Maui is one of the most beautiful islands in the world and a popular destination for tourists seeking to explore its stunning beaches and lush tropical forests with waterfalls from many hiking paths. But what about the animal attractions? Does Maui have a zoo?
The short answer to the question “does Maui have a zoo?” is no, there is not a traditional zoo on the island. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of opportunities to see and learn about a variety of rare birds and animals that are sure to please visitors of all ages.
Maui Ocean Center for Aquatic Life Up Close
One popular option for animal lovers on Maui is the Maui Ocean Center, which is an aquarium and marine park located in the town of Ma’alaea. The center features a variety of exhibits, including a shark tank, a turtle lagoon, and a coral reef exhibit, where visitors can learn about and see a variety of marine animals up close.
- The center features a variety of exhibits, including a shark tank, a turtle lagoon, and a coral reef exhibit. Visitors can see a variety of marine animals up close, including sharks, rays, fish, and turtles.
- The Maui Ocean Center is home to the world’s largest display of living coral, which can be seen in the “Coral Reefs in Crisis” exhibit.
- In addition to the exhibits, the center also offers a number of educational programs and activities, including guided tours, interactive exhibits, and animal encounters.
- The center is home to a number of endangered species, including the Hawaiian green sea turtle and the Hawaiian monk seal.
- The Maui Ocean Center is an important research and conservation facility, and works to protect and study the marine life of the Hawaiian islands.
- The center is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm, with extended hours during the summer months.
- The center is located in the town of Ma’alaea, which is about a 30-minute drive from the town of Kahului.
- The center has a gift shop and a food court, where visitors can purchase souvenirs and grab a bite to eat.
- The Maui Ocean Center is a popular attraction on the island and can get busy, especially during peak tourist season. It is recommended to purchase tickets in advance to avoid long lines.
Maui Animal Sanctuaries and Wildlife Refuges
In addition to the Maui Ocean Center, there are also several animal sanctuaries and wildlife preserves on the island, where visitors can see and learn about a variety of animals, including endangered species. These include the Olowalu Petroglyphs, the Waihe’e Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge, and the Hana Forest Reserve, among others.
- The Olowalu Petroglyphs are a collection of historic and cultural rock carvings located on the west side of Maui in the Olowalu Valley.
- The site features a collection of ancient rock carvings, or petroglyphs, that were created by the island’s early Polynesian settlers utilizing sharp stones or tools to carve the images into rock.
- The petroglyphs depict a variety of images including people, animals, and geometric shapes. Some of the carvings are easily recognizable, such as the image of a human figure with outstretched arms, while others are more abstract.
- The petroglyphs are thought to be over 500 years old (or 300 to 800 years) and depict various symbols and figures that were important to the island’s early residents.
- Visitors to the Olowalu Petroglyphs can take a self-guided tour of the site and learn about the history and culture of the island’s early residents.
- The Olowalu Petroglyphs are considered a sacred site by many native Hawaiians and should be treated with respect.
- There may be some native plants and animals in the surrounding area, but the main focus of the site is the petroglyphs themselves.
Waihe’e Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge
- The Waihe’e Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge is a protected area located on the west side of Maui.
- The refuge is home to a variety of plants and animals, including endangered species.
- The refuge features a network of trails that visitors can explore, and offers opportunities for birdwatching, hiking, and other outdoor activities.
- The Waihe’e Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge is managed by the Maui Coastal Land Trust and is open to the public.
Hana Forest Reserve
The Hana Forest Reserve is a great destination for those who enjoy hiking, birdwatching, and nature photography. As always, check the weather conditions and trail conditions before heading out to the reserve, as the area can receive heavy rainfall and some trails can be steep and challenging.
The Hana Forest Reserve is home to a diverse array of plants and animals, including several rare and endangered species, such as the Hawaiian hoary bat, the Hawaiian goose, and the Maui parrotbill. The preserve also contains several waterfalls, streams, and pools that you can swim in or relax by. In addition, the Hana Forest Reserve is rich in cultural history, with several ancient Hawaiian cultural sites and artifacts that you can explore.
Whether an outdoor enthusiast, a nature lover, or a history buff, the Hana Forest Reserve is definitely worth a visit.
- The Hana Forest Reserve is a protected area located on the east side of Maui.
- The preserve is home to a variety of plants and animals, including several endangered species.
- The preserve features a network of trails that visitors can explore, and offers opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, and other outdoor activities.
- The Hana Rainforest Preserve is managed by the Nature Conservancy and is open to the public.
Maui Offers Wildlife Habitats Galore
There are also many opportunities to see wildlife in their natural habitats while on Maui. For example, visitors can take a boat tour to see whales and dolphins, or go hiking in the island’s Haleakala crater, Hana jungle, or west Maui mountains to see a variety of birds and other animals.
So, while there is not a traditional zoo on Maui, there are still plenty of opportunities to see and learn about a variety of animals while on the island, most of them for free if you like to snorkel and explore hiking trails. From the Maui Ocean Center to the many animal sanctuaries and wildlife preserves, there is something for every animal lover to enjoy on Maui.
Top Flora and Fauna of Maui to See for Free
Maui is home to a variety of unique and interesting plants and animals. Some of the more unusual ones include:
Rare Animals of Maui
- Nēnē (Branta sandvicensis): The nēnē, or Hawaiian goose, is the state bird of Hawaii and is found only in the islands. It is a endangered species and is protected by law.
- Hawaiian monk seal (Neomonachus schauinslandi): This seal is found only in the Hawaiian Islands and is considered one of the most endangered seals in the world. It is protected by law and is often seen basking on the shores of Maui.
- Hawaiian honeycreepers
- Kiwikiu aka Maui parrotbill (Pseudonestor xanthophrys) is a critically endangered Hawaiian honeycreeper endemic to the island of Maui. Once found across much of the islands of Maui and Moloka’i, the Kiwikiu is now limited to 30 km2 of wet rainforest on windward east Maui.
- Hawaiian hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus semotus): This bat is the only native land mammal in Hawaii and can be seen in Maui’s forests and gardens. It is endangered and is protected by law.
- Humpback whales: Maui is one of the best places in the world to see humpback whales. They migrate to the island’s warm waters to mate and give birth between December and May.
- Green sea turtles: Maui’s beaches are home to several species of sea turtles, including the endangered green sea turtle. Visitors can see them basking on the shore or swimming in the ocean.
- Spinner dolphins: These playful dolphins can often be seen jumping and spinning in the waters around Maui. Visitors can take a boat tour to see them up close.
- I’iwi: This vibrant red bird is an endemic species that can only be found in Hawaii. Visitors can see them in Maui’s forests.
Rare Plants of Maui
- Alula (Brighamia insignis): This native Hawaiian plant is found only on the islands of Maui and Kauai. It is also known as the “Hawaiian palm” and has a distinctive, cone-shaped flower.
- ‘Ohi’a lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha): This flowering tree is found throughout the Hawaiian Islands and is known for its bright red flowers.
- Kukui (Aleurites moluccanus): The kukui tree is native to Hawaii and is known for its shiny, green leaves and nut-like seeds. It is also the official state tree of Hawaii.
Where to See Maui’s Animals and Plants
Visitors interested in finding rare plants and animals on Maui should consider visiting the following locations, as well as other natural areas on the island:
- Haleakala National Park – This park is home to many rare and endangered species, including the Haleakala silversword plant, the Hawaiian goose, and the Hawaiian petrel bird.
- Maui Nui Botanical Gardens – This botanical garden (formerly known as the Maui Zoological and Botanical Gardens, are botanical gardens covering 7 acres and located at 150 Kanaloa Avenue, Kahului, Maui) is dedicated to preserving and promoting the native plants of Hawaii, many of which are endangered. Visitors can explore the gardens and learn about the cultural and medicinal uses of these plants.
- Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge – This refuge is a birdwatcher’s paradise, home to many rare and endangered species of birds, including the Hawaiian coot and the Hawaiian stilt.
- Hana Forest Reserve – This reserve is home to several endangered species of plants and animals, including the Maui parrotbill bird and the Kulu’i plant.
Maui Butterfly Farm
The Maui Butterfly Farm in Lahaina (820 Olowalu Village Rd., Lahaina, HI 96761 – on the left hand side of the Olowalu General Store) is home to hundreds of colorful butterflies from around the world and open from 9am to 1pm every day. Visitors can observe the beautiful insects in their natural habitats, as well as learn about their fascinating life cycles.
These are just a few of the animal attractions on Maui, and there are many more to explore. Whether you’re looking for a traditional zoo experience or something more unique, Maui has something to offer any animal lover. So, don’t miss out on the island’s incredible animal attractions, and come explore Maui’s wild side.