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a guide to Hawaiian Animals
So you want to learn about Hawaiian animals. Maybe you’re wondering which animals are in Hawaii? Maybe you want to know which animals are indigenous to Hawaii or if there are alligators or snakes in Hawaii?
We’ll talk about the fascinating Hawaiian animals and also what kind of animals are not in Hawaii.
Mammals of Hawaii
Did you know that there are only two mammals that are native to the islands of Hawaii? It’s true.
Although many mammals currently call Hawaii home, only the Hawaiian Monk Seal and Hawaiian Hoary Bat are indigenous to the Hawaiian islands.
The Hawaiian Monk Seal
The official state mammal of Hawaii, the Hawaiian monk seal, is one of the two native mammals to the Hawaiian islands.
Unfortunately, there are only about 1400 left in the islands of Hawaii. You still might be lucky enough to spot one during your Hawaii trip.
These animals are endangered, so make sure to keep your distance. It’s illegal to go too close to them, so don’t be a jerk.
I spotted these two sunning themselves on Glass Beach in Kauai.
Hawaiian Hoary Bat
This Hawaiian animal might not be as cute as the monk seal, but it’s fascinating all the same. The Hawaiian Hoary bat is the only other mammal that is native to the Hawaiian islands.
And yes, bats are mammals. In fact, they are the only mammals that can actually fly! Flying squirrels and similar mammals do not actually fly, as bats do; they glide.
You might think that a bat was some type of bird, but they are mammals.
Now let’s move on to an actual bird. Hawaii’s state bird is the Nene Goose. The Nene Goose is actually the rarest goose in the world!
Once on the brink of extinction, the population has slowly gone back up thanks to conversation efforts. They are still hard to find, but you just might spot the Nene Goose on the Big Island or on Kauai.
You’ll find some on the grounds of the Grand Hyatt Kauai. I have a tour of the Grand Hyatt Kauai if you’re interested in seeing more.
The mongoose was brought to Hawaii in the 1800s to help control the rat population. Not only did that not necessarily work, but it created a whole host of new problems.
The mongoose is a direct threat to the many birds on the Hawaiian islands and is now considered an invasive species.
Can you really blame the mongoose, though? I mean, it was humans that thought it was such a good idea to bring them to Hawaii…
You might think of geckos as pests (they come inside and poop on your walls) but most locals in Hawaii love them. I remember visiting my aunt on the Big Island as a kid and being freaked out by the house’s geckos.
She told me that they love them because they eat spiders. You can’t complain about that! Fortunately, you probably won’t experience many geckos in your resort or hotel room.
Hawaiian animals of the sea
If you’re lucky enough to visit Hawaii during the months of November-February, you’re likely to spot a humpback whale! You can take a whale-watching cruise, or even occasionally see them from the shore.
If seeing humpback whales is high on your Hawaii bucket list, I’d recommend staying on Maui. Although humpback whales can be spotted throughout the Hawaiian Islands, Maui, particularly West Maui, is a popular spot for these gentle giants.
The humpback whale is another protected species and weighs 50,000-75,000 pounds! You can take a whale-watching cruise on most islands.
- Whale-watching cruise on Oahu
- Maui whale-watching cruise
- Whale-watching cruise on Kauai
- Big Island whale-watching cruise
Hawaiian Spinner Dolphin
One of my favorite places to see dolphins in Hawaii is Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island. However, you can see Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins all over the Hawaiian islands!
You can kayak Kealakekua Bay or take a snorkel trip to see the dolphins up close.
Although Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins can be very friendly, remember not to touch them!
Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles
Also called “honu,” the Hawaiian green sea turtle can be found in shallow waters near the shore. These are very friendly turtles, but remember to keep your distance.
It’s illegal to touch them, and they are another protected species in Hawaii.
Check out the best places on the Big Island to find sea turtles.
In addition to the honu, you’ll find four other species of sea turtles in Hawaii.
- Olive ridley
There would be seven different types of sea turtles in the world, if you were wondering. The types you will not find in Hawaii are the Kemp’s ridley and the Flatback.
The shark is a prevalent animal, but in my opinion, they are one of the fascinating Hawaiian animals anyway. Hawaii is home to over 40 species of shark, including:
- Tiger sharks
- Galapagos shark
- Grey reef shark
- Smooth hammerhead shark
The most common sharks in Hawaii are:
- White-tip reef shark
- Black-tip reef shark
- Sandbar Shark
- Scalloped Hammerhead shark
It’s very common to see small reef sharks on snorkeling tours.
If you want to go diving with sharks, there are opportunities to do on Oahu. You can do a cage dive with sharks or dive cage-free with One Ocean Diving.
I recommend the cage-free dive, and I love what One Ocean Diving is doing to educate the public about sharks. They are a very misunderstood animal!
If you aren’t going to Hawaii any time soon, you can buy Saving Jaws on Amazon. One Ocean Diving created this.
Not to be confused with a stingray, the Manta Ray is one of the most fascinating Hawaiian animals. If you’re visiting the Big Island, you can snorkel at night with manta rays.
It is a truly unique experience that is exclusive to the Big Island. You might spot manta rays on the other islands, but it’s not nearly as common.
The manta ray has a wingspan of up to 29 feet and can live up to 20 years. If you’re heading to the Big Island, make sure to book your night snorkel with manta rays in advance.
Are there snakes in Hawaii?
Snakes are not native to Hawaii, and the state has a strict “no snakes” policy. A snake or two has illegally made their way to Hawaii, but in general, no, Hawaii does not have snakes.
While Hawaii does not have snakes, alligators, large cats, or other predators, there are plenty of pests that I hope you don’t encounter on your Hawaii vacation.
Pests in Hawaii:
- Coqui frogs (cute but loud)
- Cane Spiders
- Black widow spiders
- Rats and mice
- Portuguese man-o-war
- Conus (deadly sea snails)
Can you bring pets to Hawaii?
Of course, there are plenty of dogs and cats in Hawaii. However, that doesn’t mean that you can bring your own dog on vacation.
Hawaii is a rabies-free state and has a stringent policy about bringing pets to Hawaii. It will also cost at least $1000 per pet, and that is before you find a hotel that will let you have animals in the room.
Needless to say, it is probably not worth it to bring your dog on vacation if you’ll only be in Hawaii for a short time.
If you are considering a move to Hawaii or a very long-term visit, you can check out my post about how to bring pets to Hawaii.
The most interesting Hawaiian animals
Did you learn anything new about Hawaiian animals today? If you love learning new things (like I do), check out my post on black sand beaches in Maui. I also talk about sand and black sand and all kinds of interesting stuff in that post.
More Hawaiian animals
As an animal lover, I’d hate to leave this list of Hawaiian animals without mentioning some of my favorite animal rescues in Hawaii.
These amazing rescues even offer tours, which is such a fun thing to do while you’re in Hawaii and a great way to give back.
Big Island Farm Sanctuary
Located near South Point on the Big Island, Big Island Farm Sanctuary provides a safe, loving, forever home for animals who have been orphaned, abandoned, injured, abused, or exploited.
The sanctuary offers tours and is also available for private tours.
Cute piggy photo courtesy of Big Island Sanctuary and used with permission.
Lanai Cat Sanctuary
Located on the island of Lanai (near Maui), The Lanai Cat Sanctuary was started to protect the birds of Lanai and also give a home to stray cats.
With no shelter or vet on the island, this sanctuary is essential and runs off visitor donations. If you love cats, you have to do a day-trip to Lanai from Maui to check it out.
Leilani Farm Sanctuary
Leilani Farm Sanctuary is located on the beautiful island of Maui. The Sanctuary is an island paradise where farm animals are rescued from slaughter. The sanctuary offers 1-hour tours twice a week. Reservations are required.
Field trips for shelter dogs in Hawaii
Many animal shelters in Hawaii also have “field trips” available where you can take a shelter dog out and about. This is a wonderful program and a fun thing to do in Hawaii if you’re missing your pets at home.
These programs also help rescue animals in Hawaii find homes on the mainland. On the smaller islands, there are often more animals than available homes.
The shelters also have transfer programs to get these pets to the mainland for a better shot at finding a forever home.
To find out more about taking a rescue dog out on a field trip. Check out:
- Field trips for shelter dogs at the Kauai Humane Society.
- Beach Buddies at the Maui Humane Society.
- Field trips for shelter dogs at the Hawaii Island Humane Society.
Hiking with a shelter pup on beautiful Kauai.
As you can see, if you love animals, there are plenty of ways to help animals in Hawaii!
More Hawaii travel tips
If you’re looking for some tips on how to plan a Hawaii vacation, I’ve got plenty of them!
- 10 things to know before going to Hawaii
- 100 things to do in Hawaii
- Is Hawaii safe?
- 5 must-have travel items for Hawaii
- The 8 best beaches in Hilo
- How much does it cost to go to Hawaii?
- Why consider a Hawaiian island cruise
Although I am a Hawaii Travel Agent, I am only taking on a few clients for 2021. You can contact me if you’d like more information. I would recommend starting with my Hawaii travel guide if you plan to DIY your vacation!
The best way to get Hawaii travel tips and the most current travel information is to sign up for my email list. I send out one weekly email with the latest news, travel deals, and more. Sign up below.
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