Maui’s “Must See” Aquatic Life You’ll Only Encounter Underwater


There is something magical about the life found under the ocean’s surface—and this magic has nothing to do with Ariel and singing and swimming friends! We here at Dive Maui have the privilege of working with underwater wildlife every day, and it is a joy to introduce visitors and locals alike to the island’s aquatic offerings. Below, we have highlighted seven of our favorite examples of Maui’s marine life, from whales and turtles to sharks and seals, there is sure to be something for everyone. So, without further ado, here are seven aquatic creatures you’ll only find under Maui’s waters.


Humpback Whales

Everyone knows that singing is a vital part of a humpback whale’s courtship routine, but did you know that male humpback whales come up with completely new songs every breeding season? That’s the type of longevity that most pop stars could only dream of. Humpback whales are a common sight in the waters around Maui during whale watching season (learn more here) and a whale-watching excursion is one of the best ways to catch a glimpse of these majestic giants. 


A whale watching tour is also good fun for the entire family, as children will enjoy learning more about mammals that can grow as large as a firetruck and the long yearly sojourn they make to the Hawaiian archipelago. Best of all, whale watching is basically vegan hunting. The only thing that is “caught” is a glimpse of these magnificent creatures—and all mammals get to go home at the end of the day.


Whitetip Reed Shark


Hawaii is home to approximately forty species of shark, so what makes this species so noteworthy you may wonder? Well, for starters, the whitetip reef shark can stop swimming, meaning they often are found resting by divers in caves or coral reef surroundings. While almost six feet in length when fully grown, these sharks are not considered a danger to humans.


Green Sea Turtles


Sea turtles, or honu, are some of the most beloved creatures on the planet. We all probably know a turtlehead and a few of us here at Dive Maui are certified turtle enthusiasts ourselves. Luckily, Maui is one of the best places to catch a glimpse of the superb green sea turtles that are endemic to the area. A dive trip can be a great way to catch a sight of honu in their home habitat and will surely lead to memories and stories that will be told for years.


Common Longnose Butterflyfish


Also known as the forcepfish, the Hawaiian name for this species, lauwiliwili nukunuku ‘oi‘oi, is the longest name for any fish in the language. These stunners, of course, have comically large “noses” and are easy to see with their bright yellow and black coloring. Adults reach approximately seven inches in length and can be found in shallow reef areas and hanging out in crevices around walls. The Hawaiian people’s love for this fish is deep, with it coming in third for voting to be the state’s official fish.


Hawaiian Monk Seal


The Hawaiian name for Monk Seals, ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua, translates roughly as “dog running in rough water.” And while these earless seals can certainly be as adorable looking as any pup, it is important to remember, these wild animals are no pets! While normally docile on land, in the water seals are apex predators, and they should be admired from a healthy distance, as getting close to a mom’s pups can end in disaster. 


Moray Eel


Moray eels have an unnerving grin with their rows of razor-sharp teeth, which helps make these spooky eels a common, if not slightly unsettling, sight for divers around Maui. While adept hunters, moray eels have poor eyesight and mostly rely on their keen sense of smell to capture prey. And despite their sharp teeth, a bite is only likely if these eels feel that their lair is being threatened, so, given a wide berth, they pose little threat to divers.


Sea Stars


Looking for aquatic life you can observe along the shore? Look no further than these stars of the tide pool, sea stars! Hawaii has more than 20 species of shallow-water sea stars and more than 65 known deep-sea varieties. As echinoderms, sea stars have some vital organs in external locations. For example, sea stars can evert their stomachs and digest their prey outside their stomachs. A fun fact is that their skeletons can often be found in limestone.


We’re Always Here to Help!


And there you have it, seven of the best examples of Maui’s unique sea life that can be found. We hope you enjoyed reading about Hawaii’s beloved sea creatures and that you’ve learned something new along the way. If you find you’ve been tempted to go diving around Maui yourself, please consider us here at Dive Maui for all your SCUBA and whale watching needs.


Is there a piece of aquatic life you think we should have mentioned? Do you have more questions about diving around Maui? Please don’t hesitate to reach out, our team of certified dive pros is always happy to assist in any way they can. Until next time, thank you for reading and aloha!