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Viewing Hawaiian Marine Life

Viewing Hawaiian marine life.

Green sea turtle or honu.

Places for Viewing Hawaiian Marine Life

Visitors can often get a nice bonus when frequenting Hawaii’s beaches and sea shores. You can often spot marine mammals, turtles and sea birds in the wild. Humpback whales, spinner dolphins and monk seas are marine mammals you can often see in their natural habitats. You can also sometime see green sea turtles in the water or resting on beaches. Moreover, there are actually areas that have been set aside for the protection and viewing of Hawaii’s sea birds. Here are some suggestions for viewing Hawaiian marine life up-close.

Humpback Whales and Dolphins

Humpback whale skeleton on display at Ka’anapali, Maui.

Maui offers some the best close up viewing of migrating humpback whales in Hawaii. This happens during December through early May. There are a number of boat tour operators operating out of the Lahaina area. They offer tours for viewing these magnificent ocean mammals within Federal limits. Tourists can also view the whales offshore from viewing points from the Hono-a-Pi‘iliani Highway. This is the road that links Maui’s main town of Kahului to the Ka’anapali area.

You can see marine mammals on the other islands as well. Tourists on Oahu can see humpback whales along Kalaniana‘ole Highway between Haunama Bay and Makapu’u Point. They can also view spinner dolphins from the Kaena Point State Park. While on Kauai, you can view whales and spinner dolphins off Kilauea Point.

Hawaiian Monk Seals

Viewing Hawaiian marine life.

Photo of Hawaiian monk seals courtesy of Marcus Chang.

It used to be that beach sightings of the endangered Hawaiian monk seals were quite rare. Before, you could only see them on the beaches on the remote Northwestern Islands of Hawaii. Gradually as their numbers increased, you would see them on Kauai. Now it’s not unusual to see them basking on Oahu’s beaches. This holds true on beaches on the other main Hawaiian Islands as well. It’s never certain you can see them on any one given area. But chances are, if you frequent Hawaii’s seashores often enough, you are bound to run into them. See the image above of two monk seals relaxing on a beach near Barber’s Point.

Green Sea Turtles

Like monk seals, sightings of the endangered green sea turtles, or honu, have steadily increased over the years. Before you could only see them in the water. But now it’s not unusual to see them resting on many of Hawaii’s beaches. Kaena Point and Laniakea Beach on Oahu are some of the more popular places to see green sea turtles. Many have also spotted green sea turtles swimming off Waikiki beach.

Hawaii’s Sea Birds

Kilauea lighthouse in Kauai, a place for viewing Hawaiian marine life and seabirds.

There are wildlife refuges, sanctuaries and parks in Hawaii where you can get good views of Hawaiian sea birds. One of the more well-known areas is on the island of Kauai, next to the scenic and historic Kilauea lighthouse. At the Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge you can see an abundance of sea birds. Notable one are the Laysan albatross, red-footed boobies, brown boobies, red-tailed and white-tailed tropicbirds. There are also great frigate birds and wedge-tailed shearwaters.

On Oahu, you can also even see nesting Laysan albatrosses on Kaena Point. You can find this place on the most northwestern and most secluded part of the island. Makapu’u Point on the island of Oahu also offers a good place to view flying sea birds. They include the ‘iwa, frigate bird, and tropicbird. Many of these birds flying over Makapu’u Point nest on nearby islets that are wildlife sanctuaries.

Visitors viewing Hawaiian marine wildlife must strictly adhere to all Federal and State laws. Such regulations prohibit anyone from harassing, harming or viewing Hawaiian marine life too closely. There are also very strict fines and penalties and even imprisonment for those who violate these rules.

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