The Maui Ocean Center is a combination aquariam and nature museum with many cool features and exhibits that will delight guests of all ages. As you follow through the path layed out at the Ocean Center, you get to see exhibits and habitats both outside and indoors, up close and personal. The variety of fish, plant, coral and other wildlife, and the way everything is mapped out in the museum, makes for a great experience. Add a few naturalists and scientists along the way taking the time to explain what you’re seeing and answering any questions you have, and it completes the package.
Perhaps three of the most exciting exhibits at the Maui Ocean Center offer quite a distinct range of features. The first main indoor exhibit you enter is the Living Reef habitats. What’s neat about this exhibit is that you get to explore living corla reefs and tropical fish that exist in various depths of the ocean. It starts off with the Shallow Reef, and continues to the Mid Reef and lastly the Deep Reef.
The next hot spot for visitors to the Ocean Center would have to be the Turtle Lagoon, which features the Hawaiian green sea turtles that snorkels see out in the costal waters all around the island. They swim in the waters right in front of you, and even pop their head up above water just like they do out in the ocean. For those that don’t snorkel, you get to experience the honu (sea turtle) up close without getting wet.
The last truly "wow" exhibit would have to be the Open Ocean habitat directly after the Marine Mammal Discovery Center. Picture a giant open air swimming pool with multiple types of sharks, manna rays and about a hundred other types of fish, all right up close. Then put a clear, 54 foot tunnel through the middle of it and you can see the life of the ocean swimming in all directions around you. It’s probably the best way to get just inches away from a shark and still live to tell about it.
We’re not big water sport or even museum people, but we decided to add this activity to our list on our second trip to Maui just to check it out. It completely blew both of us out of the water (pardon the pun). The way the Living Reef exhibit was setup, going from the Shallow Reefs deeper into the Deep Reefs, with the lighting and the bright colors of coral and the fish, it was very interesting. With the darkness and the tranquil music within the building while walking through the displays, the atmosphere was very engaging.
Unfortunately, there was maintenance work being done on the Turtle Lagoon during our visit, so we didn’t get to see "Ku’uipo" swimming around in his habitat exhibit. He was nearby, however, floating around in a little tub near the Hammerhead Harbor display, we still go to see the turtle up close and personal. After seeing them play in the waters outside our hotel from our balcony, we just had to pay this one visit.
The biggest thrill I got was from the shark tank, formally known as the Open Ocean exhibit. It was too cool seeing the different great white, hammerhead, and tiger sharks swimming around, circling in this large mock ocean surrounded by all sorts of other tropical fish swimming in large schools. There were also the manna rays that would swim by overhead and you could see their gills and what looks like a smiley face moving around as it swam.
Lastly, there was an ocean center employee swimming around in the tank with all the animals, cleaning around the acrylic tunnel and posing for pictures. Talk about hazard pay.