Buin Zoo – Chile’s Largest Zoo, Just Outside Santiago
Article originally published March 2013, updated June 2014.
If you love animals and want to get outside of Santiago for the day, head south to Buin Zoo.
Buin Zoo is a private zoo that was originally a private farm, owned by a local veterinarian. People started bringing injured wild animals and exotic pets to the farm for rehabilitation. Many of the animals could not be returned to the wild after they recovered and became permanent residents at what would eventually become the largest zoo in Chile, and one of the most popular attractions in the area. The zoo has a lot of different attractions suitable for all ages and is very family oriented. If you have kids, they will really love visiting the zoo.
The popular and only marine show in Chile, the Buin Marine Show, requires an separately purchased ticket, and consists of 2 penguins and 2 sea lions. The penguin portion is really more educational as, it seems, penguins don’t really learn tricks very well. The sea lions have the typical choreographed routine that many people have come to expect, highlighting the intelligence and agility of the stars. The show is fun for everyone but geared towards children and the kids in the crowd really seem to love it. You can see well from most of the seats and don’t worry, there’s no splash zone.
Tip: Including the Buin Marino show, seeing the whole zoo will take about 4 hours (without lunch), more if you want to spend a lot of time in the petting zoo or other exhibits.
The zoo is broken up into regions of the world, showcasing animals from each. One of the biggest attractions is the pygmy hippos who have been part of a successful breeding program. When we first visited we saw Inocencio, born in December of 2011, who was a little over a year old. He was one of the only male pygmy hippos born in captivity, since then he has grown and moved to the Franklin Park Zoo in the United States where they hope he will continue his parent’s success. His younger brother Moto-Moto, who was born in July of 2013, is now the resident baby hippo although he is destined to move to a zoo in Japan sometime in 2014 to help their breeding programs. They are hoping that their parents will continue to have more healthy baby hippos to help in the conservation and re-population efforts of the species.
For another look at Inocencio when he was younger check out this video. If you’re interested in more details about the residents, Wikipedia lists out all the animals you can see at the zoo but currently only in Spanish.
Tip: Most of the signs are in Spanish. If you want more details about the animals you should be able to rent an audio guide in English: just ask when you buy your tickets.
Other attractions include Dinosaurios (requires separately purchased ticked), a Reptile House, Aquarium, Aviary, Nocturnal House, Arachnid House, Petting Zoo, and a Farm exhibit.
Tip: There are a lot of indoor or shaded exhibits which equals low light photography, so be kind and don’t blind the animals. If you want good low light shots bring your monopod or tripod!
What to eat: Food is available. They have one sit-down café, and a small mall-type food court. The other options are kiosks and food carts scattered around the park, offering snacks, drinks, hot dogs, fries, and similar products depending on the location. However, as with most zoos it’s not cheap and not the greatest food. They allow you to bring in pre-prepared food (no cooking facilities available) and drinks for a picnic lunch, if you prefer that option. Note that alcohol is not permitted in the park. There are also a couple of restaurants on the road near the entrance (I don’t know if you can leave and then re-enter) and there is a snack stand at the train station.
What to buy: There is a gift shop and several stands throughout the zoo selling souvenirs. There are also street vendors selling souvenirs and lots of stuffed animals outside the entrance.
What to bring: Most of the zoo is outdoors so dress for the weather, bring sunscreen, hats and sunglasses as appropriate. A lot of the zoo has sandy dirt paths so you may want to avoid sandals. The zoo is flat but it’s large so make sure you’re prepared for a lot of walking. Note, they don’t close due to rain so bring your umbrellas and rain boots if it’s raining, you’re likely to enjoy much smaller crowds as well.
Tip: There are lockers available free of charge right inside the entrance, if you want to store any of your
belongings or lunch. They are not responsible if anything goes missing so don’t leave any valuables there.
Tuesday – Friday
Adults: $5.000 CLP
Children up to 14 years old: $3.500 CLP
Adults 60 and over: $3.000 CLP
Babies and Children under 90cms tall: Free
Saturday, Sunday and Holidays
Adults: $6.000 CLP
Children up to 14 years old: $4.500 CLP
Adults 60 and over: $4.000 CLP
Babies and Children under 90cms tall: Free
Buin Marino Show: $1.200 CLP. A separate ticket is required and these are sold based on availability, as there are only a few shows each day. If you think you want to go, you can purchase it in combination with your entrance ticket at a small discount for $1.000 CLP.
Dinosaurios: (A Safari into the Past) $1.300 or purchase it in combination with your entrance ticket at a small discount for $1.000 CLP.
Note they accept credit cards in most places in the park including the ticket booths, but there are no ATM’s at the Zoo so if you’re paying in cash plan ahead.
Monday – Closed
Tuesday – Friday 9:00am – 5:30pm
Saturday, Sunday & Holidays 10:00am – 7:00pm
The Aquarium, Nocturnal House, Reptile House and the Arachnid House all close 30 minutes before the zoo does so plan your visit accordingly.
For more photos of Buin Zoo check out our Facebook Album.
Take the Metro Tren (Metro Train)
Take the Metro or bus to Estacion Central. From the Metro, take the Estacion Central exit, that will leave you right in front of the Metro Tren ticket booths and platform. Especially on the weekends, buy your tickets early, as the trains often sell out and the lines to purchase them can be long. Currently, there is no way to buy tickets online, or in advance of the day you want to travel. Buy a one-way ticket from Alameda (your starting point, at Estacion Central) directly to the Buin Zoo Station, currently $950 CLP each way. The website states that sometimes ida/vuelta (one-way/return) trips are offered with a discount if purchased at the same time, so ask if you can buy the return then. If not, you will need to get your return ticket at the Buin Zoo Station when you’re ready to head back. Trains leave from Alameda approximately every hour on the hour: you can check out the exact schedule for the day you want to leave online. It takes about 45 minutes by Metro Tren to get to Buin Zoo. When you arrive you need to cross the pedestrian bridge over the highway and the zoo is right up the road to your left.
Tip: Tickets for the return train (at least on the weekends) often sell out at least an hour before the train leaves, so if you want to play a round of minigolf before you head back to Santiago, get your train tickets before you play.
Take the Bus
Buses also go directly to Buin Zoo from Alameda at the San Borja Bus Terminal. It usually costs $1.100 CLP each way and buses leave approximately every 10 minutes and take about 30-45 minutes, depending on traffic. If you can’t get on the train, or prefer to take the bus, walk through Paseo Arauco Estacion, the mall to your right when you’re facing the train platform. Follow the signs to the San Borja Bus Terminal. Walk all the way to the end of the mall, right in front of the Homecenter Sodimac, then take the escalator upstairs to the bus terminal. The bus to Buin Zoo, driven by Buses Paine, is labeled “Buin Zoo” and parked in one of the first bus spots on the international buses side. You can buy your tickets on the bus, directly from the driver, so there is no need for you to wait in line at any of the ticket counters. The stop is directly next to the zoo and the driver should announce the Buin Zoo stop; if you’re worried you’ll miss it, ask them to tell you, as the bus will stop to pick up and drop off passengers along the way.
If you want to take a return bus from the zoo, just take the pedestrian bridge across the highway. Walk up past the traffic circle and flag down any bus heading to Alameda or Estacion Central and they will take you back to where you started. As before, you can buy tickets directly from the driver on the bus.
Take the highway Autopista Central South from Santiago which combines with Ruta 5 (Route 5) South. Buin Zoo is directly off of Route 5 South. When you pass kilometer 30, you will need to exit the highway to the access road, from which you can enter the zoo. There is also a sign announcing the zoo at that exit. The zoo is on your right, you can’t miss it. There is a parking lot at the zoo and they charge $1.500 CLP to park. The drive should take 30-45 minutes depending on traffic.
Things to do nearby
There is a small amusement park for kids, Buin Park, next to the zoo. We didn’t go there so I can’t attest to the quality or variety but the rides only looked suitable for children. We did partake in BuinGolf, the miniature golf course next to the zoo. Minigolf is a rare find in South America and if you love it like me, you’ll play every course you see no matter what! It was $2.000 CLP per person and has 18 holes, though it’s a little confusing as to which hole is the next one since they’re not numbered. There are no fancy obstacles to overcome but it was still fun.
You can swing over and visit Viña Concha y Toro, or there are a couple other wineries in the area that you can schedule a Wine Tour and Tasting with.
Viña Santa Rita offers tours and tastings, but check online to see if it’s offered the day you want to go. If you’re not scheduling a few days in advance I would call to confirm your reservation.
Viña Portal del Alto is also nearby and says they do visits with reservations but doesn’t list any additional information so I suggest contacting them ahead as well.
View Buin Zoo in a larger map
Note: This article was accurate when published. Please be sure to confirm all details directly with the sites in question before planning your trip.
To learn more about Beth, read her bio!