Whether you’re a full-time Maui resident or just visiting, Maui Ocean Center is a great way to spend the afternoon by yourself or with the whole family.
I’ve been to lots of aquariums, but this was a unique experience due to the fact that they only feature animals found in Hawaiian waters. The tanks are impressive in both size and variety, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the state’s endemic species, something I knew very little about beforehand. Some of the sharks and rays are rotated in and out of the aquarium to the ocean, and the sea turtles are part of a hatch-and-release program, eventually being released after proper care and preparation.
The Ocean Center features all sorts of cool exhibits, including sea turtles, jellyfish, hammerhead sharks, tropical fish, octopus, moray eels, seahorses, sea sponges, coral displays, and more.
The last and most impressive stop on our visit was definitely the 750,000-gallon shark tank, which holds a wide variety of species, including the whitetip reef shark, hammerhead shark, tiger shark, grey reef shark, broad stingray, spotted eagle ray, grouper, and more. We were lucky enough to go during feeding time, right around 3:00 pm, and watch as staff scuba divers gear up, hop in, hand-feed the animals, and answer questions from inside the tank. So cool! Wendy, a Maui Ocean Center expert naturalist, also did a wonderful job of answering questions about shark safety, behavioral patterns, and gender identity among the species.
If you’re looking for something a little more in-your-face exciting, check out the Shark Dive Maui, a chance for certified scuba divers to dive in the shark tank along with the experts for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Openings for this are available every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning.
Also, if you happen to be in Maui during the holiday season, take a look at the 2013 Maui Fish-mas Calendar for complimentary special events, including hula lessons, crafts, and an up-close look at sea turtles.
If you need a short break, sit back and relax at one of their two restaurants on-site, the Reef Cafe or Seascape Ma’alaea. They also offer a great store called Maui Ocean Treasures that features lots of interesting local books and a section for your kids to play.
Maui Ocean Center is open every day of the year from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (6:00 pm in July & August), and you can book online to receive a Week Pass for the same price as a One Day Pass. Enjoy! (808) 270-7000