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Aquariums and Marine Life Centers in Hawaii

The tunnel at the Maui Ocean Center [Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson]

The tunnel at the Maui Ocean Center [Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson].

The Hawaiian Islands are a tourist’s paradise for both indoor and outdoor activities. Whether you like to be splashing in the water yourself or admiring fish from behind the glass, there is a wealth of ways to learn about and experience the stunning ecosystems of these tropical islands. While visiting Hawaii, travelers would be remiss to skip a trip to one of the many world-class aquariums and marine life exhibits available on the islands.

Maui Ocean Center: By far one of the most popular attractions on the island, the Maui Ocean Center is the largest tropical aquarium in the western hemisphere. Here there are over 60 exhibits and marine life encounter pools as well as an aquarium tunnel where visitors can walk through the 240 degree tube to admire a plethora of vibrant native Hawaiian sea creatures. There is also a 750,000 gallon shark tank where over 20 menacing sharks course through the waters. The center has everything from vividly glowing jellyfish to sea and eagle rays, coral, urchins, green sea turtles, surgeon fish, sting rays and tropical fish. For real ocean die-hards, the Maui Ocean Center also hosts sleep-overs for kids; so young viewers can observe marine life behaviors during the night.

 Waikiki Aquarium: In the bustling district of Waikiki, visitors can spend a day wandering the outdoor exhibits and indoor learning centers right along the ocean. The aquariums are filled with a wide range of sea life that can be found on Hawaiian reefs such as eels, sea turtles, Hawaiian monk seals, sharks, rays, triggerfish, seahorses, parrotfish and more. Guests can tour the coral and clam farms, Hawaiian marine community and mammal exhibits to get acquainted with some of Hawaii’s most interesting sea creatures. Kids can participate in group activities, workshops and classes, night explorations of the reef and monk seal encounters, among others events.

Oceanarium at the Pacific Beach Hotel: Get ready to experience an unforgettable meal under the sea! Patrons at the Pacific Beach Hotel in Waikiki can dine in a restaurant surrounded by over 400 fish and 70 different species of Hawaiian marine life. The three-story aquarium contains over 280,000 gallons of water that wrap around the restaurant. Expect the unexpected when the schools of fish disperse and a beautiful mermaid swims toward the glass! The mermaid shows occur twice every evening while guests enjoy the nightly thematic, all-you-can-eat buffet.

Sea Life Park: One of the most prominent attractions on the island of Oahu, the Sea Life Park offers underwater sights and cultural events that will keep you and your whole group fascinated for hours.  There is a dolphin jumping show in an open-air theater and the Hawaii Ocean Show which features entertaining performances by dolphins, penguins, sea lions and more. There is also a lagoon where visitors can feed sea turtles and see rare seabirds. They can even enjoy a cup of coffee next to at the Sea Lion Café where the sleek creatures swim and dive in an adjacent pool. The newly upgraded 300,000 gallon Hawaiian Shark Tank showcases a wide range of sharks including sandbars, hammerheads and black tips.

Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm: For those particularly interested in seahorses, this is an absolute must-see. Located in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island, the Ocean Rider Sea Horse Farm raises nearly 30 species of seahorses from infancy and supplies them to aquariums all over Hawaii. They offer several tours a day, where visitors can learn about, hold and feed the seahorses of all ages and types, including adult females, baby seahorses and pregnant males. The farm also sells a wide variety of seahorses for any who want to add them to their home aquariums as well as to those interested in protecting rare seahorses from extinction.

Dolphin Quest: This marine life show is hosted at the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort in Waikoloa on the Big Island. Here you and your family can dine on a deck over an aqua lagoon inhabited by numerous friendly, well-trained dolphins. There is a live dolphin show catered toward those seated on the deck, whether for dinner, wedding reception or family reunion. For a closer look, guests can also opt for a live dolphin encounter where they get to wade through the shallows and meet one of the amiable animals up-close.

If you and your family plan to stay on one of the other islands without aquariums or ocean centers, you can always enjoy sea life by diving under the waves for a snorkeling, snuba and scuba diving adventure where you can witness and partake in marine life off the coast of Hawaii. Or simply catch a ride to another island by booking one of our interisland flights so you can explore the aquariums yourself!

Waikiki Aquarium Shark Exhibit [Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson]

Waikiki Aquarium Shark Exhibit [Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson].


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  • Hawaii's Best 2011
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