One of the top attractions on Maui year after year is the Maui Ocean Center. This aquarium, the largest tropical aquarium in the state, was opened in 1998 and features only animals that are found in Hawaiian waters (many of which are not found anywhere else in the world). The aquarium prides itself on replicating what tourists might see if they were out snorkeling or scuba diving in Hawaii. We always recommend the Maui Ocean Center to families or guests that may be timid to snorkel or explore the Hawaiian reefs.
The Ocean Center is located steps from Maalaea Harbor, and is open 9am to 5pm most every day of the year. Adult day tickets cost $25.95, while children tickets cost $18.95. It may be a great idea to pair a whale watch or sunset cruise out of Maalaea Harbor with a trip to the aquarium since they are both located next to each other.
Below we have outlined some of the top attractions at the Maui Ocean Center:
The Living Reef – Walk through more than 40 exhibits dedicated to various types of reef ecosystems. The aquarium actually has the largest collection of live corals in the nation. Take pictures of some rarely seen creatures like eels, octopus, sea horses, and lobsters.
Turtle Lagoon – The turtle (“honu” in Hawaiian) is a very sacred creature in Hawaiian culture. If you aren’t lucky enough to see one snorkeling on Maui, head to the Maui Ocean Center and get up close encounters with the Hawaiian green sea turtle. Sometimes they even have baby turtles swimming around!
Hammerhead Harbor – Children and adults will both love seeing actual hammerhead sharks (something I think most all of us would rather see behind glass than in open water).
The Tide Pool – Touch starfish, urchins, sea cucumbers and more. Aquarium staff members will also provide educational facts about what you are touching.
Marine Mammal Discovery Center – Learn about some of the larger creatures in Hawaiian waters such as humpback whales, dolphins, and Hawaiian monk seals through interactive and educational exhibits.
Hawaiians and the Sea – Gain a better understanding of how ancient Hawaiians viewed the ocean and its creatures. Learn about fishing and conservation techniques still practiced to this day.
Sea Jelly Gallery – View moon jellies move with the currents in an illuminated dispaly.
The Open Ocean – This is the crown jewel of exhibits! Walk through a 54-foot underwater tunnel, and look all around you as over 2,000 fish, sharks, and rays swim around you. Occasionally the aquarium will even feature juvenile tiger sharks, which are very beautiful to see with their stripes on their back.
I think that Maui Ocean Center is one of the best attractions on Maui, for the visitors and locals alike. Extend your aquarium visit with a meal at the Seascape Restaurant that looks out over the Pacific Ocean.