Living near the California coast we’ve experienced marine life through learning centers, beach experiences, and our local Monterey Bay Aquarium. While in Maui, we were thrilled to experience the acclaimed Maui Ocean Center for a chance to get an up close view of Hawaiian marine life without getting wet. Open since 1998, the gorgeous indoor/outdoor experience beholds the colors of the Pacific that we may not see here in California, but may have experienced on a snorkel or diving experience on the islands.
Ocean Naturalists interpretin Hawaii’s underwater world are trained to use Hawaiian names for the animals as well as popular terms in their presentations as well as participate in Hawaiian culture and language training to create a immersion of sea and rich history.
Over 60 exhibits are vibrant with coral, sea turtles, fish, sharks, rays and sea jellies. There are ocean-view dining options and world class shopping all on site, not to mention the opportunity to dive with sharks (certified scuba divers ages 15 and up only)!
All the animals displayed are collected exclusively from the waters of the Hawaiian Islands. All collection is done under strict government permits and all animals are treated with integrity. The green sea turtles are part of a hatch-and-release program where they are given a strong head start then released to the wild.
The Maui Ocean Center is very kid-friendly with it’s hands-on Tide Pool exhibit with sea stars, helmet shells, urchins, and sea cucumbers and various exhibits for them to explore and learn. Many school groups tour the center with Naturalists on field trips, and birthday parties and sleepover pizza parties are offered for group to learn about what happens under the sea after dark. Before heading to the Ocean Center, there are online scavenger hunts on their website to complete when you visit for a chance at a prize.
Some of the experiences I loved were the 54-foot long acrylic tunnel that takes you inside the 750,000 gallon Open Ocean Exhibit where you encounter and even come eye-to-eye with reef sharks, stingrays, and tropical reef fish. Also in the Marine Mammal Discovery Center, you can walk right into a virtual Bubble Net. You experience what it’s like to be the krill gathered up and eaten by Humpback whales, complete with visual and audio that is truly remarkable.
I’m a jelly fish fan and am incredibly fascinated by their soothing, gentle movement. The floor-to-ceiling cylinder in the gallery had me mesmorized for a good 10 minutes watching the pulsating movement of the brain-less jellies and the flow of the stinging tentacles.
Finally, we loved getting close (closer) up with the fish we’d previously experienced on our snorkel trip the previous day. Putting names and fish together completed our experience and seeing their colors under black lighting make them look even more spectacular.
Adult day passes are $25.50, children $18.50 ages 3-12, under 3 is free. The whole center can be viewed in a few hours so it’s a great stop for couples or families in Ma’alea Harbor Village in Maui. Our children love seeing our photos from the trip and insist we take them next time we are in Maui. I am in complete agreement, I did feel that they were the one component missing during our tour.
We were treated to passes to experience the Maui Ocean Center for our honest review. All opinions are our own.