Since our kids are too young to snorkel, we wanted to find a few activities that would allow them to still get to experience the beautiful sea life Hawaii has to offer. We loved the submarine ride we went on earlier in the week and now looked forward to getting a closer look at some of the sea life at the Maui Ocean Center.
The Maui Ocean Center opened in 1998 and has one of the largest live coral collections in the world! The people who work here are very passionate about Hawaii’s marine life and work hard to protect it while educating those who visit the center.
Right when we got there, the girls were each given a children’s booklet. Throughout the center, there were rock rubbings of different Hawaiian hieroglyphics that the girls could put in their books. They loved spotting each one!
The first exhibit that we checked out was the Turtle Lagoon. We arrived just as they were being fed and loved learning more about sea turtles! The ocean center has up to 6 turtles on display at all times and each turtle has a letter on its shell to help guests recognize each one.
From there, we rushed over to the Open Ocean Exhibit to watch a presentation by a scuba diver who talked about the different fish in the exhibit (stingrays, sharks, etc.). It was super interesting and we loved when a stingray swam right up to the glass! There’s also an acrylic tunnel that’s part of this exhibit that was my favorite part of the center. When standing inside the tunnel, we had a 240 degree view of the fish swimming all around us. At times, we had the tunnel to ourselves and I especially loved watching the stingrays swim up and over us.
Soon it was time for our Behind-the-Scenes Tour. Our tour lasted about an hour and took us back to a marine lab where we learned about and observed different live corals and other sea life (the girls especially loved touching a few different types of sea stars). From there, we assisted in feeding lettuce and cucumbers to the sea turtles and then squid to the sharks in Nursery Bay. Both of our girls had a lot of fun feeding the different animals but it was a little tough to see from above if the animals were actually eating due to it being such a windy day (causing the water to be a bit choppy in each exhibit). Both had windows below though where we could take a closer look afterwards (we missed the sharks though in our haste to quickly wash up after handling the squid!). Talking about it afterwards, my husband and I both agreed that the behind the scenes tour would be awesome as part of a birthday celebration or special occasion or for anyone who wanted to make their day at the ocean center just a little more special.
After the tour, we wandered leisurely through the rest of the exhibits, making sure to check out the underwater tunnel one last time. 😉 Coming out of one exhibit, there were employees offering to take a complementary group photo in front of a green screen. I really appreciated this because it’s always so hard to get pictures with all four of us! There are also photo upgrades available to purchase as well.
My only regret was that we missed eating at the Seascape Restaurant. This was completely our fault as our girls were hungry and we just happened to spot the Reef Cafe first thinking that this was the only food option (next time I’ll definitely do my research better beforehand!). While the sandwiches we bought there were still great, we would have appreciated getting out of the wind and eating inside in an actual restaurant (not to mention that the menu looked delicious). Oh well, maybe next time. 🙂
We spent about 3 hours at the Maui Ocean Center and it seemed like the perfect amount of time. We loved how it had a mix of exhibits inside and outside and our girls loved getting so close to Hawaii’s beautiful and unique marine life. I would definitely recommend a visit to the center, especially if you have little ones that can’t otherwise see Maui’s beautiful underwater world. You can book tickets and tours online here or buy at the front desk.
Thank you to Maui Ocean Center for sponsoring this post.