The waters around Waikiki are teaming with interesting sea life. If you happen to go scuba diving or snorkelling in the area you might encounter them. But a visit to the Waikiki Aquarium gives you an opportunity to see some of these creatures up close and without getting wet.
The aquarium is located in Kapiolani park, right by the water and a nice 10 minute walk from our hotel, the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach. I love that the sidewalk is coated with sand from the beach; how many main streets can boast that.
One of my favourite features of the Waikiki Aquarium is their audio tour, included with your cost of admission. Each paying guest is given their own handset (sort of like a really long cell phone) which they can use while walking through the exhibits. Each exhibit has a corresponding number. Enter this number into the audio phone and you’ll be greeted with information on what you are seeing, what to look for in the tank. This was great, especially for kids. Usually when visiting an exhibit the kids just look and don’t really read the informative plaques and displays. The audio handsets enabled the kids to look as well as pick-up a few interesting things.
The Waikiki Aquarium has both an inside and outside portion (though the inside is the larger part; more to see).
Not surprising, the exhibits focus on aquatic life in and around the Hawaiian islands as well as the tropical West and South Pacific. In Corals are Alive exhibit we learned about coral, a living creature, and even determined from a chart how old we would be if we were coral (kind of old). It’s interesting to note that the Waikiki Aquarium houses the largest and oldest coral collections within the United States and is known internationally for it’s protection efforts through it’s coral farm. Many of the coral raised at the Waikiki Aquarium is sent to other aquariums around the country.
The aquarium is divided by types of breeds or locations. My kids especially loved the Hunters on the Reef exhibit, where they could see Reef Sharks. I think they also liked watching the staff cleaning the inside of the aquarium. The Ocean Drifters exhibit was another popular attraction with it’s jellyfish and octopus. The Box Jellyfish invasion, as it’s referred to on the site, usually happens between 8 to 10-days after the full moon. We witnesses this on our recent visit to O’hau when the beach was closed due to jelly fish. The Waikiki Aquarium has a Box Jelly Calendar you can check for a list of potential invasion dates. Although I wouldn’t want to be stung by one, they are very cool to see up close, in the safety of the aquarium.
At the end of the indoor portion of the aquarium, you move outside. The set-up of the outdoor exhibits is almost like a garden, following a walkway around the exhibits, surrounded by grass and trees. It seems most of the outdoor exhibits were being worked on when we visited but I think we got to see two of the best ones.
The Edge of the Reef exhibit is designed to mimic the rocky shoreline habitats, right down to the flow of water. That was cool but my kids were more impressed with the ability to hold a hermit crab in their hand or touch a sea urchin. A volunteer from the aquarium assisted the kids with holding the crabs, watching them pop out of their shells and walk along their hands. My 4 and 6 year old were a little wary at first but with some coaxing they participated too and were glad they did. It was a great interactive experience for them.
They also enjoyed visiting the Hawaiian Monk Seal Habitat, the most critically endangered seal species in the world (according to the Waikiki Aquarium’s site). When we visited it was late in the morning so the seals weren’t very active but that didn’t make them any less interesting to the kids.
You can learn more about all the exhibits at the aquarium from their site.
The Waikiki Aquarium lets you experience Hawaii’s aquatic life without a swimsuit, especially great for families with young kids. The aquarium itself isn’t really that big, the main layout is like one big hallway, but the little alcoves on one side break-up the walk and make it feel like you are winding around the aquarium.
A visit to the Waikiki Aquarium is a great half-day activity when you don’t feel like enjoying the beach or going site seeing and young kids will love it. The cost is fairly reasonable too; adults are $9.00, kids 5-12 are only $2.00 and those under 5 are free.
Thanks to the Waikiki Aquarium and Outrigger Public Relations for making our visit possible.