Hawaii Travel Guides

Hawaii’s Native Animals and How to Protect Them

Hawaii is home to some of the world’s most unique creatures on the land as well as in the air and sea. Here are some of the amazing native animals you might see on your vacation and the ways you can protect Hawaii’s animal life while you’re here. All of these animals are protected by state law, so enjoy the view but don’t touch!

Hawaiian Monk Seals

Hawaiian monk seals are one of two species of seals that still live in tropical climates. These large seals often rest on rocks or beaches, and while it may look like they are injured or sick, they are almost always enjoying the sun and warmth on land and will waddle back in the water when they are ready. Mother seals are very defensive, so stay safe and stay back from them and their pups. As an endangered species, monk seals are protected. However, you can still get great photos from a distance, since monk seals stay rather still most of the time on land.


Humu Humu Trigger fishThis particular trigger fish is the state fish of Hawaii and is protected by state law. If you go fishing and happen to catch one, throw it back! Beyond that, you can enjoy their rainbow colors at many of Hawaii’s most popular snorkeling spots. With their multi-colored sides, they’re hard to miss (though the name might take some practice!)

Honu (Green Sea Turtles) 

Green Sea Turtle Hawaii

Hawaiian sea turtles are a huge attraction at many snorkel spots, including Honolua Bay on Maui. When snorkeling, give these turtles some breathing room, as touching or riding them can lead to a hefty fine. However, turtles aren’t violent and don’t mind an audience. When they start to swim away, let them go, as they can swim pretty fast, and there’s almost always more turtles hanging around nearby. In snorkeling areas with coral reef and water deeper than twenty feet, it’s fairly common to see honu lounging on the bottom. For your own safety, we recommend staying close to the surface of the water rather than attempting to reach them on the bottom, as the sudden pressure change under water can lead to headaches (for you, not the turtles).

Humpback Whales

Humpback Whale Hawaii

These gentle giants visit the Hawaiian islands during the winter and early spring to have their young. During whale watching tours, your captain will stop the boat when whales approach, as the running engines may injure them (during whale season, jet ski tours are put on hold for the same reason). Thanks to their size, they’re very easy to photograph. Since they enjoy deep water, its rare to see one while snorkeling, but you can often hear their calls to each other while you’re underwater.


Nene Hawaiian Goose

You can find these gorgeous geese in higher elevations, such as Haleakala National Park. As with several animals on this list, conservation efforts have helped to increase struggling populations. Give them their space, as geese are known to bite back.

Pueo (Hawaiian Owl)

Pueo Hawaiian Owl in flight

These elusive owls are protected, so please don’t throw anything at them. If you get a photo of them, consider yourself lucky; they move fast and are considered sacred within ancient Hawaiian culture.

Which of Hawaii’s native animals is your favorite? Do you have any photos to share? Let us know in the comments! 

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