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  • Writer's pictureRose@WhereToGoTravelCo

Fantastic Beasts of Hawaii & Where To Find Them

Updated: Sep 12, 2021

Do you love to see wildlife when you travel? Dolphin and whale excursions are always a hit with travelers. Seeing a pod of dolphin’s ride alongside your boat or observing a tail slap from a 45-ton Humpback whale can be a once in a lifetime experience. These are definitely experiences you will be telling friends about for years to come.

Hawaii’s wildlife is very interesting and unique. Because the islands are so remote, Hawaii has the highest percentage of species that exist nowhere else on Earth and 25% of its underwater life is endemic to Hawaii. If you are interested in seeking out these unique species and observing the more unique Hawaii wildlife, there are local guides with a wealth of information that you can be hooked up with. If you are just a casual observer, here is a list of things you can expect to see on your next trip.

1. Sea Turtles

Sea Turtle swimming in Hawaii
Photo credit: Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB) / Tyler Schmitt

There are five species of Sea Turtles native to Hawaii, Green Sea Turtles (Honu, as they’re called in Hawaii- they are the most common), Hawksbills, Olive ridleys, Loggerheads, and Leatherbacks. All three are endangered. They love the warm Hawaiian waters and they also love to bask in the sun on the warm sandy beaches. Just remember not to get too close and don’t stand between them and the ocean, they are protected, and you can get fined. The best place to see these turtles depends on what island you are visiting. I always give my clients suggestions for where to view wildlife when planning their itineraries.

2. Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals

Hawaiian Monk Seal on beach of Hawaii
Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority/Pierce M Myers Photography

There are only 1400 monk seals left and they all reside in the Hawaiian Islands. They love to catch some rays on the warm Hawaiian beaches, and they will frolic and play in the water right next to you while you’re snorkeling. Fun fact: their Hawaiian name is ‘Ilio-holo-i-kauaua, which means “dog that runs in the sea”.

3. Manta Rays

For a truly memorable vacation experience, on the Big Island, you can do a Manta Ray night dive. Don your dive gear (snorkeling is an option), grab your huge flashlight and enter their world. The divers gather together on the ocean floor (about 35 ft). The lights attract plankton and shrimp to the area, a seafood buffet for the Manta Rays. At 6-14 feet long, the giant but graceful Manta Rays swoop in for dinner and it makes for a spectacular show!

4. Dolphins

Dolphin boat tour in Hawaii
Photo Credit:Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB) / Emily Dickey

In Hawaii, you can see Spinner, Bottlenose, and Spotted dolphins. Take a boat tour to spend a day watching and even swimming with dolphins. Dolphins are naturally curious and if they feel safe they will be curious about you. Remember to let them approach you so they don’t get spooked.

5. Whales

Humpback whale migrating to Hawaii during winter

Every year approximately 12,00 Humpback whales take a winter vacation in Hawaii’s warm waters. They spend most of the year near Alaska but travel south to have their babies. Mothers and calves generally stay closer to the shores than males. If you want to see Humpback whales on your trip, you will want to travel from December through April. They are particularly fond of the warm, shallow waters of Maui.

6. Interesting Birds

Nene birds in Hawaii
Photo Credit: Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB) / Kirk Lee Aeder

Several endangered seabirds that call Hawaii home. The Newell’s shearwater, the Hawaiian Petrel, and the Band-rumped Storm Petrel are three endangered seabirds that can all be seen on Kauai. The Kilauea Lighthouse on Kauai is also home to a wildlife refuge where you can spot all kinds of interesting birds. While you are on Kauai, you might think that the state bird is the wild moa (aka- chicken), but it’s actually the Nene (a goose that was at one time almost close to extinction).

One thing you will not see in Hawaii… snakes!! There are no snakes on the Islands of Hawaii and because snakes could potentially decimate Hawaii’s unique bird population, anyone found trying to smuggle in a snake will be harshly prosecuted!


As a Hawaii Destination Specialist, I know all the good places to see wildlife and the tours that will make your experiences over-the-top special. I love incorporating these details and suggestions in the itineraries I put together for my clients. If you are ready to start planning your dream vacation, schedule a consultation with me here. The first step is getting to know each other, so I can perfectly match you to the destination, resorts, and activities for your perfect vacation.

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