitors to the sanctuary, but if you live on Maui, you can volunteer.
3) Panaewa Rainforest Zoo, Big Island
The only tropical zoo in the United States, this Big Island attraction is the perfect place for a day out of the water. Visitors can encounter various rainforest animals and endangered Hawaiian animals, including a white Bengal tiger, spider monkeys, lemurs, and more than 80 other animal species.
4) Honolulu Zoo, Oahu
The Honolulu Zoo encompasses approximately 40 acres, and was fully established in 1916. The four main habitat areas – African Savannah, Pacific Islands, Tropical Forest, and Children’s Zoo – are home to roughly 300 animal species, including mammals, birds, and reptiles.
5) Maui Ocean Center
Rated as a top family attraction by Zagat surveys, the Maui Ocean Center is home to an amazing exhibit called The Open Ocean, which is a 54-foot acrylic tunnel that offers 360-degree views of marine life, including manta rays, sharks, sting rays, and tropical fish. The tank is a whopping 750,000 gallons – the largest in Hawaii.
6) Three Ring Ranch Exotic Animal Sanctuary, Big Island
Located on five acres above Kailua-Kona is Tree Ring Ranch, home to various exotic animals – including Zoe, a Golden zebra who is distinguished by gold stripes and blue eyes. She was rescued from Molokai, and was the third reported zebra of her kind throughout history when she was born in 1998.
7) Kualoa Ranch, Oahu
Boasting the best horseback riding tours on Oahu, and a pretty impressive petting zoo, is Kualoa Ranch – where there are too many activities to count. Tour an ancient fishpond, or take a catamaran ride into the ocean where you will see manta rays, sea turtles, and if you’re lucky, dolphins.
8) Leilani Farm Sanctuary, Maui
Located on eight acres of lush farmland in Haiku, this non-profit animal sanctuary provides refuge for animals in need, as well as serving as an educational facility for the community. Tours are available Wednesdays at 4 p.m. and Saturdays at 10 a.m. – reservations are required.