From the Maui Ocean Center and Beyond
The Maui Ocean Center, also referred to as the Aquarium of Hawaii, has been the recipient of multiple honors, including the “Leader in Responsible Tourism” by Islands Magazine, the Zagat Survey US Family Travel Guide’s “Top-Rated Attraction in Hawaii” and TripAdvisor.com named it among America’s “Top 25 Aquariums in the U.S.”
Although there are multiple things to do on the island with kids, the aquarium is truly one of the coolest family-friendly attractions on the island. Its mission is to “foster understanding, wonder and respect for marine life” in Hawaii. The center reflects the native Hawaiian belief, genuine respect, reverence, and aloha for the`āina who practiced preservation, conservation and the protection of the Earth’s natural resources, embracing the philosophy that if you take care of the `āina, the `āina will take care of you. While it’s an ideal activity for a rainy day, even if the sun shines throughout your trip you won’t want to miss the chance to stop in and say “Aloha” to the exotic sea creatures on display.
The Maui Ocean Center Experience
Also known as the Aquarium of Hawaii, the Maui Ocean Center is the ideal place for visitors of all ages to learn more about the Hawaiians’ relationship with the ocean. With a quarter of the state’s fish endemic to Hawaii, meaning that they can’t be found anywhere else on Earth, this is a place you won’t want to miss. It features native species with lots of various fish, including the colorful potter’s angelfish with its unique pattern – on its posterior are vertical lines of black and blue, while its front and the dorsal region has a vibrant orange edging a gray-blue side. There are sea turtles, rays, eels, octopus, jellyfish and multiple shark species, along with the world’s most extensive collection of live Pacific corals. Visitors can take a self-guided tour to marvel at this incredible underworld on their own or join an ocean naturalist-led Behind the Scenes Tour, available daily from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. It’s an ideal opportunity for a more in-depth look at how the animals are cared for as well as Hawaiian culture. And, you can even help with feeding at the Turtle Lagoon and Nursery Bay.
The New Humpbacks of Hawaii’s Exhibit & Sphere
While you won’t see dolphins or whales, due to island regulations – and, really, who really wants to see these magnificent animals stuck in a tank? – there are exhibits where you can learn about them from displays. Recently, the center added an especially enlightening and unforgettable experience – the chance to get eye-to-eye with humpback whales beneath the waves. Quickly becoming one of Maui’s top attractions after opening in 2018, the Humpbacks of Hawaii’s Exhibit & Sphere is open daily with a show running every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is included in its Aquarium PLUS package. The bright white dome houses a 3D digital theater, the first of its kind in the state, transporting visitors to Hawaii’s stunning underwater world. The 139-seat theater and 1,200-square-foot exhibit hall focuses on the whales’ nomadic lifestyle and behaviors at various points in their migration, their migration routes within Hawaii’s waters to routes across the globe. The cutting-edge audio and visual technology will truly make you feel as if you’re right in the water with them.
You can enrich your visit by joining an excursion with a Maui outfitter like Maui Whale Watch Tours to witness them in the wild if you’re here between about mid-December and April. During the humpbacks’ annual winter migration through the Pacific, the turquoise waters that surround Maui are inhabited with thousands of these majestic creatures.
The center also offers special activities like the Explore Station on Tuesdays, Science Sundays and Story Time & Crafts on Saturdays. Yoga enthusiasts can even practice “Aquari-OM,” offered to visitors from the age of 5 and up. You’ll be able to reduce stress, enjoying a whole new level of peace and tranquility that allows you to immerse yourself in the laid-back feel of the islands while connecting to nature in the Open Ocean exhibit that’s filled with hundreds of colorful fish, rays and sharks.
Other Cool Family-Friendly Things to Do in Maui
In addition to enjoying Maui’s beautiful beaches and dazzling blue waters, there are a wealth of fun things for families to do on the island.
Snorkeling the Molokini Crater. A snorkeling tour to Molokini Crater is truly a must experience. Located three miles away from Maui’s coast, this unique snorkeling destination can only be accessed via a boat. Snorkeling tours are offered by multiple outfitters such as the Pride of Maui, Ali’i Nui, Pacific Whale Watch Foundation and Maui Magic Snorkeling Tours which depart from Ma’alea Harbor, the very same harbor that hosts the Maui Ocean Center. They’ll get you underwater with the more than 250 different species of fish that inhabit the strikingly clear waters with visibility often in excess of 150 feet as Molokini is a rock and there is no soil washing down into the water.
Swim with Sea Turtles. Thanks to their protected status, the population of the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle is thriving. Kids and adults alike enjoy swimming with these incredible creatures that will probably look quite familiar having been spotlighted in popular films like “Finding Nemo.” Remember Crush? Turtle Town in Makena is one of the top spots to get in the water with them due to a large number of sea turtles found here and Pride of Maui can take you there.
Go Under Water Without Getting Wet. If you want to say “Aloha” to our spectacular underwater world without getting wet, Atlantis Submarine is a great option. It begins with a short boat ride from Lahaina Harbor, less than 15 miles northwest of the Maui Ocean Center. You’ll descend in a comfortable, air-conditioned vessel to observe the sea life, a shipwreck and an artificial reef designed to sustain an increasingly growing habitat for indigenous Hawaiian species.
Attend a Hawaiian Luau. The luau dance is practically synonymous with the islands and is an experience for all ages. Maui is a fantastic place to enjoy the tradition with many luaus here also including fire-knife dancing, a highlight for many of the kids in attendance, along with Hawaiian music, a huge feast that includes kid-friendly foods and mouthwatering local specialties like roasted pork, Lomi Lomi salmon, poi and tropical fruits. Most include an open bar for mom and dad to enjoy exotic cocktails to unwind with, and many provide hands-on crafts and activities for the kids. In fact, all typically ask the younger ones to get up on the stage and dance with them. As luaus are typically hosted just before dusk, you’ll be able to look forward to an especially impressive backdrop with the glorious colors of sunset splashed across the Pacific too. Some of the favorites include the Grand Wailea Luau and the Marriott Luau in South Maui near Makena Beach as well as the Royal Lahaina Luau and Sheraton Luau in the Lahaina area of West Maui
One of the best ways to take advantage of Maui’s wealth of things to do is book one of the fabulous vacation rentals, from oceanfront properties to comfortable yet affordable options, offered through Ali’i Resorts.
Featured property: Makena Surf G-101
You’ll get to enjoy the comforts of home while being just minutes from popular attractions like the Maui Ocean Center – just be sure to plan ahead by booking early to ensure your perfect retreat will be available for your desired dates. We look forward to greeting you with our Maui crafted hospitality.