Maui Wildlife You Won’t Find Anywhere Else

When you stop to consider the sheer diversity of life that has sprung up on the tiny Hawaiian Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it really is amazing. There are plants, animals, and ecosystems present on the islands that are unique to anywhere else in the world. And Maui is no different when it comes to the specialness of its endemic wildlife. 


Maui is home to many fauna and creatures that are difficult to find elsewhere because they are either endangered, threatened, or are only endemic to the island. Some examples include Hawaiian Monk seals, Leatherback sea turtles, Pueo owls, Kamehameha butterflies, and Hawaiian spinner dolphins.


Of course, these are just a few examples of the biodiversity that Maui has to offer. We here at Dive Maui have compiled a shortlist of some of our favorite Maui plants and animals that are the most unique and shouldn’t be missed. So, if you want to know what wildlife you can look forward to seeing on your next trip to the island, be sure to read on below!


Hawaiian Monk Seals

As photogenic as they are large, the Hawaiian Monk Seal is one of the most endangered species of earless seals in the world, with their numbers estimated to be roughly 1,500 in the wild. Their Hawaiian name Ilio Holo I Ka Uaua translates to “Dog That Runs In Rough Water” and it is easy to see where the name may come from with how adorably puppy-like these mammals can appear. While these seals are native to the Hawaiian archipelago, they can still be hard to find depending on the season. One of your best bets is to head to Hookipa Beach near Paia.


And as a friendly reminder, don’t touch the seals, that’s illegal, and remember to always view wildlife responsibly


Pueo Owls

Also known as the Hawaiian Short-Eared Owl, the Pueo is unique in that they build their nests on the ground and hunt during the day—both of which are facts that go against a couple of conventional pearls of wisdom that are commonly held about owls. Thought to have colonized the island along with the arrival of the Polynesians, these birds are endangered at the state level and need further study and support to help manage their population from the dangers of human impacts. 


Kamehameha Butterflies

The state insect of Hawaii, this striking black and orange butterfly is sometimes called pulelehua, which translates to butterfly in Hawaiian. These butterflies are easy to spot thanks to their dappled appearance which is akin to a painted lady butterfly that may be found elsewhere. Another butterfly native to the island is the Udara Blackburnii, or Blackburn’s blue butterfly, which has a distinct light green coloring.


Insect lovers take note; besides the Hawaiian happy-face spider and some species of moths, these butterflies are the only two that are native to the islandsand are certainly among the most beautiful creatures to find on a hike.


Tropical Fish

There is an abundance of tropical fish that the waters surrounding Maui are known for. This makes listing all that could be found a somewhat Sisyphean task. A few of the local highlights include Pebbled butterflyfish, Orangemargin butterflyfish, Hawaiian dascyllus, Potter’s angelfish, and the Hawaiian longfin anthias. All of these fish are native to Hawaiian waters and the last example (Hawaiian longfin anthias) provides a bright burst of orange, yellow, pink, and blue colors as it shimmers around local reefs—that is if you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse!


‘I’iwi Scarlet Honeycreeper

This adorable red and black honeycreeper is proof yet again that Hawaii is an ornithologist’s dream. Also known as the Scarlet Honeycreeper, the ‘I’iwi are recognized by their long, downturned, red bill. And while rare or locally extinct on some of the Hawaiian Islands, they are relatively abundant on Maui. Conservation efforts to help reintroduce the birds into former areas of their natural habitat such as Lana’i are ongoing.  


Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins

A sub-species that is unique to the islands, the sight of a Hawaiian Spinner dolphin in its natural habitat can be a spectacular treat. A fairly common sight throughout the Pacific, Spinners get their name from the acrobatic jumps and flips they commonly are seen doing as they launch themselves out of the water.



If you think that snowbirds escaping colder climates for a Hawaiian sojourn is a recent phenomenon, take note of Hawaii’s state bird, the Nene, which is actually a distant descendent of the Canadian goose! And while common when Captain Cook visited the islands in the 1700s, today it is one of the most endangered waterfowl species in the world.


Sea Turtles

Sea turtles are one of the most beloved animals in the world, so it should come as no surprise that many who come to Maui have their hearts set on seeing one. The good news for sea turtle lovers is that Maui is home to many different types of sea turtles and your chances of seeing one are good, in fact, we guarantee it


The main difference between any of Maui’s local sea turtle populations is their rarity. Green Turtles are the most common in the area and larger endangered turtles, such as Leatherbacks and Loggerheads, are more rarely seen. The latter are harder to find, but leatherback sea turtles are the largest none-crocodilian reptile and the largest living turtle species on the planet! 


We’re Always Here to Help!

If learning more about some of Maui’s most precious wildlife has inspired you to make a trip of your own, we sincerely hope you consider us at Dive Maui for all your SCUBA trips, snorkel rentals, and whale watching needs. We are a locally owned operation that is committed to using the best standard of conservation practices so that future generations can hopefully enjoy Maui’s natural wonders just as we are able to today. 


Feel free to reach out today so one of our certified dive instructors can help tailor an experience for your next trip to Maui that is guaranteed to please. As always, thank you for reading and, until next time, Aloha!