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Hawaii is a paradise for scuba divers, offering some of the world’s most spectacular underwater landscapes and a diverse range of marine life. With its crystal-clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and warm tropical climate, Hawaii is a dream destination for underwater enthusiasts. You can check Go Hawaii’s website for more information on which part of the island is best for you. While exploring the Hawaiian underwater world, you might encounter an array of marine animals that will leave you in awe. In this article, we will introduce you to five fascinating marine creatures you might encounter during your scuba diving adventures in Hawaii.


  1. Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle (Honu)

The Hawaiian Honu, Big Island Symbol of Wisdom and Good Luck

(Credits : The Hawaiian Honu, Big Island Symbol of Wisdom and Good Luck)

One of the most iconic and beloved marine animals in Hawaii is the Hawaiian green sea turtle, known locally as “Honu.” These gentle giants can be spotted gracefully gliding through the water or resting on the sandy ocean floor. Honu are known for their distinctive greenish coloration and can grow up to 4 feet in length. Malama na Honu, a non-profit organization created to protect our turtle friends, recommends maintaining a respectful distance when diving with them, as they are a protected species in Hawaii.


  1. Humuhumunukunukuapua’a (Rectangular Triggerfish)

Wedgetail Triggerfish (Reef Fish of the Hawaiian Islands) · iNaturalist

(Credits : Wedgetail Triggerfish (Reef Fish of the Hawaiian Islands) · iNaturalist)

The humuhumunukunukuapua’a is not only a mouthful to pronounce but also Hawaii’s state fish. Its striking pattern of dark lines and vivid blue and green hues makes it a favorite among divers. These triggerfish are territorial and can be seen darting in and out of crevices in the coral reef. Their unique appearance and bold personalities make them a delight to encounter while scuba diving in Hawaii. If you still have trouble recognizing these beautiful animals, or have a hard time identifying another species, you can always check Marine Life Photography Fish ID Slates.


  1. Nēnē mōna (Hawaiian Monk Seal)

Hawaiian monk seal - Wikipedia

(Credits : Hawaiian monk seal – Wikipedia)

The Hawaiian monk seal, or “nēnē mōna,” is a rare and critically endangered marine mammal native to the Hawaiian Islands. They are the only seal species that is endemic to Hawaii, and the Marine Conservation Institute estimates their population to be around 1,400 individuals, making them one of the most endangered seal species in the world. Hawaiian monk seals are well adapted to their oceanic habitat, and they spend a significant portion of their lives in the clear, warm waters around the Hawaiian Islands. Conservation efforts are ongoing to protect and preserve this remarkable species, as they face numerous threats, including habitat degradation, human disturbances, and entanglement in marine debris. 


  1. Spinner Dolphins

Spinner Dolphin Facts

(Credits : Spinner Dolphin Facts)

Hawaii is home to several species of dolphins, with spinner dolphins being one of the most commonly encountered while scuba diving. These dolphins are known for their playful and acrobatic behavior, including spinning in the air. According to NOAA Fisheries, more than 20,000 spinner dolphins roam the Hawaiian waters every year. Divers often have the opportunity to watch them in their natural habitat, providing a thrilling experience that many will never forget.


  1. Whitetip Reef Sharks

Whitetip Reef Shark | Online Learning Center | Aquarium of the Pacific

(Credits : Whitetip Reef Shark | Online Learning Center | Aquarium of the Pacific)

Whitetip reef sharks are common sights in the waters around Hawaii. Despite their ominous reputation, these sharks are relatively small and not considered a threat to humans. They can often be found resting in caves or under overhangs during the day and become more active at night. According to the Hawaiian Department of Land and Natural Resources, the chances of a shark attack occuring while scuba diving are almost non-existent. Observing these graceful creatures in their natural habitat is a captivating experience for scuba divers.


Scuba diving in Hawaii is a remarkable adventure that allows you to explore a world of beauty and wonder beneath the surface. The Hawaiian Islands are teeming with marine life, and these five animals are just a small sampling of what you might encounter on your underwater journey. Remember to always dive responsibly, respect the marine environment, and follow local regulations to ensure these incredible creatures continue to thrive in their natural habitat. For more information related to safety, you can check Divers Alert Network (DAN) Safe Practices. So, gear up, dive in, and get ready to be enchanted by the captivating marine life of Hawaii on your next scuba diving adventure.

Hawaii Eco Divers is a PADI Dive Center located in Haleiwa town on the North Shore of Oahu.

Author: Alexandre Preux