Maui Ocean Center with Kids: Our visit to the Hawaiian Aquarium

Shark tank at Maui Ocean Center

Yes, if you play your cards right, you may one day get to dive with these, too.

I don’t care how many days you have on Maui, I know it may be hard to imagine spending part of any one of them off of the beach, out of the pool, or away from the water falls—unless your visit turns wet, of course.

Rain or shine, however, I’m betting your family will also enjoy a visit to the Maui Ocean Center, also known as “The Hawaiian Aquarium,” where you’ll come face to face with some of the most magnificent creatures living in Hawaiian waters. 

Here’s what my own family enjoyed most on our recent visit:

The Open Ocean shark tank & tunnel (above). So many sharks! This was a definite favorite with my crew, and it’s always fun watching sharks swim at you, and over your head, when behind glass, that is. The Maui Ocean Center has several types of sharks here, including the very striking hammerhead, and graceful stingrays.

diver at maui ocean center

How many kids leave this show determined to one day have his job? At least three I know…

The Open Ocean dive show with a host on our side of the glass discussing the amazing reef sharks and stingrays with a diver on the other side of the glass. The kids can sit right up along the glass wall, learning all about these amazing creatures firsthand with the experts. Toward the end, they get to ask their questions to the diver himself, who finished the show with a high-five to each kid along the tank window. The dive show is presented twice daily, at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. – don’t miss it!

coral reef exhibit

Who needs a snorkel?

The Living Reef building. Who doesn’t enjoy stunning displays of all our favorites from the reef? Here they are presented section by section, starting from shallow-most surge zone on down to the edge of the deep reef. Watch out for moray eels, lobsters, sea horses, unicorn fish, yellow tangs and other reef-dwellers along the way.

kid at whale photo exhibit

Future wildlife photographer in training.

Truly kid-friendly interactive exhibits including one where you help researchers by snapping an action photo of a whale breeching and try to identify it (one daughter couldn’t get enough of this),  and the whale “bubble net” exhibit that surrounds you with a simulated wall of bubbles gurgling up, faster and faster, as a voice explains this group-hunting strategy used by humback whales and ends with, “You’ve just been eaten by a whale!”

The Tide Pool. If your kids never tire of touching a sea star, holding a real sea cucumber, or seeing a parrot fish at close range (as I assure you mine do not), be sure to stop by this outdoor exhibit, beside Turtle Lagoon.           

green turtle at maui ocean center

“Any day now, any day now… I shall be released…”

Turtle Lagoon.  Do you know how Hawaii’s green sea turtles get so green? They eat so much algae and sea grass that it actually turns their fat layer green! All of the sea turtles at Maui Ocean Center are part of a hatch-and-release program, and if you are lucky you may even see some young hatchlings in a separate tank beside Turtle Lagoon. Here you are able to view the turtles from both from above and below the water.

Want to go?

The Maui Ocean Center is open 365 days a year, from 9 to 5 a.m. most of the year, and 9 to 6 p.m. in July and August. Adults are $25.50, seniors $22.50, kids 3 to 12 $18.50, kids under 3 FREE. Tip: Buy your tickets online and save 10%.

Location: 192 Ma’alaea Road, Wailuku, Maui, HI click here for map

Website: http://www.mauioceancenter.com/

Drive times (approx): Ka’anapali = 30 min, Lahaina = 25 min, Kihei 20 min, Wailea 30 min.

Good to know:

Most visitors spend 2 hours exploring the Ocean Center, and longer if staying for lunch or a snack. Inside Maui Ocean Center, there is a great snack bar with smoothies, pizza and ice cream, and also the SeaScape restaurant with nice water views, salads, burgers, and a kids menu (fish ‘n chips, burgers, pasta, and other options, $7.95 including juice and snack). Outside of the Maui Ocean Center, there are more shops and a restaurant with burgers and such, and also an ice cream shop.

Thanks to the Maui Ocean Center for sponsoring our visit. If you get to Maui, I hope you’ll get the chance to check it out. And if you found this review helpful in your trip planning, I hope you’ll “like” it or share with a friend! 😉

Related posts and pages:

Safe journeys,

Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby and Take-Along Travels with Baby 

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2 Comments

  1. Jemma

    Great timing! We are thinking about this for our trip. thanks

    1. Shelly Rivoli (Post author)

      Great! Hope you guys make it there – excellent whale watching along the stretch between there and Kihei, too, if you go “in season”!

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