With almost half a million visitors per year, there’s a reason the Maui Ocean Center is known as the most advanced, thorough and best aquarium in Hawaii. I’ve been to a couple great aquariums, like the Dallas World Aquarium and Texas State Aquarium, but I’m always interested to see what the next one has to offer, and I’m pleased to say that I was definitely impressed with Maui Ocean Center.
Dedicated to providing an accurate understanding and respect for Hawaii’s underwater life, staff expert naturalists are always at hand to answer any questions you may have. Wendy, one of the dedicated staff members, was nice enough to welcome us to the island, teach us a little bit about handling sea sponges, and showed us to the main attraction, the 750,000 gallon shark tank, where she gave a presentation on shark safety, characteristics, and gender identity among different shark and ray species. We even stuck around for another hour just to watch one of the staff scuba divers do a live Q&A from inside the shark tank during feeding time. Neat!
The Ocean Center is extremely easy to navigate, leading you gradually from animals found mostly in shallow reef to those found in deeper water. They offer a variety of great interactive displays, like the simulation of what it’s like to be eaten by a humpback whale, as well as outdoor pools with sea turtles and baby hammerhead sharks. There are daily complimentary presentations on a variety of interesting topics, and I like the fact that they only feature animals from Hawaiian waters, including moray eels, octopus, sea jellies, sea horses, stingrays and thousands of tropical reef fish, like the Unicornfish and Frog Fish.
With sharks and rays being constantly rotated from the aquarium to the ocean and the hatch-and-release program for sea turtles, you can see that Maui Ocean Center is truly dedicated to the preservation of sensitive marine life.
Spend the day enjoying the aquarium, which offers two on site restaurants, a unique Maui Ocean Treasures Store, digital audio guides, and even a Shark Dive Maui Program for certified scuba divers. Whether you’re sunburned, looking for something fun for the kids or just want to geek out on some fish, this is the perfect way to spend the day on Maui.
The Ocean Center is open every day of the year and offers daily, weekly and yearly passes. They are conveniently located in Ma’alaea Harbor, which is a short bus or car ride from West and South Maui. You drive towards the harbor town of Maalaea, and you really can’t miss it. You can buy tickets online or call 808-892-3177.