The Maui Ocean Center is one of Hawaii’s premier aquatic displays. In this island state full of natural wonders that’s a high achievement indeed. Located in Maalaea Harbor Village on the southwest shore of Maui, it offers both indoor and outdoor exhibits, either one of which would be well worth the visit.
Walk through the 16-meter (54-foot) tunnel and gaze into the 2.5 million liter (750,000 gallon) tank full of native species. This being Maui, that naturally includes lots of sharks, including the known man-eater Tiger Shark. Sharks often seem unpredictable. Yet here they swim peacefully with the Mahi Mahi and Spotted Eagle Rays that share the enclosure.
If you’re feeling nervous, just take a trip topside to view any of the 40 marine tanks. Enjoy the many colorful creatures in the tidal pool. Or, visit the Turtle Lagoon. Spend some time with the Tropical Reef’s marine life, which includes live sponges, anemones, mollusks and the country’s largest collection of live coral. Under supervision, you can pet one of the sea stars or sea urchins.
Take a stroll and visit the Whale Discovery Center to see the life-sized model of a humpback whale calf, the state’s official marine animal. Adults are 45 feet in length and weigh 40 tons. See the educational displays here before taking a whale watching tour not far off the coast. The whales enjoy a swim through the channels between the islands as they migrate from the polar feeding grounds to breed in winter.
Don’t miss one of the many interactive displays in the Marine Mammal Discover Center that features video of monk seals, dolphins and other native marine life of Hawaii. Certified divers can even get into the Open Ocean Exhibit for a live shark encounter with over 20 sharks and several stingrays. Staff will do everything to make sure the live encounter stays that way!
Built in 1904, the Waikiki Aquarium is the country’s oldest public aquarium. Located in Honolulu just blocks from Waikiki Beach, it houses over 3,000 organisms from over 450 plant and animal species.
Pause at the entrance and spend time examining the Potter’s Angel, Yellow Tang and other tropical fish. Get a close-up view of the Longnose Hawkfish, found only in waters below 100 feet. Enjoy the colorful coral, native to the waters only a few hundred yards away.
One exhibit, The Edge of the Reef, offers displays of five separate reef environments, showing the immense diversity of marine life even just within this one type of ecosystem.
Giant clams and fish at Waikiki Aquarium. Image by Meowmeow10
The large shark tank here is populated also by rays and many other species that share space with some of Hawaii’s most famous natives. Come in the evening and get an in-depth tour during the Shark Nite or Stingray Tracking programs.
The jellyfish tank houses unusual species from the saltwater lakes near Palau. There are also Moon Jellies, Cassiopeia and many more of these delicate, semi-transparent marine animals.
Don’t miss seeing one of the few Chambered Nautilus born in captivity in a display not far away. A resident of the deep waters of Micronesia, it was recovered from the ocean at 1,500 feet. A distant relative of the octopus, they’re rarely seen in an aquarium.
Enjoy one of Hawaii’s aquariums and discover why the natural wonders of this island state can sometimes only be found in a tank.