Hawaii is an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean and is home to a diverse array of wildlife. Due to its isolation from other land masses, many of the animals that call Hawaii home are found nowhere else on Earth. The islands are also known for their beautiful beaches, lush forests, and active volcanoes, making them a popular destination for tourists from around the world.
Unfortunately, many of these animals are facing threats due to human activities, including habitat destruction, overfishing, and pollution. Efforts are being made to protect and preserve these species, and visitors to Hawaii are encouraged to learn about the local wildlife and take steps to minimize their impact on the environment.
Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle (Honu)
One of the most iconic animals of Hawaii is the Hawaiian green sea turtle or “honu” in the native Hawaiian language. These turtles are known for their distinctive green color and can often be seen basking on the beaches of Hawaii. They are a protected species, and it is illegal to touch or disturb them in any way. Make sure to keep your distance and marvel at them from afar.
Hawaiian Monk Seal
Another common animal found in the islands of Hawaii is the monk seal. Another protected species, visitors should be careful how they go about watching them. These seals are endemic to Hawaii which means they are found nowhere else in the world. People usually see them relaxing and lounging on the beaches of the Hawaiian islands. Remember that it is important to keep a safe distance from them.
Hawaiian Goose (Nene)
Hawaii is also home to a wide variety of tropical birds, which makes it peculiar that one of the most popular birds is actually a goose. The Hawaiian goose, or “nene” in the local tongue, is the state bird of Hawaii. These geese are present on all of the main islands and efforts have been made to protect their populations. Once in a sharp decline, things are now looking up for this beautiful creature.
Various Species of Dolphins and Whales
The aquatic life is rich and diverse around the Hawaiian islands. In addition to the iconic animals mentioned above, the island state is also home to several species of dolphins and whales. These marine mammals can be spotted virtually from any coast and whale-watching tours are a popular activity for visitors. The locals have deep bonds with these creatures and know how and when to approach them for the best experience.
Various Species of Sharks
Of course, where there are dolphins and whales you can also find sharks. The three go together, and the sharks are the ones people are usually the most frightened of and fascinated by. Hawaii is known for its large shark population that includes several species such as the famous tiger shark and the always-interesting hammerhead shark. While they can be intimidating, shark attacks on humans are extremely rare in Hawaii.
Unique Species of Insects and Arachnids
Finally, we have to mention the insects and arachnids of Hawaii. Such a faraway place is bound to have endemic, tropical life found nowhere else and that is also the case with these small creatures. Hawaii is home to a number of unique species of insects and arachnids. These include the happy face spider found only in Hawaii which has a distinctive smiley face pattern on its abdomen. How cool is that?
Best Places to See Hawaii Wildlife
As beautiful a paradise as it may be, there are places that are better than others for spotting wild animals in Hawaii. The following destinations are your best chance to see some of the iconic animals mentioned above:
1. Laniakea Beach, Oahu
One of the best places to spot Hawaiian green sea turtles in the wild is at Laniakea Beach on the North Shore of Oahu. Here, the turtles often come ashore to bask in the neverending sun providing visitors with an up-close look at these magnificent creatures. Remember, no touching or approaching!
2. Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
The big islands are the most famous, but not the best for the iconic monk seals. The best place to see Hawaiian monk seals is on the secluded beaches of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands where the vast majority of the world’s monk seals live. Go there if you want to see them in their natural habitat.
3. Poipu Beach, Kauai
For those unable to make the trip to the uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, you may spot a few monk seals on some of the less populated beaches. These include those on the main Hawaiian islands such as Kauai’s Poipu Beach.
4. Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, Kauai
The nene can be found on all of the main Hawaiian islands, but one of the best places to see them is at the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge on Kauai. Here, you can take a guided tour of the refuge and learn about the efforts to protect and preserve the Hawaiian goose population.
5. Whale Watching Tours, Maui and Big Island
Nothing beats whale-watching tours in the tropics. Several species of dolphins and whales can be seen throughout the Hawaiian islands, but some of the best places to spot them are only accessible with whale-watching tours. These tours are available on all of the main Hawaiian islands with the waters off Maui and the Big Island being particularly good spots.
6. North Shore of Oahu
While you may be able to spot sharks while snorkeling or diving on any of the Hawaiian islands, the North Shore of Oahu is well known for its shark population. If you are brave enough, take a shark cage diving tour for an up-close and personal encounter!
7. Maui Insect Museum and Maui Butterfly Farm
Last but not least, the insects. To spot some of Hawaii’s unique species of insects and arachnids, head to the Maui Insect Museum. There you can see a variety of live insects and spiders from around the world, including of course Hawaii. You can also take a guided tour of the Maui Butterfly Farm, home to a variety of tropical butterflies.
Conclusion: The Tropics Await!
Come on now, it is Hawaii we are talking about! These amazing wild animals and the scenic places they live in are the cherries on top of a beautiful tropical sundae. Wildlife enthusiast, whale-watching fan, nature lover… however you want to describe your passion, Hawaii is the place to be.