Occupying prime oceanfront property, the zoo is touting its metamorphosis into the "New Zoo," a wildlife-focused recreation center that inspires visitors to become conservationists. Integrated exhibits group different species of animals from the same geographic areas together in enclosures that don't look like cages. More than 250 species reside here, including endangered species such as the snow leopard, Sumatran tiger, grizzly bear, and a Siberian tiger.
The zoo's superstar exhibit is Grizzly Gulch, where orphaned grizzly bear sisters Kachina and Kiona enchant visitors with their frolicking and swimming. When the bears are in the water, the only thing between you and them is (thankfully thick) glass. Grizzly feedings are at 11:30 am daily.
The Lemur Forest has four varieties of the bug-eyed, long-tailed primates from Madagascar. You can help hoist food into the lemurs' feeding towers and watch the fuzzy creatures climb up to chow down. African Kikuyu grass carpets the
circular outer area of Gorilla Preserve, one of the largest and most natural gorilla habitats of any zoo in the world. Trees and shrubs create communal play areas.
Ten species of rare primates—including black howler monkeys, emperor tamarins, and lion-tailed macaques—live and play at the two-tier Primate Discovery Center, which contains 23 interactive learning exhibits on the ground level.
Magellanic penguins waddle about the rather sad concrete Penguin Island, splashing and frolicking in its 200-foot pool. Feeding times are 10:30 and 3:30. Koalas peer out from among the trees in Koala Crossing, and kangaroos and wallabies headline the Australian Walkabout exhibit. The 7-acre Puente al Sur (Bridge to the South) re-creates habitats in South America, replete with giant anteaters and capybaras.
An African Savanna exhibit mixes giraffes, zebras, kudus, ostriches, and many other species, all living together in a 3-acre section with a central viewing spot accessed by a covered passageway.
The 6-acre Children's Zoo has about 300 mammals, birds, and reptiles, plus an insect zoo, a meerkat and prairie-dog exhibit, a nature trail, a nature theater, a huge playground, a restored 1921 Dentzel carousel, and a mini–steam train. A ride on the train costs $5, and you can hop astride one of the carousel's 52 hand-carved menagerie animals for $3.