by Alex Black
The Palm Beach Zoo is small compared to, say, the Miami zoo (which I didn't like that much), but the PBZoo is beautiful, very clean, and well kept. The smaller size precludes the addition of animals that require lots of space, like giraffes, rhinos, and elephants (which Zoo Miami does have, and has the room for them). But don't let that dissuade you.
My favorites are the big cats, and they have Panthers, Tigers, Jaguars, and African Servals (small big cats). They're all beautiful and I feel fortunate to see them close and in person. The tiger enclosure is especially nice, if a bit small, with a pond and a waterfall for them to play in. Leading to the tiger pen from the west side you'll walk through a bamboo forest that sometimes has mist added, and embedded tiger tracks in the walkway, which is an ingenious touch and really sets the mood to prepare you for a tiger confontation. Well done.
Walking a zoo the size of the Palm Beach Zoo is relaxing, while I found walking Zoo Miami exhausting. I know I got tired of dodging pedal cars clogging the walkways there... (Imagine trying to shop at Publix if 3/4 of the shoppers are riding in those little scooters and you're pushing a cart; that's what trying to walk around Zoo Miami was like.)
The structures built for the 'Tropics of the Americas' section are fantastic and my favorites (a Mayan pyramid, sacrificial altars you can get your picture taken on, and other Central America-themed creations), very realistic, and quite picturesque. The 'Amazon Marketplace' is also really cool.
There is tropical foliage throughout, some of it labeled, which is great for those that are interested and wishing to learn about plant life as well at the animals here. While not quite a tropical garden as the likes of the Naples Zoo, it is close enough that I'm surprised this place is not designated as the "Palm Beach Zoo and Botanical Garden". The lush settings alone are a good reason to visit the zoo to hang out and relax. Just beautiful.
This zoo was badly damaged by hurricanes in the mid-90s and partially rebuilt, so much of the zoo is newer and up-to-date. It shows.
I've not had much interaction with staff, other than the ticket booth personnel, but others have praised the employees here.
The size of the zoo is perfect for a few-hour walkabout, and perfectly sized for those with small kids. There is a lot of shade to be found for the hotter days (something sorely lacking at Zoo Miami), an interactive ground-level fountain located just past the main entrance that is usually teeming with small children having lots of fun, and a reasonably-priced cafe for basic foods and drinks. A gift shop sits at the zoo exit, where you can buy rare, dangerous, and exotic animals that are being retired by the zoo (just kidding! but there really is a gift shop... However, the toy animals sold there are all cute, not dangerous, soft and squishy, and happy to go home with you).
The zoo sits astride the interstate and so is easy to reach, sitting between the Southern Blvd. and Forest Hill exits. Again, much more convenient to reach than Zoo Miami. On the same property and immediately north of the zoo is the South Florida Science Museum and Aquarium, which is, unfortunately like almost all museums nowadays, geared almost exclusively towards young children. Zoos, however, can be equally enjoyed by people of any age, and the Palm Beach Zoo is one of the best. Good enough that I have bought a yearly pass. Highly recommended.