The Hawaiian Aquarium

Journey Through a Sea of Life
by Amy Corbitt

Discover The Maui Ocean Center
— The Hawaiian Aquarium

The incredible chance to explore Hawai‘i’s thrilling and unique underwater world awaits at the top-rated attraction in Hawai‘i, Maui Ocean Center. Just a few inches of glass is all that separates you from some of the most fascinating predators of the sea. Find yourself face to face with hammerhead and tiger sharks, hold a star fish or sea cucumber in your hand and watch enchanting green sea turtles frolic about. Whether age 5 or 75, the unforgettable experiences and encounters at the largest tropical reef aquarium in the Western Hemisphere are sure to take your breath away.

Through years of research and meticulous care, Maui Ocean Center has gathered the best and most unique collection of Hawai‘i’s marine life. It would take countless scuba dives to see the hundreds of endemic species that can be seen safely all in one leisurely stroll through more than 60 indoor and outdoor exhibits. Some of the highlights from my recent visit reminded me exactly why this is a must-do, whether you’re a visitor or a local.

At the Living Reef exhibit, we encountered rarely seen moray eels, octopus, lobsters, sea horses and nocturnal fish. Hawai‘i’s coral reefs comprise more than 80 percent of the reefs in the United States, and the Maui Ocean Center has the largest collection of live coral displays in the nation. The astonishing beauty from the sunlit shallows to the calm, clear edge of the deep reef rivaled anything I have ever seen snorkeling. Moving along to the Turtle Lagoon, I stopped awhile and watched the Hawaiian green sea turtles playfully swim and sun themselves. These ancient mariners have survived for millions of years. They eat so much algae and sea grasses that it turns their fat layer green, hence their common name: green sea turtle.

The kids really flipped when it was Tide Pool time. We had an amazing hands-on experience where the little ones got to hold sea stars, helmet shells, sea cucumbers, and other tide pool animals under the guidance of a marine naturalist. As we approached Hammerhead Harbor, the excitement level went up even higher. With their funny-looking “hammer” heads, these are the most unusual sharks in the Hawaiian waters. Their sensory organs are spread out on their uniquely shaped heads, giving them an advantage in finding prey.

The sight of a jellyfish is most definitely not welcomed when you’re swimming in the ocean, but being surrounded by these dancing sea jellies in the aquarium’s stunning floor-to-ceiling Sea Jelly Gallery sure gave me a new appreciation for the stinging beauties. Made up of more than 95 percent water, sea jellies have no brain or other specialized organs, just a loose set of nerves and muscles that allow them to gracefully float up and down.

But my favorite was definitely the Open Ocean. This 750,000-gallon salt-water aquarium is home to graceful stingrays, stealth sharks and other large fishes. Prepare to be wowed as a 54-foot-long clear tunnel transports you to this vast “open ocean,” while stingrays slide overhead and sharks look you in the eye. An experience like no other, you will have a 240-degree view of nearly 2,000 fishes, sharks and underwater creatures.

The Maui Ocean Center has dedicated itself to promoting Hawai‘i’s natural history and cultural heritage, with several more exhibits and tours that showcase the language, myths and history of the Hawaiian Islands. All animals displayed are collected exclusively from Hawaiian waters, and collecting is conducted under strict government permits. Their staff is highly trained and the animals are cared for with the utmost integrity.

For example, the green sea turtles are part of a hatch-and-release program, which gives the turtles a strong head start before they are eventually released to the wild. Many of the rays and sharks are rotated from the aquarium to the ocean. When a shark is brought in or released, it is blessed by one of the center’s Hawaiian cultural advisors, as sharks are considered na ‘aumakua (personal gods) by the Hawaiian people. Digital audio guides are available to rent at the aquarium’s front gate and expert naturalists are always nearby to answer any questions.

Complimentary naturalist presentations take place throughout the day in various exhibits throughout the aquarium. So however you choose to fill your days here in paradise, make sure to take a few hours and enjoy this unique glimpse into Hawai‘i’s undersea world. 

A 20 Million Dollar Must-See Maui Attraction!

Since Coral World International opened its $20-million Maui Ocean Center in March 1998, this state-of-the-art facility has lured visitors from around the globe fascinated with experiencing a glimpse of Hawai‘i’s undersea world.

Aptly named “The Hawaiian Aquarium,” this state-of-the-art marine park on the island of Maui is the only facility in the world dedicated to fostering understanding, wonder and respect for Hawaii’s marine life. Here, visitors can see spectacular live coral displays (the largest collection in the nation), enjoy playful swimming displays by Hawai‘i’s beloved green sea turtles, awe at close encounters with sharks, rays and more – while learning about Hawai‘i’s natural history and cultural heritage.

Through years of research and meticulous care, Maui Ocean Center has gathered the best and most unique collection of Hawai‘i’s marine life. As a result, what would take weeks, if not a lifetime to explore in the wild, can easily be seen in a leisurely stroll through the facility in one day. For visitors, this aquatic experience is both educational and breathtaking as they encounter hundreds of endemic animal species.

Celebrating Over 35 Years In Hawaii

For over 3 decades, The Best Publishing Company has been producing a series of elegant and popular Visitor Magazines & Guidebooks for the islands of Maui, The Big Island and Kaua‘i.  Our magazines and guides are distributed for free throughout the Islands and also on the web.  

LOCALS KNOW BEST!  Our magazines and guides are published by established Hawaii residents.  We pledge to provide you with the local insight that you need to make your Maui, Kauai or Big Island vacation experience THE BEST it can possibly be!