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Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo


Sure, there’s plenty of wildlife all around Hawaii – but if you want to see a white Bengal tiger up close, you’ll have to head to Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo in Hilo on the Big Island.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo is a small zoo by most standards, and is especially unique in Hawaii given the tight restrictions on keeping most wild animals in enclosures. The Hilo zoo is the only zoo in the country that makes its home in a tropical rain forest, and features more than 60 species of animals. Visitors can see monkeys, parrots, pygmy hippos, water buffalos, iguanas, sloths, butterflies, lemurs and giant tortoises. You can even see the Nene goose, Hawaii’s state bird, up close and personal. The highlight, however, remains the big white tiger.

Namaste, as the white Bengal tiger is known, is the undisputed star at the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo, and he’s a beauty. The tiger was actually raised in Las Vegas, but was donated to the zoo in 1999 by Dick Arthur, the magician who owned him. Arthur had planned to sell Namaste to the zoo, but after visiting was so impressed with the facilities that he decided to donate the tiger.

While Namaste reportedly has been known to catch the odd wild thing that has wandered (unfortunately for them) into his enclosure, he is fed regularly at 3:30 each afternoon – so if you’d like to be sure to see him being active rather than just sunbathing, and you don’t mind the sight of a giant tiger eating raw meat, you’ll want to be there in time for the daily feeding.

Location: The zoo is located off Hwy. 11, about four miles south of Hilo.

Hours: Daily, 09:00-16:00 (closed Christmas Day and New Years Day); Petting Zoo open Saturdays from 13:30-14:30

Admission: Free, but donations are accepted and encouraged

More Information: Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo official website