Maui Ocean Center
Don’t feel like getting wet today? Are your kids getting restless? Just got out of the water and want to know what you saw? Maui Ocean Center in Ma’alaea is a fish lover’s dream!
Reef fish tumble in clear water waves to greet you in the Surge Zone, the opening exhibit demonstrating how marine animals survive while constantly being tossed at the edges of sea and land. There are surgeonfish whipping bright blue scythes on their tails, striped kihikihi, pennant butterflyfish, schools of manini, and (if you look hard enough!) whole companies of the shy-by-day soldierfish.
“The Hawaiian Aquarium” offers both indoor and outdoor exhibits ranging from a small tide pool where sea stars can be handled gently, to a huge tank where a select few can dive with a variety of graceful, awe-inducing sharks. Young green sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, seahorses, and garden eels are on display, as well as an entire exhibit on the importance of the ocean to the ancient Hawaiian people called “Hawaiians and the Sea.”
The indoor exhibit lighting is calm and somehow deep, like being underwater. Soft music playing in the background complements the marine mood, and there is plenty of space to talk, learn, run, and play.
Animals housed at Maui Ocean Center that seem impossible, like something straight out of a fantastic–dare I say fin-tastic?–mythology. Boxfishes cruise by like wobbly dirigibles, sea jellies pulse and flip slowly in the water column, and unmoving leaf scorpionfish—seemingly selected by interior designers–match their backgrounds perfectly.
You can feel good about enjoying the beauty and wonder of the endemic and indigenous individuals at Maui Ocean Center, as (a) they have been collected safely under guidelines and permits issued by Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Aquatic Resources, and (b) they are released back into the ocean if they are seen to be no longer thriving in captivity and the release can be completed safely.
Because the attraction also respects a Maui County ordinance prohibiting the keeping of captive marine mammals, Maui Ocean Center has created an interactive Marine Mammal Discovery Center. Even long-time marine mammal enthusiasts are likely to learn something new in this exhibit: have you ever sung like a humpback and then had your voice mixed with real whale song?
You can easily spend two hours or more exploring the aquarium, and that doesn’t include the gift shop—an amazing attraction in itself! Maui Ocean Treasures is a whale-sized boutique offering everything from fine jewelry and clothing to bronze sculptures and stuffed toys. There are plenty of books for all ages, and even baseballs covered with rainbow colored clownfish.
Go. Enjoy. Remember.
Open daily 9am-5pm
July and August open til 6pm
Location: 192 Ma’alaea Rd
Wailuku, HI 96793
For help call Maui Activities at 808-856-4274