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5 animal sanctuaries to visit in Hawai‘i

Caretaker Yorlenis Udave hands out snacks at Lahaina Animal Farm. Photo by Gilberto Sanchez

Animals are like rainbows: They’re beautiful, they inspire wonder, they make you smile, and they calm your soul. The residents of these 5 animal retreats in Hawai‘i have names, touching stories, and quirks—some surprising, some downright hilarious. Getting acquainted with them could be one of the highlights of your next family outing. Visitors are welcome, but reservations are required.

1. Lawrence Lovestock

Kahalu‘u, O‘ahu

Ian Lawrence holding a rabbit.

Ian Lawrence of Lawrence Lovestock animal farm holds Nivens, an Angora rabbit. Photo by Careena Tipoti

The first thing Denise Lawrence of Lawrence Lovestock animal farm wants you to know is that Lovestock is not a typo. “Most of our animals were given to us or were in danger of being homeless, slaughtered, or abandoned,” says the co-owner of the 12-acre farm beside the magnificent Ko‘olau mountain range. “They’ve become a part of our family, our lovestock. Unlike livestock, which feeds the body, lovestock feeds the soul.”

Bring produce for your visit (overripe fruit is best). After an orientation, you’re free to roam the 1-acre animal compound and offer snacks to the animals, including sheep, goats, calves, turkeys, and rabbits.

Young boy crouching beside a piglet.

Guest Jorrell Onosai-Masaniai feeds Beacon the piglet. Photo by Careena Tipoti

Saint the horse’s favorite treat is carrots. Before coming to Lawrence Lovestock, the Arabian quarter horse lived in a dilapidated stall and didn’t get much attention. He has since blossomed in health and even carried the pā‘ū queen in the 2023 Aloha Festivals parade.

Peppa, a 600-plus-pound pig, loves pineapple and will gleefully devour a whole one before your eyes. When Jojo the cockatoo sees visitors, she thinks there’s a birthday party and yells “Happy birthday!” to everyone.

“You might have arrived here feeling down,” Lawrence says, “but you’ll definitely leave with a smile.”

Fun fact: Co-owner Denise Lawrence’s great-grandparents bought the property in 1917; since then, 5 generations of her ‘ohana have lived there.

One-hour visits are available on weekends beginning at 1 p.m. $50 for up to 5 people, $100 for up to 10 for a self-guided experience.

You may also like: O‘ahu parks perfect for family gatherings

2. Leilani Farm Sanctuary

Ha‘ikū, Maui

Laurelee Blanchard hugging a donkey.

Leilani Farm Sanctuary founder Laurelee Blanchard hugs Lehua the donkey. Photo by Monique Feil

In 1999, Laurelee Blanchard left her lucrative career as a commercial real estate executive in California and moved to Maui to pursue her dream of starting an animal shelter. Today, as the founder and president of this 8-acre oasis, she oversees the care of some 400 furry and feathered inhabitants. All have names, and most have a story that tugs at your heartstrings.

Animals grazing and roaming at Leilani Farm Sanctuary.

Leilani Farm Sanctuary. Photo courtesy Leilani Farm Sanctuary

On a guided tour, you might feed, pet, and learn about Calvin the cat, who was abandoned in a sugarcane field; Lehua the donkey, whose former home was a cold, dark crawl space under a house; and Lani and Veronica, deer who were orphaned when hunters killed their mothers.

Among many others who’ll be happy to meet you are Dorothy the cow, who was saved from the slaughterhouse; Alex the goat, who got tangled in a ranch fence and nearly starved to death; and Buddy, a rooster who was maimed when a driver intentionally ran over him.

Now the animals roam wherever they please amid verdant pastures and gardens, hundreds of trees, and a waterfall-fed pond. “They’re nonjudgmental and have unconditional love,” Blanchard says. “Our hope is to educate people, so they look at animals with respect and compassion—as something other than a meal.”

Fun fact: The sanctuary grows 20% of the food for its animals, including spinach, tomatoes, bananas, mangoes, papayas, and avocados.

One-hour tours are available Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays; visitors must be at least 7 years old. $50; $35 for kama‘āina.

You may also like: Reasons to visit Maui now

3. Kaua‘i Animal Education Farm

Kapa‘a, Kaua‘i

Nihi Taniguchi

Kaua‘i Animal Education Farm guest Nihi Taniguchi strolls past goats eager for attention. Photo by Erica Taniguchi/Kalalea Photography

When Christy Souza, executive director of Kaua‘i Animal Education Farm, saw that a female guest on a recent tour seemed subdued, she found it odd, since visitors often can’t contain their excitement at the 4-acre animal refuge.

“I wondered if she was disappointed,” Souza says, “but the next day, the woman wrote a review revealing that she had suffered a miscarriage, lost a beloved pet, and was dealing with previous spousal abuse. She said being at the farm was the first time in a long time that she felt at peace.”

Many visitors report feeling a sense of peace here. The refuge is home to about 150 animals, but the population changes constantly because in addition to new arrivals, some are adopted, and others are part of the farm’s Rent-a-Pet program.

During a visit, you can give Bugs Bunny a treat; rub Boots the pig behind the ears; scratch the back of Twinkle Toes the sheep; bottle-feed an orphaned baby goat, and more. Pick fruit for a snack or to feed to your lovable new friends.

“Animals can relieve stress, comfort you, and lift your spirit,” Souza says. “Being here changed their lives—and it could change yours too.”

Fun fact: Kaua‘i Animal Education Farm is landscaped with 70 species of fruit trees and medicinal and edible plants.

Self-guided walkabout: $25. Guided animal interaction tour: $50; $10 for keiki ages 3–5, free for younger kids (ask about kama‘āina rates). Both are 60 minutes and available daily. The last Saturday of every month is La ‘Ohana Day ($25 for a family of 5), reserved for 2-hour kama‘āina visits.

You may also like: Escape to Kaua‘i for family-friendly fun and good food

4. Three Ring Ranch

Kailua-Kona, Hawai‘i Island

Ring-tailed lemur relaxing at Three Ring Ranch.

Residents of Three Ring Ranch include Maddie, a ring-tailed lemur. Photo by Ann Goody

J.P. and Beans are master pickpockets. “One of those boys will distract me with chirps and kisses while the other dips a hand into my pocket and steals whatever treat is there,” says Three Ring Ranch’s director and curator, Ann Goody. “They’ve figured out how to work together to get what they want.”

Capuchin monkey holding food inside its enclosure.

J.P., a capuchin monkey at Three Ring Ranch. Photo by Norm Goody

The clever, mischievous capuchin monkeys are among the exotic wildlife you might meet on a guided tour of this 5-acre animal sanctuary above Kailua-Kona. Residents include alpacas, chinchillas, a bison, a macaque, ring-tailed lemurs, and an ‘io (Hawaiian hawk).

“Our goal is to help visitors understand the nature of wild creatures,” Goody says. “We explain how animals think and communicate through body language and how they interpret our behavior. They might view some things we normally do as threatening. This is their home, so it’s important for them to feel safe and calm among visitors.”

Hawaiian hawk at Three Ring Ranch.

Medusa the Hawaiian hawk at Three Ring Ranch. Photo by Norm Goody

Goody emphasizes that Three Ring Ranch is not a petting zoo. “You’ll be close to the animals but not hands-on with them,” she says. “They live out their lives here as our educational ambassadors.”

Fun fact: Three Ring Ranch is Hawai‘i’s only fully accredited, USDA-licensed exotic-animal sanctuary.

Days for 2-hour visits vary; make arrangements via email at Guests must be at least 6 years old, and a minimum $70 donation per person supports animal care and educational programs. Private VIP tours for fewer than 6 people require a minimum $500 donation (inquire about larger groups).

You may also like: Eco-friendly activities across the Hawaiian Islands

5. Lahaina Animal Farm

Lahaina, Maui

Every day at 6:30 a.m., neighs, grunts, squeals, and bleats fill the air at this picturesque 5.7-acre farm in the hills of Launiupoko in West Maui. “The animals are excited to see me coming,” says caretaker Yorlenis Udave, smiling. “They know who has the food.”

The devastating wildfire last August 8 reached lower Launiupoko, putting the property and Udave’s beloved animals at risk. High winds caused major damage, but, thankfully, Udave says, all the animals were safe. She adds that she’s looking forward to the day when she can once again introduce visitors to her adorable 4-footed friends.

To name a few, there’s Makani Ua, a miniature horse who was born at the farm and is considered its mascot. A goat named Lily goes in and out of her pen whenever she wants by jumping a 4-foot fence. “She’s fearless,” Udave says. “She’s the alpha of the goats.”

Udave cuddled and bottle-fed Hope, a Barbados sheep, when his mother rejected him at birth. “He’s curious and doesn’t want to miss any of the action,” she says. “He likes to follow the tour groups.”

Visitors enjoy feeding grain and carrots to the animals, who are all just as hungry for pats and hugs. “Some people have never seen farm animals up-close in real life before,” Udave says, “but they quickly see they have their own unique personalities, just like humans. And also just like humans, they thrive on love and kindness.”

Fun fact: Lahaina Animal Farm surprises keiki with a fun activity: hunting for candy-filled plastic eggs around the fishpond.

In the aftermath of the August 8 wildfire, tours are on hold but will resume as soon as possible.

Check the farm’s website for updates.

Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi rode horses for 20 years and has experienced firsthand the special bond people can have with animals.

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