Maui Ocean Center: Exhibit Descriptions

MA'ALAEA, Maui, Hawai'i - From the smallest coral polyp to the seven-foot sandbar shark, the intricate wonders of Hawaii’s ocean are showcased in over 60 indoor and outdoor exhibits at Maui Ocean Center.  Each exhibit features marine animals living in habitats closely replicate their own natural environment. 

Exhibit: The Living Reef

Hawaii’s coral reefs comprise more than 80% of the reefs in the United States. The Living Reef realistically portrays the wonder of Hawaii’s coral reefs from the rocky surge zone to the edge of the deep reef.  Visitors get a chance to see rarely encountered marine creatures: moray eels, octopus, lobsters, sea horses, nocturnal fish and much more!

A recent addition to the Living Reef is the educational Coral Reefs exhibit, displaying

Exhibit: Coral Reefs

An in-depth understanding of how coral reproduces, thrives, and influences our lives.The cultural and ecological significance of Hawaii’s coral reefs are brought to life in this interactive exhibit featuring live coral specimens, informational panels, and stunning images.  Visitors may also  work the coral spawning model and look upon the remains of a 125,000 year-old coral skeleton.

Exhibit: Behind-the-Scenes

The aquarium operates on a semi-open seawater system, pumping ocean water through each exhibit. This exhibit gives visitors a sneak-peek ‘through the walls’ at Maui Ocean Center and diagrams the aquarium’s open seawater system (using water pumped from the ocean instead of manufacturing artificial saltwater), and explains all of the elements that go in to creating an exhibit. 

Exhibit: Turtle Lagoon

In Hawaiian, green sea turtles are called honuGreen sea turtles eat so much algae and sea grasses that it turns their fat layer green, hence the common name.  All sea turtles are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.  At Maui Ocean Center, Hawaii’s green sea turtles are part of a hatch-and-release program and will eventually be released in the wild.

Exhibit: Hammerhead Harbor

Hammerhead sharks use electroreceptive organs to search out prey buried in the sand. All sharks and rays have electroreceptive organs which can detect electrical pulses from living animals.  Hammerhead sharks have their sensory organs spread out over a wider distance on their uniquely shaped head, likely giving them an advantage in finding prey.  Adult scalloped hammerhead sharks live offshore, but come in to shallow, generally murky water, to give birth.  

Exhibit: The Tide Pool

Sea stars, sea urchins and sea cucumbers are close relatives. Constructed in the form of an ocean rock pool, the Tide Pool holds a variety of harmless marine animals. Under the guidance of a marine naturalist, visitors are welcome to touch the inhabitants of this display.

Exhibit: Marine Mammal Discovery Center

State-of-the-art interactive displays and games. The Marine Mammal Discovery Center features interactive displays and games on various species of dolphins and whales found in Hawaiian waters plus the state’s most endangered marine mammal, the monk seal.  The 3,000 square-foot exhibit includes graphic boards on marine mammals, life-size models of a monk seal mother and pup in a realistic beach setting, and the most dynamic new exhibit, the Bubble Net.  The Bubble Net will give visitors the chance to experience what it is like to be the krill that is gathered up and eaten by humpback whales in Alaskan waters.  

Exhibit: Hawaiians and the Sea

Captain James Cook considered Hawaiians to be the world’s greatest ecologists. The ancient Hawaiians were expert navigators, using the stars as guides and traveling in their handmade, hydrodynamically perfected vessels.  These proficient fishermen were also masters at designing and building aquaculture systems that provided food without depleting the island’s natural resources.  The close relationship between the ancient Hawaiians and the Pacific Ocean is told in this inspiring exhibit.

Exhibit: Sea Jelly Gallery

Sea Jellies become living art in these incredible displays. Perhaps the most soothing exhibit, sea jellies appear to dance before your eyes in a stunning floor-to-ceiling cylinder.  Comprised of more than 95% water, sea jellies have no brain or other specialized organs, only a loose net of nerves and muscles.  The pumping of the bell prevents the jellies from sinking and increases the likelihood of it capturing prey in its stinging tentacles.

Exhibit: The Open Ocean

The vast open ocean is called the “pelagic realm.” The Open Ocean is home to graceful stingrays and large, fast-swimming fishes like sharks and jacks, all of which co-exist in a 750,000-gallon salt-water aquarium, the largest in the state.  A 54-foot-long clear acrylic tunnel transports visitors through this pelagic realm providing a 240-degree view of nearly 2,000 fishes, while stingrays slide overhead and sharks look visitors in the eye.  Certified SCUBA divers may enter this exhibit as part of the Shark Dive Maui™ program.