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Panaewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens

Updated on December 31, 2012
entrance | Source

Family fun

If you ever happen to be on the big Island and are looking for some fun family friendly activities you have to check out the Panaewa Rainforest and zoo. I recently went to this zoo with my family while on vacation and was amazed. They have a wide range of animals that were beautiful, entertaining and full of personality. In addition to the zoo they also have all kinds of rainforest plants and gardens. It truly was a beautiful display. If you love animals, plants or just a good time this is a great place to go see.

Free admission

I have a large family and I am on a budget so this made this zoo even more amazing to me. The admission is completely free so anyone can come in and see the animals and gardens. They do accept donations. This was perfect for my group of ten. The cost of regular zoo admissions is a deterrent with such a large group but this policy allowed us all to go in have fun and donate as much as we could afford.

The petting zoo

They have an awesome petting zoo for the kids on Saturdays from 1:30 to 2:30. We missed out on the petting zoo but I have heard really great things about the staff and animals. Next time we are in Hilo we will make sure to stop by for this activity.

Toucan | Source
Scarlet Macaw
Scarlet Macaw | Source
Namaste | Source
Iguana | Source

The animals

This zoo has a wide range of animals. There is not only all kinds of animals but they are playful and happy. Some of the animals will even interact with visitors.

The birds

We stopped and hung out with the birds for a good long time. They would talk sing and play even push things out of the cage trying to get you to play with them. The toucans were my personal favorite out of all the birds they were playing with each other scooting back and forth and fluttering around. One of the parrots even asked one of the keepers to scratch his neck. It was the cutest thing.

The tiger

The tiger feeding was amazing to watch. They feed him every day at 3:30 and he knows it too. He devoured the giant piece of meat pretty quickly. What I loved about Namaste was his big beautiful eyes and the way he strolled around like a real king of the jungle.

The lizards and amphibians

At the Panaewa zoo I saw reptiles and amphibians I have only seen in magazines. The Iguana Lizzy was the biggest I have ever seen. They have all kinds of poisonous frogs with the most beautiful patterns and colors. They also had noles and a huge gecko.

Some more really cool mammals and primates

They have a three toed sloth and two giant anteaters. The anteaters were really interesting the way they root around reminds me of pigs little. The Capuchin monkeys were really active swinging around and eating their lunch. What really caught my attention was the two Bintoroungs. They have two in separate cages right next to each other. the keepers told us they are very territorial. That would explain the crazy sounds they were making when they saw each other.

Still much more

These were just my favorites and the ones that really caught my attention. The list of animals and what they are like goes on and on you really have to go see for yourself to get the full experience.

Plant blooms at the rainforest gardens
Plant blooms at the rainforest gardens | Source

The rainforest gardens

The gardens were phenomenal. They have lots of different plant species. I loved the orchids they were vibrant and full of color. Orchids are my favorite flower so I really appreciated this. The Lilly ponds are very beautiful and have more than three different kinds of waterlilies. They have more than five different kinds of palm trees with bright vibrant nuts and berries. They have so much gorgeous plant life it feels like a real wild rainforest. The animals will not be the only things that will wow you.

Map to the Panaewa zoo on the Big Island
Map to the Panaewa zoo on the Big Island | Source

Location and directions

This is the map from the zoos website. The zoo is in Hilo. I would say maybe 15 minutes away from the market. If these directions are difficult to follow the map quest directions are helpful. There are plenty of signs on the way so it should not be hard to find. If you have to drive through the mountains GPS might be hard to use until you get into Hilo. We learned this the hard way but that was the only complication.


The Panaewa Zoo and Rainforest gardens rocked. This is a great place to have family fun on the Big Island of Hawaii. The staff, animals, gardens, cost and overall experience is wonderful and I cant wait to visit there again soon. I give them a five star rating.

5 out of 5 stars from 1 rating of Panaewa Rainforest gardens and Zoo

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    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 5 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Thanks for the review of the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens. It looks like they have an Amorphophallus titanum (Corpse Flower).

    • Shiley profile image

      Karen Shiley 5 years ago from Washington

      This looks like a great place to spend the day. If I ever happen to be in Kona I will definitely stop by for visit.